20 Common Assisted Living Activity Ideas for Aging Adults

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

The availability of a wide range of diverse activities is one reason aging adults are attracted to assisted living communities. Living in these communities gives many people the opportunity to engage in retirement hobbies that perhaps were deferred due to lack of time. The other challenge with pursuing those hobbies is that you have to find the groups or classes, buy materials, and structure your day to incorporate what you enjoy.

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That is where assisted living communities step in. Assisted living provides ready-made activities that make it very easy to engage. Granted, not all of the activities may be to your liking, and there might be some activities missing that you wish were available. With that said, activities directors are generally very open to adding activities if there is interest from other residents.

Health and Fitness Assisted Living Activity Ideas

Health and fitness activities are becoming more popular in assisted living because they keep people healthier and reduce the risk of falls. Residents often engage in physical therapy through home health and then want to continue building on the progress they make. It may also help with prolonging physical health and contributing to any goals you have laid out in a long-term care plan.

The challenge with health and fitness activity groups is to find one that isn’t beyond your ability. More assisted living communities are offering classes that cater to different fitness levels.

1. Gyms or fitness centers

Most newer assisted living communities have full fitness centers for their residents to use any time of day or night. These centers usually have weight machines and aerobic-type machines such as stair steppers, treadmills, and stationary bikes.

The trick is knowing how to use the equipment and having the motivation to get into a routine, which is a problem for anyone regardless of age. Some fitness centers also have free weights. 

2. Yoga

These classes are often called “yoga for stiffer bodies'' to indicate that the focus is on gentle stretches.

Yoga has to be approached with caution since it is very possible to become injured. Some assisted living communities offer chair yoga instead, which reduces the chance of injury. Yoga improves balance and flexibility, which are important for people as they age.

3. Tai Chi

Tai Chi originated in ancient China and has gained popularity, especially among seniors, due to the fact it improves strength, increases flexibility, and can relieve pain.

Tai Chi involves a slow motion, low impact series of uninterrupted series of movements. It is beneficial for improving balance, mindfulness, and breathing. There is a seated Tai Chi option for people who do not have the mobility or strength to stand.

4. Dance and Zumba

Ballroom and other types of dance classes are sometimes available in assisted living. Zumba is a fitness class that combines Latin and international music with dance moves.

People who take Zumba say that the class is fun, energetic, and upbeat. The nice thing about Zumba is that you can go at your own pace and do only what feels comfortable while enjoying the music! Square dancing and other types of dancing might also be offered. 

5. Low impact aerobics

The availability and variety of aerobics classes in assisted living will depend on the activities director and the residents’ preference. In some cases, there might be standing classes along with the option of chair aerobics.

The idea is to get the heart rate up without injury. If there is enough interest, two class levels might be offered to accommodate different fitness levels.

6. Swimming

It is unlikely to find a pool in most assisted living communities, but Continuing Care Retirement Communities and other independent living facilities are adding pools.

If there isn’t a pool in your assisted living community, often there is the option of going to one nearby where you can swim laps or participate in aerobics classes. Community recreation centers cater to seniors by offering specific times for classes or lap swimming.

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Crafts and DIY Assisted Living Activity Ideas

Crafts are a big deal in assisted living communities since there is a great deal of interest in these activities. There are hundreds of craft ideas, but we will focus on just a few. Classes are sometimes offered in various craft activities, or people can come and go to work on their projects in their own time.

7. Ceramics

Yes, some assisted living communities have kilns! Ceramics can be a safe and fun activity where residents can make cups, plates, and other decorative items to give as gifts or use. Class instruction is a common offering in assisted living.

8. Painting

Watercolors, acrylics, and oil painting are a big draw in assisted living. Some residents have been painting for years, and others have always wanted to try. Instructors help people get started in the medium they have an interest in.

9. Knitting, crocheting, and sewing

These activities can be in a class setting or informal groups of people who engage together. Individual and class instruction might also be available. Seniors can form groups to knit or crochet together. 

Social Assisted Living Activity Ideas

Social assisted living activity ideas are where these communities can really shine. After all, one of the reasons people are attracted to assisted living communities is their ready-made social environment.

Social isolation can be a serious problem for community-dwelling seniors. You won’t necessarily like everyone you meet, but you have the option to pick and choose the events that resonate with you. We will list a few of the social activities that these communities offer.

10. Games

In particular, card games are very popular. Bridge, pinochle, Uno, and other card game groups are well known. Other games include board games, puzzles, and word games.

A more active option are Nintendo Wii video games, with some of the more popular ones for seniors being bowling, golf, and baseball.   

11. Happy hour

Happy hour either with alcoholic or non-alcoholic drinks is the ultimate social activity. Most communities have happy hour in the late afternoon and serve refreshments and other snacks.

During quarantine, some communities have brought happy hours to individual resident’s apartments. Not as social, but it is an attempt to help keep people involved.

12. Movies

Newer assisted living communities have movie theatres and movie nights. You can request a particular movie for a private family viewing as well. Seating is typically theatre style and very comfortable.

13. Lectures

Lectures are becoming a more significant and more vital part of activities planning. Lectures include travel, health, personal stories, and much more. Some communities invite political candidates to speak to residents ahead of an election. 

14. Music performances

Indoor and outdoor musical performances have been a long-standing part of any activities calendar in assisted living. Local groups and individual musicians perform for residents and their families.

15.  Resident council meetings

Although not what you might think of this as a typical activity, resident council meetings are an essential part of assisted living life. Resident council meetings are open to any residents and are generally held monthly. The executive director or another senior staff member leads the discussions. 

The purpose of resident council meetings to provide any important updates and information related to the community. The other important part of resident council meetings is to give residents a chance to voice any concerns and offer accolades.

Outdoor Assisted Living Activity Ideas

Getting outside of an assisted living community is good for the body and the mind. There is a vast world outside the walls of a senior residence, and it is uplifting to go on outings. Most assisted living communities have multi-passenger vans for this very purpose. 

16. Cultural events

Cultural events are a big draw for residents for a couple of reasons. One is that it allows people who have always had an interest in these events to continue. The other is to introduce seniors to activities they might never have experienced before. 

Examples of cultural events can be concerts, museums, plays or musicals, and movies. In most cases, tickets are paid for by the participant, but senior group discounts are typical.

17. Nature

Getting out in nature, weather permitting, is good for the soul. Typical activities are parks, arboretums, nature walks and drives, farmer’s markets, and picnics. Some outdoor excursions are simple van rides through town or the countryside. 

18. Outdoor patio events

Newer and even some of the older assisted living communities have ample patio space.

Patio space is great for informal gatherings of friends or family but is also used for resident parties. These are often themed parties like the 4th of July or Cinco De Mayo with lunch or dinner served buffet style.

19. Gardening

Yes, some assisted living communities have gardening areas for residents to use. Some gardens are for flowers, but it is not unusual to have small vegetable gardens.

Participation is entirely voluntary, and residents can plant, pull weeds, and harvest. For those who have wanted to try gardening but never had the space, this could be a great way to try.

20. Classic car shows

Many assisted living communities have outdoor space to accommodate outdoor classic car shows. These events showcase the classic cars of clubs that collect vintage automobiles. Classic car shows are generally open to the public and family members of residents.

Finding The Right Kind of Assisted Living Activities

Assisted living activities are changing with the times as the demographics of residents start to evolve. As baby boomers begin to move into assisted living communities, their preferences might differ from the generation before them. Communities are adapting to these changing preferences by bringing variety and creativity to their activities programming.

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