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Start A Revolution in Senior Living Social Activities

A December 2015 article in the Journal of Aging Studies calls for a “social revolution in residential care.” The authors highlight that loneliness and depression continue to be critical concerns across the spectrum of senior living and care communities.

Reports of loneliness and depression are compounded in dementia and memory care settings, creating high deficits in feelings of autonomy and belonging, which is in turn linked to higher incidents of interpersonal violence. The passive receiving of care seems to be one culprit, and current psychosocial models often limit opportunities for residents to make more meaningful contributions.

Long-standing traditions of “light” social events, such as games, trips, and social gatherings can provide enjoyment for some, but with heightened awareness and intentional planning, these activities can transcend the status quo from passive enjoyment to active engagement.

The article recommends “overturning practices that focus on entertainment and distraction” and introduces a new approach that draws on resident contributions and peer support. The proposed REAP model (Resident Engagement and Peer Support) helps care workers design activities with three aims:

  • Advance residents’ social identity
  • Enhance reciprocal relationships
  • Increase social productivity

The article’s study falls into the category of recreational therapy. Many resources offer activity ideas appropriate for a range of communities. Some even specialize in activities for memory care settings. Here are some lists of ideas for deepening social engagement in your community.