Health

How seniors can build community in new surroundings

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It’s no secret senior living communities changed because of the pandemic. Some residents wished for more interaction, while others welcomed a break from the patterns of social life. Going back to activities and gatherings brought life to those who couldn’t take isolation any longer, but for those who may be more introverted, this transition hasn’t been easy. I see it in our residents every day, and we work hard to encourage those who have a more difficult time connecting.

Here at Plaza, as in other Walker Methodist communities, we offer many different activities to accommodate a wide range of ability levels and interests. From music entertainment to religious services to fitness and craft classes, we have something for everyone. Even still, many residents don’t think these activities would be right for them, and that is okay.

Our teams use an attendance tool to help us see who has been coming to activities, which activities are popular (or not), and which residents have been staying home. This allows us to make adjustments to our event and activity calendar to give residents what they really want. For example, we noticed attendance for men in our community was low, so our bus driver, Mike, focused on engaging them with activities like “Men’s Coffee.” We saw men in our community struggling to connect, so we gave them an opportunity to be involved in their community and get to know others who might have been feeling the same way.

These smaller groups are a great way for someone who feels uncomfortable attending large events to create more meaningful connections. Any resident or their loved ones who are looking for smaller groups not yet offered or have an idea for an event or activity is welcome and encouraged to ask your life enrichment team or resident council.

“As someone who is not comfortable in crowds, I was pleased to find a variety of activities offered, as well as a team who is willing to help residents get involved.” — Donna, Plaza resident

Of course, there are people who don’t like being social in any aspect, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want or need a check-in occasionally. My team uses our attendance tool to prioritize visits for those who haven’t attended any activities or received a visit in a while. We also collaborate with housekeeping, culinary, and nursing teams to notice when a resident might need more attention. Using mobile activity carts (originally created during the pandemic), we bring crafts, games, books, puzzles, and more to residents’ doors. This helps us ensure residents have tools they need to stay active in their own apartments, even after our visits.

Getting or staying connected in an unfamiliar or new place might feel daunting, but we are here to help. Paying attention to calendars for activities you might enjoy, asking your team about smaller groups, or requesting a visit are all ways you can stay socially involved. And, most importantly, never feel alone in your need for peace and quiet. Chances are, there are many others feeling the same way right down the hall.

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