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40+ Independent Living Activities: Promoting a Healthy, Fulfilling Retirement

6 minute readLast updated April 17, 2024
fact checkedon April 17, 2024
Written by Nirali Desai, memory care writer
Reviewed by Kyle Spender, senior living specialistKyle Spender, a learning and development specialist with APFM, has a passion for education and 20 years of experience in senior living.
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Independent living minimizes the daily hassle of chores, leaving more time for seniors to focus on their hobbies, foster friendships, and develop a healthier lifestyle. Communities offer a plethora of activities to help seniors thrive in the next chapter of life. Some independent living activities include happy hours, game nights, fitness classes, art classes, and outings to local attractions to help seniors socialize, learn new skills, and continue their favorite pastimes.

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The benefits of independent living activities

Independent living activities offer seniors from all walks of life an opportunity to lead an engaging and fulfilling lifestyle. For instance, independent living communities often encourage residents to socialize, stay physically active, and learn new skills, which can help them lead healthier, happier, and longer lives.[01,02,03] There are many more benefits to independent living, like a peaceful environment without chores, which allows seniors more time to participate in the various on-site activities.

Niki Gewirtz, a senior new hire support specialist at A Place for Mom with over two decades of experience in senior living, also emphasized the following benefits of independent living activities:

  • Encourages socialization. Independent living offers so many opportunities for residents to get together with activities like card games, outings, happy hour/social programs, current events, and book clubs. Even going to the dining room for meals becomes a social event.
  • Honors spiritual needs. Many communities offer a variety of religious activities. Depending on the community, they could have an on-site chapel or Bible group. Or, they may coordinate visits to a local church or place of worship.
  • Improves physical health. Living in a community offers residents various ways to stay active. Simply walking to shared areas like the dining room can help residents get more steps in their day. Many communities also offer fitness activities in on-site gyms, pools, and outdoor areas to help residents stay physically active in different ways.
  • Facilitates creativity. Communities often offer a wealth of opportunities to help residents continue with current passions or learn new skills. From art classes and woodworking lessons to choirs and groups, communities offer something for everyone.

While activities vary between independent living communities, most communities will provide a diverse calendar filled with activities in each category listed below to accommodate residents’ unique interests. Activity directors in communities even take time to learn about residents’ preferences and interests to alter and add new activities based on their interests and suggestions.

“The activities director sat down with [my mom] for a good hour and a half to fill out a worksheet. The worksheet included her preferences, interests, background, and more,” says Lauri S., who found a community for her mother with A Place for Mom’s help. “A couple of days later, the activities director started inviting her to activities she would enjoy based on their conversation.”

Social activities and events

With family and community dynamics continuously changing, the importance of focusing on a fulfilling social life can combat feelings of boredom and isolation. From coffee chats to game nights, independent living communities help residents maintain a healthy social life with a variety of activities.

Independent living activities that encourage social connections may include:

  • Movie nights
  • Happy hours
  • Wine tastings
  • Ice cream socials
  • Holiday and birthday parties
  • Community picnics or barbecues
  • Spa day at the beauty salon
  • Interest clubs (book club, men’s club, etc.)
  • Game nights (board games, card games, poker, trivia, etc.)
  • Karaoke night

Oftentimes, activity directors and other community staff help seniors socialize. They’ll introduce like-minded individuals and consistently invite them to activities based on what they’ve learned about a resident’s interests. They’ll even ask residents whether they’d like to see certain activities incorporated into the schedule.

Lauri mentioned her mom was a big fan of Mexican Train, a domino game, and she wanted to continue playing it after she moved into her independent living community. Shortly after she brought it up, the community’s activity director learned how to play and showed other residents. Before she knew it, Lauri’s mom started meeting a group of residents once a week to play her favorite game.

Within A Place for Mom’s vast network of independent living communities, here’s how many communities provide certain social activities:[04]

  • About 80% of communities host happy hours and over 60% offer wine tastings.
  • Nearly 90% of communities host holiday parties.
  • About 87% of communities host birthday parties for interested residents.
  • About 86% of communities host BBQs or picnics.
  • Nearly 60% of communities offer musical activities like karaoke and singing groups.

