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Finding a Place for Dad: Senior Living Tips for Elderly Men

18 minute readLast updated October 19, 2023
fact checkedon October 19, 2023
Written by Nirali Desai, memory care writer
Reviewed by Rachel Levy, BSW, MPH, senior living expertRachel Levy, BSW, MPH, and a senior national account manager at A Place for Mom, has worked in senior care for more than 20 years.
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Moving to a senior living community is a big step for all aging adults, but it can be particularly difficult for elderly men with care needs. Women tend to dominate the resident population in most senior living communities. This leads many men to believe that senior living communities can’t accommodate their needs and interests. However, communities often incorporate activities and amenities specific to aging men to help them feel at home. Read on for advice on how to navigate senior living options, tips on how to find a new place for Dad, and activity suggestions for elderly men.

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Key Takeaways

  1. Older men are often more reluctant than women to move into senior living. In fact, men only make up 30% of assisted living residents.
  2. Men may be hesitant about senior living for multiple reasons. Fear of losing independence and overall discomfort may prevent them from moving.
  3. Senior living communities are implementing ways to accommodate men. Men’s clubs, masculine spaces, and specific activities are designed to help men feel comfortable and at home.
  4. Involve your dad when searching for senior living. Address his fears, be honest, and make sure he’s included in the search for an ideal community.

What leads to fewer men in senior living?

Men only make up 30% of assisted living residents in the U.S., according to a National Center for Assisted Living report.[01] Here are a few contributing factors that lead to the significant gender difference in many senior living communities.

Men want to be self-sufficient longer

“Men tend to have a fear of losing their independence,” says Suzanne Roberson, a senior activities coordinator at Sunrise Senior Living. “They need to be reminded that they still champion their own lives and that senior living staff is there for assistance and to enhance their quality of life.”

Some signs that your male loved one may be experiencing this fear may include hesitance to receiving assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), denial about their level of independence, or getting upset when talking about senior care options.

Women live longer than men

The average lifespan for a man in the U.S. is 74, while the average for a woman is 79, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).[02] However, this age gap has been shrinking for decades. And as the population gets older, senior living communities are aware of the greater need for gender-diverse senior care.

Family caregivers are usually female

Women are more likely to care for aging family members — including a spouse. As a matter of fact, over 75% of all caregivers are women, according to the Institute on Aging.[03]

Many men of the baby boomer generation are used to being the provider, so they may not be prepared to manage a household while caring for an aging spouse. On the other hand, older women are often used to caring for children and the house, making them more likely to care for their husbands at home. Divorced senior men are also more likely to marry younger women who can care for them longer.

Elderly men may be uncomfortable with female senior living staff

As shown through assisted living statistics, eighty percent of senior living staff members are women.[04] That number makes sense, as recent research says most people prefer to have their primary care doctor be the same gender.[05] So when it comes to the reasons for the gender difference in senior living, it may be that some men feel uncomfortable receiving female nursing assistance with ADLs, such as dressing and bathing.

If that’s the case for your loved one, be sure to ask prospective communities about male caregivers. Some communities may work with you to make sure that only men bathe or dress them. There may also be male-only nursing homes or units in certain areas.

Why do men search for senior living?

Gains in lifespan potential come as good news for most men, of course. However, there’s still an increased likelihood that men may outlive their wives, or that men live to be older and have more health complications than they would have in the recent past.

It’s no surprise then, that more men are entering senior care facilities these days. Other factors driving this trend include the following:

  • Childlessness. Adult children and grandchildren are the most frequent providers of noninstitutional elder care. However, recent trends show that the number of adults without children is increasing. Approximately 16% of seniors ages 65 to 74 are childless, meaning more men and women are turning to senior living as an option.[06]
  • Serious health conditions. Whether acute or chronic, health conditions are the driving force that propels many seniors to enter assisted living. Nearly half of assisted living residents have been diagnosed with two to three of the most common chronic conditions, which consist of high blood pressure, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and more, according to the CDC.[07]
  • Innovations in assisted living arrangements. Today’s senior care facilities offer amenities such as restaurant-like meal service, housekeeping, and transportation to outside activities. Combined with personalized care services and round-the-clock access to emergency help, these offerings make assisted living seem like an obvious choice for many men. Some communities also have purposeful lifestyle programs. Such lifestyle programs aim to engage residents’ minds, bodies, and spirits for a fulfilling lifestyle.

What should older men look for in senior living?

Whether a man will feel at home in a community is a common concern family members share when seeking senior living for a male relative, says Nick Chareas, a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom.

“Early on in the call, they’ll wonder if Dad will fit in.”

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Fortunately, senior living communities have groups, activities, and offerings universally enjoyable for people of any gender. Some activities and amenities — like men’s clubs — cater specifically to men’s traditional interests. Below, learn about men-favored activities and five things to look for when touring senior living and assisted living communities for men.

1. Men’s groups or clubs

“Many communities offer men’s clubs and groups where men talk about sports, current events, watch a football game, or enjoy a beer,” says Roberson.

