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Beyond Bingo: The 50+ Best Activities for Seniors in Assisted Living

Written by Haines Eason
11 minute readLast updated November 1, 2022
Reviewed by Leslie FullerLeslie Fuller LMSW, CDP owns the dementia care consulting agency Inspired Senior Care.

People have the same basic needs at any age: to explore, have fun, learn, and live life to the fullest. The best activities for assisted living residents do much more than just pass the time — they help seniors lead healthier, happier lives, and the ideal community has plenty of activity options to choose from. So, we’ve created an assisted living activity calendar to use ahead of a move-in. Give it to your loved one, or join them to create the perfect schedule. Collaborating should make the assisted living activity calendar ideas flow and excite you both about the possibilities that await.

Key Takeaways

  1. The best assisted living communities have a lot of activity options to choose from. Residents’ individual abilities and interests vary, and it’s important to offer plenty of ways to explore. 
  2. Activities keep seniors engaged mentally and physically. This can help improve general health, extend longevity, stave off depression, and increase cognitive abilities.
  3. Don’t focus on just bingo, checkers, or dominoes. Offerings can include swing dancing, pottery, academic lectures, and more.
  4. Activities don’t have to occur on-site. Many communities plan field trips to local or even semi-distant attractions.

Activities for seniors in assisted living that suit all interests and lifestyles

Assisted living communities offer a variety of activities to suit residents’ varying abilities and interests. And, though the primary goal of diverse activities is to keep residents happy, there are major health benefits that come from an active lifestyle.

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), seniors who make an effort to engage themselves mentally and physically may be able to do the following:

  • Fend off certain diseases. The list is long and includes dementia, diabetes, heart disease, and more. Plus, having a schedule can enhance purpose and happiness, two factors that can lead to a longer life.
  • Preserve physical ability. Exercise has been shown to decrease depression, falls, and blood pressure while improving strength, balance, and sleep. Physical activity also stimulates blood flow to the brain, which may help improve cognitive function.
  • Increase mental stimulation. Keeping your mind sharp through activities can reduce signs of memory loss and cognitive decline. For this reason, many assisted living communities provide mentally stimulating activities, or “brain games,” to exercise residents’ minds and practice mindfulness. It’s hard to choose wrong, though. Cards, dancing, gardening — so many activities are so good at strengthening the mind.
  • Stave off depression and increase resilience. Studies show that social connection and exercise help keep the blues at bay. When we’re better able to do that, we increase our general resilience.
  • Reduced isolation. Researchers are learning more about the dangers of social isolation and loneliness among older adults. Too much time alone increases a senior’s risk of dementia, as well as other health problems including high blood pressure, obesity, depression, and heart disease.[01]

What follows are some of the top ways assisted living communities help seniors stay active. Because senior living communities are always looking for new ways to delight and engage their residents, this list is not exhaustive, so be sure to ask any prospective community for their list of activity offerings.

Learning new skills

Ongoing learning is crucial to feeling energized and interested in life. And, learning is a brain workout that can stave off memory loss and worse.

Workshops and classes in senior living communities often include the following:

  • Arts and crafts, such as painting, knitting, pottery, and woodworking classes
  • Scholarly presentations, including informational, academic, and educational lectures
  • Written and spoken word events, like book clubs, book or poetry readings, and writing workshops
  • Technical skills, as in computer and foreign language classes tailored to specific skills or the general learner

Note: A quality senior community will poll its residents to ensure offerings match residents’ tastes.

Dancing

Dancing remains ever-popular at senior communities and can even be a daily event at many. Dancing is not only fun, but it also helps keep residents’ bodies and minds fit.[02] Plus, it’s an excellent social opportunity. Residents often enjoy a variety of dancing styles:

  • Ballroom dancing, an ever-popular classic
  • Line and square dancing, also very popular, and not just in the South or Midwest
  • Swing dancing, a very good workout

Entertainment

The show must go on! Entertainment is a mainstay of most assisted living facilities. Entertainers often perform at communities so residents don’t need to travel, and sometimes friends and family are even invited. Types of senior living entertainment can vary:

  • Stand-up comedy. Comics are known to visit communities, but residents may have a shot at the mic, too.
  • Visiting trivia hosts. Topics are often focused on decades of relevance to the resident seniors.
  • Pedigree dog shows.Pets’ benefit to seniors is outsized.
  • Visiting dramatic troupes. As with comics, residents may also have the opportunity to perform skits, scenes, or even whole works.

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Assisted living exercise and mindfulness activities

Today’s senior communities strive to make fitness fun and easily accessible through on-site, ability- and skill-relevant gyms plus a diversity of activities. More and more communities are also offering mindfulness-supporting activities.

