Making “small talk” can be an excellent way to break the ice and form a friendship. For many, however, starting off a conversation can be intimidating and can be better compared to an art form that few have truly mastered.
Fortunately, there are easy ways for seniors to socialize in their assisted living communities, as nearly all facilities are designed with the purpose of providing opportunities for seniors to engage and connect.
Planned Social Engagements
One of the many benefits of living in an assisted or independent living community, is the warm and friendly atmosphere and the variety of opportunities to connect with others through social events and conversation. Residents are encouraged to take advantage of regularly scheduled activities and programs that are created, with their interests in mind, to educate, inspire, and entertain.
Why not have a chat with the activities director at your community to find out more about daily happenings? Most communities publish a monthly or weekly activities calendar that lists the different programs and events that are being offered on particular days, anything from daily exercise class and discussion groups, to weekly shopping trips, movies, volunteer opportunities and more. For both family members and residents, this is your greatest resource! Find out how these activities calendars are distributed in your community and be sure to read them and keep them visible for your loved one. Many communities can even email a copy of the activities calendar to family members, so they can stay updated as well. Family members should highlight activities that hold special appeal for their loved ones. Here is just a sample of some of the programs that you can find in many communities:
Music, Dance, and Arts Programing
Arts and Crafts Classes
Daily Fitness Classes and Sporting Activities
Parties and Socials
Opportunities for Volunteering
Cards, Board Games and Movies
Cooking Classes and Demonstrations
Book Clubs and Discussion Groups
Holiday Celebrations and Special Seasonal Events
Spiritual Groups and Services
Weekly Out-Trips and Shopping
Cultural and Educational Presentations
Health and Wellness Activities
Puzzles, Word Searches, and Brain Exercises
Where to Begin…
If you are looking for ways to help your mom or dad become more social, a good starting point is right at “move-in” day. Consider having family members accompany you on the first day to make your loved one’s transition in meeting new people easier.
Encourage your loved one to “jump right in.” Even if your loved one is a bit more reserved, it can be helpful for them to stay busy and meet some warm, welcoming faces right away. In many cases, family members can get involved in scheduled activities with their loved one and can even make arrangements to have lunch or share a meal in the Dining Room, to meet and greet other residents. This has great benefits, for not only will it help your mom or dad feel more at home in their new environment, willing to socialize with neighbors, but it will also promote the opportunity to bond as a family, which strengthens those supportive relationships.
Suggestions for Developing Friendships
Encourage your senior parent to take advantage of the many opportunities to engage in activities and creating new friendships. Persuade your dad, for example, to find two or three activities that would allow him to meet his new neighbors. Here are a few recommendations:
Be the first to start up a conversation in the Dining Room and get to know the residents who share your table.
Enjoy your cup of coffee with a friend, in a common area
Find a sitting area and invite someone to join you
Read the newspaper and chat about current events
Learn a new skill in one of the educational activities classes
Participate in community volunteer efforts
Join a walking club and walk regularly with a friend
Invite your “new friends” to visit with you in your apartment
Schedule a movie night and share your favorite movie
Socialization will Increase Overtime
After your initial “push,” your mom or dad will find their own unique way to connect with their neighbors. Several studies show the positive impact on overall quality of life when seniors participate in social activities and remain connected. Don’t be worried, if at first your loved one’s participation seems only on the basis of a personal interest in the activity itself and not on any desire to make friends.
Overtime and with your encouragement, your loved one will begin to develop meaningful relationships with fellow residents and staff and engage in community life.
Nearly all assisted and independent living communities are designed with the express purpose of increasing opportunities for socialization for seniors
The best way to stay updated on community happenings and social events is through activities calendars that are distributed to residents and family members.
Family members who are looking for ways to help their senior parents engage in social activities, should encourage their loved ones to “jump right in,” beginning with “move-in day.”
Suggest that your loved one choose two or three activities upon moving in that will help them meet their neighbors.
Several studies show the positive impact on overall quality of life when seniors engage in social activities and remain connected to others.
Assisted and Independent Living
If you would like to learn more about United Methodist Homes Assisted and Independent Living Communities, please visit our website www.umh.org to learn more.
About Elizabeth Bemis
In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.
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