Seeking out a men’s group can help your male loved one avoid senior isolation and help ensure that they form new friendships and make connections with like-minded people in their new home. There are many types of men’s groups across senior living communities. Group formation is usually based on the mutual interests of the men in residence. Food, sports, and games are common interests, so many of these clubs at our partner communities revolve around such festivities.

Describing a men’s group he encountered while visiting an assisted living community in Chicago, Nick Chareas recalls residents laughing and feasting together on a hearty meal during their weekly Saturday meet-up, where they play card games and enjoy each other’s company.

2. Veterans clubs and support groups

It’s sometimes difficult for veterans to adjust to a new environment, so many communities recognize that and offer veteran-specific activities. Gathering with other veterans to share stories and build camaraderie can be very comforting in a new place. It’s common for veterans to gather for coffee and dinner, according to Jane DiSalle, a Senior Living Advisor with A Place for Mom.

“Honor walls are also quite popular, with residents’ wartime veteran’s pictures hanging for all to see,” she says.

These walls help ensure that a veteran’s service is continuously recognized. Many communities also host Veterans Day activities and take residents out to local celebrations. Some communities with a higher veteran population may even provide transportation and help residents participate in local Veterans Day parades and festivities.

In addition to activities, many senior living communities offer support groups for veterans. These groups enable veterans to share personal stories and experiences, and they provide a safe environment, free of judgment, to enable veterans to connect with one another.

Seniors on the more independent side often seek volunteer opportunities to support local veterans. So check with prospective communities to see how Dad can continue volunteering.

3. Masculine spaces

Most communities create gender-neutral common areas with the comfort of every resident in mind. There may also be additional spaces for male-interest clubs, a designated “male space” or “man caves” that some traditional senior men may enjoy.

Here are some examples of masculine spaces:

  • Some communities design rooms to look like pubs or fishing lodges. Other communities have designated game room nights, where men can gather to play poker, participate in sports trivia, and more.
  • A private room is also a great space to personalize, but be sure to ask about decorating rules. Can your dad move in with his memorabilia? If there’s artwork on the walls, can he change it?
  • Many senior living communities have on-site amenities like salons. Ask if the salon offers regular services for men, such as barber visits or beard trims.
  • See if the on-site fitness center offers any male-only workout classes. Some older men may be uncomfortable doing activities like yoga in front of women.

4. Staff facilitates activities for men

Men aren’t always as likely to seek each other out to make plans together. If there’s a men’s group in the community, see if the activities director or another staff member helps plan events. If your loved one isn’t particularly social, try to make sure they’ll be invited and welcomed to the activities.

According to Roberson, communities often implement engagement programs where staff members work together to invite, encourage, and assist residents in socializing during their first month or so after moving in. The staff typically learns about the residents’ interests and personalities through a detailed, resident- and family-informed profile. This profile helps staff understand each individual resident’s favored activities.

Profiles also help staff members introduce residents to like-minded individuals in the community and to different social groups. For instance, men tend to dine together in the dining room, according to Roberson. So, within a resident’s first day or week, staff members will often introduce a new male resident to other men and help them initiate a conversation.

5. Companionship

Couples in senior living are less common than single older adults, making it the ideal environment for dating. If your male relative is interested in dating, the social events hosted by most assisted living communities are great opportunities.

Most assisted living communities host mixers to help single seniors mingle. Seniors can also naturally build connections by attending community-scheduled parties, games, classes, musical events, and other common on-site activities.

What activities do senior living communities provide for elderly men?

When searching for assisted living for men, look for communities that cultivate unique and inclusive activities for all residents. While many games — like chess, cards, and golf — can be enjoyed by all genders, activities designed especially for men can create a sense of camaraderie between male residents.

Here are types of activities assisted living communities typically offer for men.

Competitive activities

Many senior men tend to like competitive activities, explains Chareas. Video games like Wii Sports and sports simulators allow men to compete in virtual versions of their favorite pastimes, including golf and tennis. Some senior living communities may even have their own small putting greens or arrange group outings to tee times at local golf courses.

On-site tennis, pickleball, and shuffleboard courts may also be available for active residents. These spaces enable residents to easily gather with one another for some friendly competition. A select few communities may even have fishing ponds or offer outings to nearby lakes, allowing residents to start a fishing competition of their own.

Communities often host friendly competitions and tournaments for residents. Some of the most common include:

  • Bingo tournaments
  • Trivia nights
  • Scrabble competitions
  • Shuffleboard tournaments
  • Card game tournaments

Senior living communities usually accommodate their current resident population. So if your dad is interested in challenging fellow residents to a new competitive activity, you can talk to an activity director to see if they can put it on the schedule. Activity directors might also allow residents to rent out specific rooms — like the game room, movie theater, or on-site pub — so men can host competitions or watch parties and drink together in private.

