Senior Living Community Activities During COVID-19
As the COVID-19 lockdown is projected to continue to varying degrees into 2021, many senior community activities have emerged to keep residents connected and engaged. Most retirement communities are closed to visitors with few exceptions, so technology and social distant interaction (with masks and a distance of six feet or more) are necessary to facilitate communication. If you or a loved one reside in a senior living facility, however, you can easily contact them by phone, email, or social media to find out what activities they offer to keep residents in good spirits. Here are some examples of senior community activities during COVID-19 in various senior living facilities.
Socially Distant Engagement
As mentioned, most senior living communities bar visitation to residents’ rooms. However, some have outdoor seating areas where residents and their loved ones can interact from a safe distance. Many seniors’ loved ones have also negotiated the limitations by meeting them face-to-face outside their windows and talking over the phone. If a senior living facility has appropriate grounds for it, residents can enjoy walks within standard precautions of wearing masks, washing hands before and after going outdoors, and maintaining at least six feet of distance from others. Restrictions on going outside vary, but it is generally safer than being around others indoors because air can circulate outside.
Many senior communities are bringing residents closer together at this time by providing entertainment that they can enjoy from a safe distance. As viral news has shown, people have been serenading their neighbors from their balconies in Italy and sharing exercise routines from their windows in Spain. Likewise, several senior living facilities have designated spaces for residents to communicate or for entertainers to perform outside. Alternatively, senior communities’ entertainers can perform remotely through live streaming. Either way, socially distant entertainment allows residents to enjoy themselves and artists to still receive payment.
Hospitality and service staff are also getting work at this time by filling the role of various group activities that have been put on hold. By following the current health and safety protocol, they can engage with seniors one-on-one. Seniors are also staying in contact with fellow residents and loved ones by becoming pen pals; some facilities even assist in delivering handwritten letters between residents. Additionally, some senior living communities are partnering with schools and daycares so that restless kids can channel their creative energies into making drawings and letters for local seniors.
Connecting Through Technology
As with live streaming entertainment, many people are keeping in contact through video chatting. Apps such as Skype, Facetime, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Zoom have proven relatively easy for seniors to navigate, and there are even tablets and other devices built specifically for accessibility to seniors. Right now, many senior living facilities are giving lessons on using devices and even providing devices to residents. There have been successful donation drives for acquiring iPads, DVD players, and other electronics that would require frequent sanitization if shared. Video chatting allows seniors’ loved ones and caregivers to stay in contact for mutual enjoyment and to make sure that they are in good health.
For residents who cannot use electronic devices, some communities offer to exchange photos of them (often featuring handwritten notes) with loved ones. Communities also encourage seniors to make scrapbooks out of old photos to share with loved ones, which allows them to reminisce about positive memories. Senior living communities often communicate with their residents through email, and some even have TV systems in-house that they can use to broadcast the weather and daily activities for residents.
For seniors who know how to navigate the internet, there are many options for virtual entertainment. Billboard maintains a list of upcoming concert livestreams from popular artists, often giving proceeds to charity. Seniors can also find many nostalgic old concerts from the past century on YouTube. Many senior living facilities have encouraged residents to build community-wide playlists on Spotify and other services. Google Arts and Culture offers virtual tours of museums and galleries around the globe, with a top ten list of popular destinations. Radio stations are always an entertainment option, whether accessed through radios or the internet; apps such as Tune-In allow streaming of current radio stations while YouTube channels such as Classic Radio offer access to iconic radio shows of the 20s, 30s, and 40s. Seniors can access eBooks through several online libraries and audiobooks on sites such as Audible and YouTube. Residents can enjoy reading on their own or in book clubs that include family, friends, and/or other residents.
Many senior living facilities are currently encouraging their residents to get creative during the lockdown. Painting, drawing, pottery, and other arts and crafts allow people to express themselves and focus themselves on a task productively. Fiber arts such as sewing, knitting, and crocheting allow people to make useful clothing and household items in addition to stimulating their minds. Many people are now donating knit and sewn items, especially masks. Keeping a journal, video diary, or blog also allows seniors a healthy outlet for their thoughts regarding the present and can keep them in the moment.
Plenty of other solo hobbies are beneficial to seniors’ physical and mental health. Taking care of plants allows seniors to stay engaged taking care of something that will liven up their rooms. Some communities even have gardens that people can safely access individually. There are plenty of exercises that seniors can do inside, which help as gyms and group activities are closed. Board games, puzzles, and crosswords are fun ways to stay mentally stimulated, and residents can sometimes even share them over video chatting or the phone.
Still, other senior living facilities survey their residents to determine what activities they would like to enjoy. They may deliver books, colored pencils, markers, crayons, coloring books, puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, word find puzzles, and treats to residents’ rooms by request. Sometimes, residents can write in with ideas that staff had not yet considered. By sharing activities, senior communities can ease the negative feelings associated with isolation.
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