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The range and quality of activities for the elderly in nursing homes is rarely fully appreciated. Stereotypical views often depict activities in nursing homes as consisting of playing bingo and watching television to pass the time. However, many long term care facilities offer their seniors fun, creative, and mentally stimulating activities. 

The purpose of these activities for the elderly in nursing homes is to improve the quality of life for residents with holistic activities that are psychologically, socially, spiritually, and physically beneficial to residents’ health and well-being. Some of the benefits include: 

Two residents participating in the organized activities for the elderly in nursing homes.
Activities for the elderly in nursing homes improves their quality of life.
  • Higher Quality of Life: Studies show that the engagement in social and leisure activities is an indicator of quality of life in nursing homes. Having varied activities programs in nursing homes gives residents a sense of independence, dignity, and purpose, especially when they participate in an activity that uses formerly acquired skills from their working days.  
  • Social Support: These activities also allow residents to bond with peers, forge meaningful friendships, and create a support system within the nursing home. While some residents may have families who visit, others do not have an active family support system, which can lead to depression and loneliness. Therefore, actively engaging in the nursing home community improves their psychological and social health while reducing symptoms of loneliness and depression.
  • A Sense of Structure and Routine: A daily routine gives residents a sense of predictability, making them less likely to feel disoriented, stressed, or anxious. Also, a routine benefits seniors by enhancing feelings of safety and security.
  • Better Sleep Schedules: Studies show that maintaining daily routines reduces insomnia, decreases cognitive decline, reduces the risk of falls, reduces daytime fatigue, and prevents the deterioration of physical and mental health. 

In short, long term care facilities can improve residents’ quality of life by giving them greater independence to participate in activities that give them purpose while also igniting their passions and hobbies that they previously enjoyed. 

What Are the Rules for Activities for the Elderly?

In long term care facilities, activities for the elderly are governed by federal regulations in the Code of Federal Regulations. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) F-Tag 248 stipulates that a facility’s activity program must have a choice of activities for residents. Additionally, these activities must be incorporated into residents’ assessments and personalized care plans to support their physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, while simultaneously encouraging independence and active participation in the nursing home community. 

A senior couple playing a duet as one of the organized activities for the elderly to stimulate their brains.
Activities for the elderly are governed by the Code of Federal Regulations.

It is crucial for nursing homes to comply with F248 and understand the intent behind the regulation. Failure to comply with regulatory rules will result in the facility receiving deficiencies, fines, and a reduced CMS star-quality rating. 

In addition to identifying residents’ passions and promoting their physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being, the regulation also allows space for the senior’s family or friends to get involved in the assessment and care planning stage. This is so that they can assist with developing a suitable care plan that encourages participation from the resident. 

By allowing input from family and friends, facilities can document the senior’s preferences like their favorite food, sleeping patterns, or how often they bathe using the nursing home software system. This allows facilities to accurately document resident data that will improve the quality of care and a resident’s quality of life by giving them dignity and respect to live independently. 

Contact us here to see how to update residents’ preferences using our long term care software 

4 Types of Nursing Home Activities 

When developing a  nursing home activities program, one should consider the physical and cognitive limitations of the residents. Additionally, activities for the elderly in nursing homes must align with residents’ needs, abilities, and interests. To best understand each resident’s capabilities and interests, nursing home activity directors must work alongside the clinical staff to better understand the residents. 

Suppose facilities want to move beyond bingo and introduce innovative activities in today’s nursing homes. In that case, they must consider the residents’ personalities, what value the activities hold, and the benefits they will gain from participating. Typically, there are four types of activities for the elderly in nursing homes:

  1. Social Activities

As mentioned earlier, nursing homes need to promote social activities that encourage residents to build friendships. This benefits residents, as they feel less isolated and become more active in the community. Additionally, residents will improve their sleeping routines and better maintain physical functions while reducing cognitive decline. 

Some popular social activities include:

  • Birthday parties
  • Coffee shop chats
  • Ice cream social gatherings
  • Church services
  • Resident book clubs
  • Holidays and festive celebrations
  1. Physical Activities

It is essential for seniors to maintain physical mobility to keep them fit and strong. This will reduce the risk of falls, regulate blood pressure, and improve mental health and cognitive functions. 

Some physical activities for seniors with limited mobility include: 

  • Light stretching or exercising
  • Gardening
  • Walking
  • Chair yoga
  1. Creative Activities

Creative activities are perfect for residents to fine-tune their motor skills while providing cognitive stimulation. They are particularly beneficial to residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s because they reduce feelings of anxiety, agitation, confusion, and anger. 

Some popular creative activities include:

  • Sewing
  • Painting
  • Paper crafting
  • Decorating baked goods
  • Ceramics and pottery painting
  1. Cognitive Activities

Nursing homes must strive to organize more cognitive activities, as they stimulate the brain and improve cognitive function, allowing residents to retain more of their independence. In fact, the more residents participate in cognitive activities, the more active their minds are, which improves their memory retrieval.

A senior resident participating in a chess game as provided in the facility's nursing home activities program.
A nursing home activities program needs to provide physical and cognitive stimulation for residents.

The best mental activities for seniors include:

  • Playing trivia and board games
  • Doing puzzles like word searches, sudoku, and crosswords
  • Playing instruments
  • Learning to use technology like tablets and smartphones

Most nursing homes will offer a combination of activities to ignite different interests and provide a better quality of life for residents. If facilities are looking for more innovative activities, they can refer to online resources provided by the National Certification Council for Activities Professionals (NCCAP), which the CMS has accredited for its high standards in delivering social care to seniors and enriching their lives through person-centered care

The Importance of Activities for the Elderly in Nursing Homes

It is not a secret that a lack of social interaction and stimulation for seniors can lead to adverse care outcomes, such as depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline. For this reason, activities for the elderly in nursing homes must be prioritized. Whether it is a friendly game of Trivial Pursuit, conversation over afternoon tea, or participating in a yoga class, engaging activities positively impact residents’ quality of life.  

Giving residents a voice so they have a say in what activities are organized allows facilities to design an activities program that meets their interests, needs, and passions. This is an easy way to improve participation. So when nursing homes create an activities program, they must remember to facilitate social interactions, mental stimulation, emotional support, and physical activity to enrich their residents’ lives.

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Cindy Wong
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