A group of seniors sitting in a half circle with a staff member laughing and talking.

In the senior healthcare world activities are extremely important. Having the patients and residents involved in activities helps with their overall treatment. As activities are more personalized, residents can feel more included in their little community, find purpose, and contribute to those around them.

Generally, most facilities have a life enrichment director that works closely with an activities director. These two are in charge of activities, and all social aspects of the long term and post-acute care residents.

Life enrichment and activities have drastically changed over the past few years. With innovative technology, the new generation of elders, and as facilities put a more individualized focus on residents, activities have evolved. Arts and crafts activities can use instructional YouTube videos, trivia can use iPads, and smart TVs can stream thousands of movies that were previously unavailable.

In Washington D.C., Linda Moreno is the Life Enrichment Director for two facilities. She gave an example of personalized life enrichment. Moreno recounted that a group of residents was reminiscing about how they missed going to Starbucks. This lead to Moreno having staff take all the coffee orders of interested residents and bringing back the treat for the residents. They also do this with restaurants, like Subway. This is a great example of individualized activity planning. The staff listened to the residents, and they adapted the facility plans based on what would be the most uplifting, fun, and personalized for the residents.

Technology has evolved long term and post-acute care facilities. One example is the use of smartphones. Many staff members keep apps on their phones that residents are interested in. Moreno mentions especially having an app with jokes on it. Another example is the use of videos online. Moreno mentions that a favorite activity of some of her residents is watching virtual tours on real estate websites. This leads the residents to talk about the homes they owned in the past, and they get to look at beautiful houses!

Another change in resident life is that the residents have a greater mental capacity. This means that instead of just doing a painting, they want to be taught about the artist they are recreating, hear about surrealism, and learn about the techniques instead of just simply painting.

Facilities are also starting to recognize that not all residents like the same things. This means that there has been an emphasis on the diversity of activities. Some long-term care facilities can have as many as four activities going on at one time, and often have at least 8 activities in a day.

While creating diverse selections of activities, life enrichment directors and activity directors also need to be able to plan activities that benefit the residents mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. One example of this is a facility in Texas. The recreation director had 2 desktop computers installed and spent time teaching residents how to use them. This gave the residents the freedom to use the computer to search their personal interests, and maybe send emails to loved ones.

In conclusion, activities in the long term and post-acute care facilities are vital. These activities improve the quality of life for each resident, and in turn, can improve their overall health and their willingness to do physical therapy and treatments for health problems. Enrichment and activities directors are doing an impressive job of incorporating personalized activities for residents, and it is improving the overall quality and resident satisfaction of facilities.