Fun fitness opportunities:

  • Dancing classes or events
  • Dance or traditional aerobics classes
  • Swimming
  • Water weight training or aerobics
  • Zumba and spin class

Mindfulness activities:

  • Flower arranging
  • Gardening
  • Meditation
  • Tai chi
  • Yoga or chair yoga

Music and karaoke

Singing is great for the soul, and there’s no such thing as bad singing if it comes from the heart. Many assisted living communities stage their own competitions like “American Idol” or “The Masked Singer,” but even old-fashioned karaoke is a blast. Residents may even be serenaded by community choirs or other talented musicians. These activities benefit the mind, as well: music therapy is fast becoming very popular in memory care communities.

Whatever the kind of music, residents are sure to find something they’ll enjoy:

  • Singing contests. A little friendly competition listening to beloved tunes can be great for the mind and soul.
  • Karaoke. Now it’s easier than ever to host a sing-along with a mobile phone app.
  • Shows from private musicians. Musicians want to share their talents, and many jump at the chance to perform for seniors.
  • Children’s choir visits. Local churches are often eager to have their choir visit a senior community.

Special events

Many special events are holiday-themed, but no special occasion is needed to have fun. Some communities hold carnivals for residents complete with cotton candy and dunk tanks, while others host senior proms or screenings of major events such as political debates and sports championships. Of course, personal celebrations — birthdays, anniversaries — are always highlighted.

Each community hosts different kinds of special events, so be sure to explore ones that interest you or your elderly loved one. Here are a few types of special events you’ll likely find in assisted living:

  • Classic car shows
  • Art shows
  • Fashion shows
  • Pool parties
  • Happy hours

Games

Bingo is a classic, but it’s not at all the standard anymore. The majority of communities now offer a menu of traditional live and virtual games as activities for seniors in assisted living communities.

Nintendo’s Wii, a video game system in which users interact with the game by moving their body rather than manipulating a joystick, is one popular virtual option. Most residents find the Wii easy to learn and downright enjoyable. Popular Wii sports video games include:

  • Baseball
  • Bowling
  • Tennis
  • Golf

However, no one is tossing traditional games just yet, especially as most have noted brain-boosting benefits. These can include:

  • Trivia, including trivia board games like Trivial Pursuit
  • Puzzle games like sudoku and crossword puzzles
  • Strategy games such as chess and checkers
  • Card favorites like bridge, canasta, go fish, rummy, and many more

Field trips

Who doesn’t love going to new places, spending time with friends, or simply trying something new? Many assisted living communities plan field trips to help residents bond and learn. Here are some common ones:

  • Concerts are perfect, and many towns put on free shows (like a summertime park concert series) featuring music that’s popular with a broad set of generations.
  • Local museums often have rotating displays and sometimes put forward a new take on familiar historical events.
  • Sporting events at high schools, colleges, universities, and farm leagues are usually less boisterous than the pros.
  • Plays and musicals keep community theaters packed throughout the year, and it’s hard to find a more inspiring art form than live dramatic performance.
  • Movies remain a classic American pastime, even if your town’s old cinema isn’t quite as packed these days. Civic organizations may host free movie nights in the park, as well.

Outdoor excursions

People of all ages need opportunities to experience, not just see, nature. Sensory rooms, screenings of nature shows and movies, flower arranging, and more: These all have benefits. But engaging all the senses in a true natural setting is essential to holistic well-being.[03

Many assisted living communities help residents immerse themselves in nature by scheduling events like the following:

  • Picnics at local parks or even on the community grounds, where friends sit under trees and listen to the wind in the leaves
  • Nature trail walks and garden tours to pick wildflowers and watch the birds flit through the air
  • Community service projects, including litter cleanup and flower or shrub plantings
  • Trips to farmers markets to taste local treats and help staff plan a menu

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Next steps

If your loved one is in senior living and you like what you’ve found in this article, take those ideas to their community to see what activities are offered. Or, if you and your loved one are considering senior living, and what you’ve read above sounds like a good fit for them, consider reaching out to one of our Senior Living Advisors. At no cost to your family, their advice can help you discover activity-rich communities in your area.

Disclaimer: The recommendations contained herein are based on the opinions of the author.

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. National Institute on Aging. (2022, March 28). Participating in activities you enjoy as you age.

  2. Rosetti, H. (2018, October 3). Ballroom to boogie: How dancing can improve seniors’ brain health. U.T. Southwestern Medical Center.

  3. Franco, L.S., Shanahan, D.F., & Fuller, R.A. (2017, August 1). A review of the benefits of nature experiences: More than meets the eye.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Meet the Author
Haines Eason

Haines Eason is managing editor at A Place for Mom and oversees its editorial team of expert senior living writers and editors. Under his leadership, his team produces hundreds of articles a year to inform and educate readers about aging, caregiving, senior living, community types and services, and providers that oversee multiple facilities. He has nearly 15 years of experience as an editor and copywriter in journalistic, agency, and institutional settings. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Montana and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively.

Edited by

Danny Szlauderbach

Reviewed by

Leslie Fuller

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