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Outings and day trips

For many older adults, access to complimentary transportation is a valuable independent living service. Although some independent living residents may choose to continue to drive, many communities offer access to reliable, hassle-free transportation for shopping, medical appointments, and other errands.

Independent living facilities also plan and coordinate group outings and outdoor excursions to allow residents to explore their surrounding community. These activities enable residents to try new places and experiences while bonding with fellow residents.

Independent living activities that encourage residents to explore and get involved in their local community may include:

  • Concerts, plays, or musicals
  • Local museums
  • Sporting events
  • Movie screenings
  • Community service projects
  • Trips to farmers markets
  • Visits to local trails or parks
  • Visits to new restaurants or shops

Here’s an overview of what percentage of independent living communities offer certain outings within A Place for Mom’s network:[04]

  • More than 90% of communities take residents on outings to enjoy off-site activities.
  • About 86% of communities host live musical, theatrical, or dance performances.
  • Almost 65% of communities offer community service opportunities.

What an independent living activity calendar looks like

To organize and balance all the different types of activities offered, independent living communities typically create a calendar. These diverse calendars can help seniors manage their time and learn about upcoming events. While touring an independent living community, ask a staff member for an activities calendar to see whether it’d be a good fit for you or a loved one.

Here’s an example of what an independent living activity calendar may look like.

When visiting her mom’s community, Lauri noticed that the activity calendar was very accessible so residents are always in the know. While walking around, she noticed they were posted in the main hallways, by mailboxes, and in several common areas.

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How to find a suitable independent living community

Taking time to nurture a lifestyle that’s fulfilling and engaging after spending decades working or raising a family is invaluable. Independent living enables seniors to maintain autonomy while pursuing interests with exciting independent living activity calendars.

Before choosing an independent living community, you should think about your preferences and interests as you start scheduling community tours.

EXPERT TIPS: HOW TO THOROUGHLY TOUR A COMMUNITY

• Get a feel for the demographics. Are residents around the same age? Imagine yourself there to help decide whether you’ll be able to connect with others.

 

• See what types of activities are offered. Look at an activities calendar for a list of current activities, and try to see if residents are actively participating and enjoying themselves.

 

• Look around common areas. Check if residents are gathering in shared spaces, and try to visualize yourself in places like a movie theater, game room, chapel, fitness room, or garden.

 

• Make a list of “must-haves” versus “would-likes.” This can help you easily narrow down communities. For instance, bringing your pet might be a “must-have,” while having an on-site pool could be a “would-like.”

If you need help finding local independent living communities that meet your needs and desires, contact one of our Senior Living Advisors. They can help answer your questions and find personalized senior living options that fit your budget and lifestyle, all at no cost to you.

What families are saying about independent living facilities

Independent living reviews from residents and families

The Reserve at Red Run

5.0
Just moved in. The staff is amazing and caring. Feels like a big family here.

The Reserve at Red Run

5.0
Moved in about a month ago. Love it here.

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. Langhammer, B., Bergland, A., & Rydwik, E. (2018, December 5). The importance of physical activity exercise among older peopleBioMed Research International.

  2. Harvard Health Publishing. (2019, June 1). Broader social interaction keeps older adults more active.

  3. Narushima, M., Liu, J., & Diestelkamp, N. (2016, November 21). Lifelong learning in active ageing discourse: its conserving effect on wellbeing, health and vulnerabilityAgeing & Society.

  4. A Place for Mom. (2024). A Place for Mom proprietary data.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2023, July 12). Adding physical activity as an older adult.

  6. Leanos, S., Kürüm, E., Strickland-Hughes, C. M., Ditta, A. S., Nguyen, G., Felix, M., Yum, H., Rebok, G. W., & Wu, R. (2023, May 12). The impact of learning multiple real-world skills on cognitive abilities and functional independence in healthy older adultsThe Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Meet the Author
Nirali Desai, memory care writer

Nirali Desai is a senior copywriter at A Place for Mom specializing in memory care and life enrichment topics. Previously, she worked in marketing and social media, edited a regional senior magazine, and wrote for the American Red Cross. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.

Edited by

Marlena Gates

Reviewed by

Kyle Spender, senior living specialist

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