A Guide to National Assisted Living Week: Date, Gift Ideas & Activities

Updated

Some challenges come with aging. Your loved one might not be able to do the things they used to. Getting dressed or making meals might be difficult for them. They might need to move into an assisted living facility. Assisted living is a form of eldercare. It helps provide your loved one with social, emotional, and physical engagement. In assisted living communities, seniors live together. And they have around-the-clock caregivers that help them with their needs. 

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Even if you don’t have experience with assisted living, it’s likely you’ll need some form of care when you’re older. More than 70 percent of Americans will need support in their golden years. National Assisted Living Week is a time to celebrate your elders and the staff that cares for them. In this guide, we’ll show you how to make this week a new family tradition.

When is National Assisted Living Week (NALW)?

In 1995, the National Center for Assisted Living started NALW. Assisted living facilities around the U.S. take part in a week-long celebration. Residents and their friends and family get the chance to acknowledge the importance of Assisted Living communities. Festivities begin on the first Sunday after Labor Day. 

NALW isn’t a random date either. It coincides with National Grandparents Day. For the next few years, NALW will be celebrated on these dates:

  • 2021: September 12-18, 2021
  • 2022: September 11-17, 2022
  • 2023: September 10-16, 2023
  • 2024: September 8-14, 2024
  • 2025: September 7-13, 2025

The National Center for Assisted Living sets a theme that guides the celebrations every year. You can even submit your theme idea on their website

Why Celebrate National Assisted Living Week?

Have you ever felt guilty that you didn’t call your grandparents or didn't spend enough time with them? It can sometimes feel like you don’t have enough time to see everyone in your family. 

But try to set aside a day or the entire week of NALW to spend time with them. If your elderly family members aren’t close by, you could spend time with residents in your community. The wisdom of elderly Americans shouldn’t go unnoticed. Not only do they have interesting stories to share, but it’ll brighten their day to have a visitor. 

And don’t forget about the caregivers. It takes a special person to be a caregiver in assisted communities. Caregivers are patient, loving people that create comfortable homes for residents. Often, caregivers become family to the residents they care for. NALW is a time to recognize their hard work, too. 

Over one million Americans live in assisted living communities in the U.S. It’s likely you know someone you can celebrate with. It might be a resident, their family, or a staff member in your local community. Regardless of their role in assisted living, they’re worth celebrating. 

How did it start? 

You might not know about NALW because assisted living itself is a relatively new concept. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s when Dr. Keren Brown Wilson founded the movement. Dr. Wilson’s mother lived in nursing homes for ten years following a stroke. She was the inspiration behind Dr. Wilson’s decision to open the first assisted living facility in Oregon. Later, the concept became standard across the U.S.

Before assisted living homes, seniors had few elder care choices. Hiring an in-home caregiver wasn’t an option for middle-class families. And nursing homes didn’t allow for much independence or social interaction. Dr. Wilson’s model provided seniors with private rooms, friends, and staff to help them. 

Today, Americans celebrate this model of care, thanks to the National Center for Assisted Living. Since 1995, assisted living centers organize week-long activities for residents and staff. For ways to make NALW your family tradition, take a look at the activity and gift ideas below.

Ways to celebrate 

Will you visit a local assisted living community for NALW? Or celebrate a specific friend or loved one? There are endless possibilities for celebrating National Assisted Living Week. 

Each year the National Center for Assisted Living chooses a theme for communities to follow. You can easily plan activities and gifts around the topic. Past themes have included ‘A Spark of Creativity’ and ‘Family is Forever.’ 

Finally, raise awareness through community outreach. Most people aren't aware of the individualized care residents receive. Tell a friend or co-worker about the celebrations, and they might decide to involve their loved ones too.

National Assisted Living Week Activity Ideas

Now that you’re aware of the importance of NALW let’s take a look at how residents and staff can enjoy their week. If your loved one lives in an assisted living community, there’s no shortage of fun activities you can do. Often, it can feel isolating to live apart from the general population. Your loved one is sure to feel acknowledged with these fun ideas.

Plan a picnic 

Kick-off an exciting week by planning a picnic for the first day of NALW. You can plan a small get together for your friends and family or work together with your loved one’s residential community to plan an event.

If your loved one had limited mobility take that into account when planning your picnic. Make sure you go somewhere easy for them to navigate. 

Cook together

Before the picnic, prepare a nutritious dish for guests along with your loved one. See if they have a favorite recipe they want to make. Your loved one will be excited to share their favorite recipe ideas with you. Don’t forget to write down their favorite recipes to pass down to the next generation.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious you could collect a recipe from every member of the community where your loved one lives and make a book. It would be a nice gift to share with everyone’s families. 

Share in storytime  

Get in touch with a local school or library to see if residents can take part in storytime. Reading to little ones is sure to brighten their day. It’s a beautiful way for children to learn about diversity, too.

Adopt a resident 

If you don’t have a resident to share NALW with—adopt one! Get in touch with your local assisted living community. You're sure to find a resident to connect with. Not only will they feel special, but you’ll feel good giving back to the community, too.

National Assisted Living Week Gift Ideas

Gifts are one way to show your appreciation for your parent, grandparent, or other loved one in assisted care. Gifts for doctors or other community staff help show your appreciation for the hard work they do. Here’s are simple but thoughtful ways to say “thank you”:

Gifts for residents: 

  • Art supplies: Bring residents clay, paint, or colored pencils to make an art project. Art therapy is especially beneficial for people suffering from early to advanced dementia. Studies show it can increase concentration, boost self-esteem, and even improve coordination. 
  • Photo Album: Print and share some photos. They could be from your loved ones life or from yours. Who doesn’t enjoy looking at the pictures from their favorite memories? Or learning about what you’ve been doing. Your loved one might not be able to experience every event with you, so share them in an album instead. It can make them feel like they’re being included in your experiences. 
  • Plan an event: Spending time together doesn’t have to stop with NALW. Keep the joy going by gifting tickets to a movie or concert. Your loved one will have something to look forward to after the festivities are over. 

Check out our guide on gifts for nursing home residents for more ideas.

Gifts for staff: 

  • Framed photograph:  Print a photo of your loved one and their favorite caregiver as a token of your appreciation. Assisted living staff often develop deep relationships with residents, so they are sure to love this gift. 
  • Coffee: Give the gift of energy for all the staff that cares for your loved one. Customize your gift with a handwritten note for a thoughtful touch. 

Keep in mind that some communities don’t allow staff to accept gifts or those over a specific value. It’s best to check ahead of time before buying any gifts. If your loved one’s community doesn’t accept gifts, you can opt to order lunch or make a baked good to show your appreciation. 

Activities and gifts don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Remember-- the best gift you can give your loved one is your time. So, this year make National Assisted Living Week a new family tradition.

Discover Your Long-Term Living Options  

NALW raises awareness for the great work these communities do. It is an opportunity to celebrate an often underappreciated group. 

If you’ve never needed special care, it can be hard to understand the importance of assisted living. But it’s an important part of the world, and you’ll likely need it yourself at some point. National Assisted Living Week presents an opportunity to start discussing assisted living with the people in your life.

And it can be the catalyst for you to start thinking about your long-term care options. After all, starting end-of-life planning is one great gift you can give yourself. 


Sources  

  1. Encore.org, www.encore.org/purpose-prize/keren-brown-wilson/
  2. National Center for Assisted Living, www.ahcancal.org/ncal/Pages/index.aspx
  3. “How Art Can Aid People with Alzheimer’s.” Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, 17 December 2017, www.alzinfo.org/articles/prevention/how-art-can-aid-people-with-alzheimers/

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