Creative and learning activities

Crafts and continued education are important for both men and women in assisted living. While knitting and needlepoint sessions are open to both men and women, some men may prefer traditional alternatives like building birdhouses or model cars. Some communities may even offer woodshops, so male residents can continue woodworking in a safe, supervised environment.

To paint a picture of how assisted living communities help residents learn and practice their skills, here’s a list of common on-site creative amenities and activities:

  • Arts and crafts center and classes
  • Woodshop and woodworking classes
  • Book clubs and poetry readings
  • Bible studies and groups
  • Lifelong learning lectures and classes

Scheduled trips or outings

Many communities schedule weekly or monthly outings to give seniors an opportunity to explore nearby activities and attractions. Some outings are as simple as a brunch at a local diner, while others may include attending a local festival.

Many assisted living communities also take residents to the following places during scheduled outings:

  • Museums and zoos
  • Local parks, gardens, and trails
  • Plays, musicals, and symphonies
  • Libraries

It’s not uncommon for senior living residents to plan group trips, which are often facilitated by the assisted living community’s staff.

Chareas recalls meeting a particularly energetic 96-year-old wheeling his suitcase into the elevator of an assisted living facility. The older man was the leader of his community’s weekly poker night and was on the way to Las Vegas with a group of senior residents.

Service organizations

Some communities may host meetings of their local service organizations or groups in community rooms, so senior residents can attend meetings easily. Some common groups that may partner with assisted living facilities are the Rotary Club, Elks, or Knights of Columbus.

Groups like those are a great opportunity for older men to reconnect with any clubs they may have once participated in, and they’re a great way for senior men to get to know younger members.

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How can I talk to Dad about assisted living?

How you approach the conversation about moving your male family member to assisted living may be the most difficult and important part of the entire process. Older men are often reluctant to accept help, but using the following tips can make it easier and help them come to terms with a move.

Address their fears and highlight benefits

Loss of purpose, physical weakness, and dependence on others are some of men’s top fears about aging. Make sure you acknowledge such fears and help them see how assisted living senior communities can help eliminate some of them. The right senior living community will let them retain independence at a safe level, so they don’t have to feel at a loss.

Fear and worry often cloud judgment, so it’s important that you help your dad see how a senior living community will accommodate his needs and help him lead a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle. Some benefits of assisted living senior communities include:

  • Social opportunities, like parties, group games, and shared spaces
  • Safety, like caregiver assistance, monitored entrances, and accessible features
  • Health maintenance, like fitness classes, well-balanced meals, and regular wellness checks

Include your loved one in the conversation and search

The senior living conversation is always a difficult one and can be especially challenging for men who don’t want to be cared for. When you approach the conversation, be sure it comes from a place of love and care. If it results in a heated argument, step away and try to revisit the conversation after a few days.

Once both parties have decided to move forward with senior living, be sure to involve them in the decision process. Account for their preferences and needs, consider their opinions, and let them have a say in where they’ll receive care.

Here are some tips for including them in the decision:

  • Make a list of their care needs together.
  • Make a list of their personal preferences.
  • Select a few senior living options in the area.
  • Tour communities together.
  • Weigh the pros and cons together.

To help make your senior living search easier, you can reach out to a Senior Living Advisor at A Place for Mom. They can help you find an ideal place for Dad depending on their budget, preferences, care needs, and location — all at no cost to your family.

One family’s story about finding a home for Dad

All these factors came together for Janet Hershey, whose father wandered at night and risked having a safety incident. She felt reassured that her father would be seen and appreciated in the community they eventually chose.

“I love the interaction with the staff and the residents,” Hershey says. “Every single staff member knows every single resident’s name. I just knew my dad would really like that.”

Roberson also emphasized the importance of caring staff members. It’s crucial for each staff member at an assisted living community to have a passion for helping seniors lead their best lives. She says you can immediately tell when a community’s staff truly cares for its residents, because you’ll see it in the way they act and talk.

For Hersey, the staff’s willingness to bond was a selling point, but activities sealed the deal.

“Every month they send out an activity calendar to the families,” Hershey explains. “I’d go two or three times a week. Probably every week they have live music. We’d dance with all the residents. They have arts and crafts. They have exercise classes. Then, once a month, we’d go on a bus ride together. We went to the beach and had lunch.”

“I feel like he knows that we love him,” Hershey adds. “I’m so thankful to A Place for Mom.”

SHARE THE ARTICLE

  1. National Center for Assisted Living, American Health Care Association. Facts and figures.

  2. National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Life expectancy.

  3. Institute on Aging. Aging in America.

  4. Argentum. (2018). Senior living resident profile.

  5. Fink, M., Klein, K., Sayers, K., Valentino, J., Leonardi, C., Bronstone, A., Wiseman, P. M., & Dasa, V. (2020, January). Objective data reveals gender preferences for patients’ primary care physicianJournal of Primary Care and Community Health.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, September). Residential care community resident characteristics: United States, 2018.

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

Rachel Levy, BSW, MPH, senior living expert

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