After a lifetime of working, we can be forgiven for wanting to forgo further toil, instead opting for leisure activities that bring a smile to our face. But for friends and family members in aged care, their physical and mental capabilities can make it difficult for them to pursue leisure activities that can bring them a great deal of joy. For this reason, some facilities create leisure and lifestyle programs for their residents, offering them a variety of entertainment that can satisfy their physical and emotional needs.

In this article, we’ll explain what lifestyle activities are in aged care, provide plenty of suggestions, and explore how to start your own leisure and lifestyle program, whether for individuals or groups.

What are leisure and lifestyle activities in aged care?

In aged care, leisure and lifestyle activities are a diverse range of experiences that can help to enhance the wellbeing of residents. Each activity targets particular needs for the resident, which can be physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual. For example, ambling through a local park with a carer gets their body moving, and may help them reconnect with their love of nature. As they lend a keen ear to a bingo caller, they’re encouraged to concentrate, chat with friends, and are filled with a temporary sense of purpose. Painting allows them to muster their creativity and exercise the joints in their hands, creating their own mini-masterpiece. Each of these activities targets critical needs that can be difficult to satisfy elsewhere, and they achieve this by being fun, engaging, and just enough of a challenge. 

Every resident in a care home is an individual with their own preferences, skills, and physical capabilities, so the activities that form a leisure and lifestyle program in aged care should be diverse, and aim to meet their needs. It’s also important to make the activities achievable and enjoyable for those with dementia, by incorporating proven learning techniques such as the Montessori method. 

Due to the importance of recreational experiences for people of all ages, an entirely new field called Diversional Therapy has emerged, whose practitioners aim to promote involvement in leisure, recreation, and play1. Aged care facilities are just one area where they work, using diversional therapy to create aged care activities that make up an effective leisure and lifestyle program.

Which needs do leisure and lifestyle activities satisfy?

Physical needs

In the context of seniors, physical needs are those that help to combat the physical decline of old age. This includes reduced muscle mass, coordination and balance, joint flexibility, bone strength, and more. Activities such as walking, dancing, and gardening encourage seniors to use their bodies, which helps to fight back against the decline.

Emotional needs

We all have emotional needs that must be met throughout our lives. This includes feeling loved, appreciated, respected, connected, and accomplished, and for those in aged care, this can be achieved through various lifestyle activities. Arranging a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, giving them to their daughter and seeing the smile on their face may make an elderly person feel loved and appreciated. Beating their friend at a game of checkers would give them a sense of accomplishment, and discussing verses of the Bible can help them feel connected to others through a shared faith.

Cognitive needs

Diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and heart disease can affect our mental ability as we age, and as with our physical needs, must be countered with activities that help to bolster our minds. Pretty much every activity requires the use of our brain, but bingo, card games, checkers, arts and crafts, and other similar ventures provide much more of a mental workout, and help to strengthen the neurological connections in our brains. 

For those with dementia who struggle with these kinds of tasks, simple sensory activities such as smelling flowers, finger painting, and popping bubble wrap can reignite the neural pathways in their brains.

Social needs

Sadly, as our bodies and minds deteriorate with age, everything becomes a bit more difficult, which can cause us to withdraw from the world. But as a social species, isolation is one of the most dangerous things that we can do, because being with people helps to satisfy a number of vital needs, whether we’re playing games with them, chatting to them, hugging them, or doing any other number of things that soothes our soul.

Spiritual needs

Without a sense of meaning, life can seem futile. What’s the point of carrying on if nothing matters? Thankfully, there’s plenty of things that can give our life meaning and help to satisfy our spiritual needs—family, religion, music or art, and pursuing a passion to name a few. Leisure and lifestyle activities such as bible readings, guided meditation, facilitated conversation, and anything that we might feel passionate about can help to gratify our spiritual needs.

Aside from addresses these vital needs, an effective leisure and lifestyle program for seniors should satisfy the following:

  • Be entertaining
  • Inspire the person to keep participating, and try other activities
  • Be the right amount of challenging, and compensate for their lost abilities
  • Help to maintain or improve their skills
  • Be sensitive to their culture and religion

Leisure and lifestyle activities for seniors

Now that you know why these activities for aged care residents are important, here’s a comprehensive list of leisure and lifestyle activities for seniors, that you might suggest for your elderly loved one or aged care facility.

These aged care activity ideas are broken down into group activities, and individual activities.

Group activities

  • Walking (including with wheelchairs, if needed)
  • Freestyle dancing
  • Bean bag toss
  • Bingo
  • Quizzes
  • BBQs
  • Religious readings
  • Card games
  • Dress-up events like the Melbourne Cup
  • Simple board games
  • Television
  • Bowling
  • Guided meditation
  • Guided conversation
  • Days out
  • Singing
  • Listening to music, or sound therapy
  • Concerts
  • Speakers and presenters
  • Theatre
  • Wineries
  • Swimming
  • Happy hour (closely monitored!)

Individual activities

  • Reading
  • Music
  • Chair exercises
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Flower arranging
  • Jewellery making
  • Cooking
  • Gardening
  • Painting
  • Collaging
  • Knitting
  • Simple computer games (e.g. iPad)
  • Lego
  • Beauty therapy
  • Writing
  • Massage
  • Photography
  • Social media
  • Nintendo Switch
  • Bird watching

How to start a leisure and lifestyle program for an aged care facility

Every resident in an aged care facility is different, with particular physical and cognitive abilities, hobbies, and spiritual beliefs that must be considered when creating a leisure and lifestyle program. As well as addressing the physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual needs of residents, the activities that form a leisure and lifestyle program must cater for various physical and cognitive levels, from the easy to the challenging. Certain residents will be able to whoop their friends at rummy, while those suffering from late-stage dementia may struggle with the simplest of games. Some people will happily throw their hips around to the Rolling Stones, while others will be much more comfortable sitting and clapping. 

By far the biggest challenge to leisure and lifestyle in aged care is catering to the individual needs and skills of each resident. When creating a program for an aged care facility, as many people should be involved as possible—staff, the residents themselves, and family members. If you’re struggling, you might consider hiring a diversional therapist to help, who can work with you to plan and create an effective resident-centred program that enhances the wellbeing of those in your facility.

The physical and cognitive decline that comes with old age can lessen our desire for leisure activities, at a time when they’ve never been more important. Thankfully, promoting leisure and lifestyle activities for your elderly loved one or aged care facility is achievable, and can help to meet their most vital needs, as well as making their lives more joyful and engaging.

References

  1. Diversional therapy, Wikipedia