Did you know that by 2060, the projected population of people age 65 older will be 98.2 million? That means nearly one in four Americans will be a senior citizen. Across the nation, this rapidly growing population is taking part in activities that promote wellness and social connection. No matter whether they live independently or in a long-term care community, older Americans are an important part of our society and enrich our lives.
Every May offers an opportunity to hear from, support, and celebrate our nation’s elders, led by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging. For the 55th year, the United States will observe Older Americans Month (OAM), which recognizes older people and their contributions to our communities. This year’s theme, “Engage at Every Age,” emphasizes the importance of continuing to be active and involved, no matter where you are in life. Most people over the age of 65 will be in long-term care at some point during their lives, but that does not diminish their ability to make a difference in their own lives as well as those of others. We should use this year’s OAM to focus on residents engaging with friends and family, and various activities here in our facility community.
Engaging helps health
Through activities inside and outside their facilities, older Americans in long-term care communities contribute to supporting their overall health through socialization. As we age or become ill, the ability to participate in everyday activities and hobbies may become difficult. Sometimes, it may be the loss of family or friends that causes a person to withdraw from their normal social activities. This can lead to loneliness and depression among seniors. Residents in the long-term care environment are not immune to these feelings, however; they have the benefit of access to resources and opportunities that older Americans who live alone may not have. At facilities, such as ours, residents live closely with other people around their same age that they can relate to on a social level. They can also participate in a variety of activities such as games, resident councils, religious services, entertainment evenings, group exercises, and public outings that help enhance their quality of life.
A 2013-2014 study of long-term care facilities proved that residents who have social contact with other residents, staff and visitors increase their ability to thrive in their environments. By giving them a sense of purpose and reducing psychological distress, participation in activities enriched the residents’ physical and emotional well-being. Resident engagement also benefits others, especially younger generations, by strengthening the bonds to the knowledge and traditions of the past. For example, our facility’s staff often note that the most rewarding aspects of their employment are talking with residents and learning about their lives. Older Americans in long-term care are vital parts of our community and we encourage and appreciate their continued engagement.
Suggested ways to engage
- Participate in arts and crafts projects
- Do puzzles and brain games like Sudoku and word searches
- Whenever possible, eat meals with other residents
- Attend entertainment events
- Join resident council meetings
- Participate in group games
- Volunteer to help welcome new residents
- Share your wisdom with younger people
- If you are mobile, go for walks. Or, if you are not mobile, ask to be taken for walks around the facility.
- Express your creative talents through writing, playing music, or singing