Socialization Boosts Quality of Life for Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities

Socialization is crucial for older adults, especially those in assisted living or long-term care facilities, as it significantly improves their mental and emotional well-being. Regular social interactions can help combat loneliness and depression, improving quality of life and overall health.

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Socialization Boosts Quality of Life for Older Adults in Long-Term Care Facilities
5 Min Read June 26th, 2024

Socialization is a critical factor in the contentment of many seniors in elder communities. A survey conducted by the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging revealed that people aged 50 to 89 who lived alone were 38% more likely to experience loneliness than those who lived with someone.

Fostering social connections in assisted living and memory care communities is vital for the overall mental and physical health of care recipients in assisted living facilities, memory care, and nursing homes.

For many senior residents in assisted living facilities, engaging with other residents can be a challenge because it's a new setting away from their family and their home.

Research shows that loneliness seems to be closely linked to dementia, and both loneliness and dementia have been found to be particularly prevalent among those living in long-term care facilities.

Why Socialization Is Important

While assisted living facilities prioritize keeping residents safe and healthy, they also want to keep them happy. Residents who socialize and engage with each other are more likely to enjoy their residence.

Socialization is crucial for well-being in assisted living. Creating chances for residents to connect through shared interests, hobbies, and activities is essential. This helps combat isolation and loneliness, improves mental and emotional health, and even boosts cognitive function.

Socializing can reduce the risks of depression, anxiety, and loneliness, significantly improving mental health. Moreover, physical activities associated with social events help maintain physical health, enhancing overall well-being and longevity.

If you have a loved one in assisted living or a nursing home, ensure that the facility implements effective socialization strategies to keep residents engaged and enjoying themselves.

Exercise Classes

We all know how important it is for seniors to stay physically active. Group exercise classes also offer the benefit of exercising together and socializing while they do it.

A Cedars-Sinai study led by geriatrician Allison Moser Mays, MD, highlights the importance of exercise for older adults. Researchers followed older adults who participated in group exercise classes for six months as part of the study.

What we found is that older adults who participate in group exercise classes not only have physical benefits for their health and decreased risk of falling, but they also have increased social connectedness and decreased levels of loneliness.

Many group exercise classes are ideal for seniors, including:

  • Water aerobics (if the facility has a pool)
  • Chair yoga
  • Pilates
  • Group walks
  • Bodyweight workouts

Offering one or multiple exercise classes allows many seniors to stay healthy while socializing with other residents.

Art Classes

The creative arts are another strategy for engaging seniors and fulfilling their artistic ambitions. Activities like drawing, sewing, and model building improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Research shows that crafting stimulates the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of pleasure and enjoyment and can lessen pain levels. Additionally, creating art has been clinically shown to reduce stress-related hormones in the body, leading to muscle relaxation and lower blood pressure.

The most significant benefit of arts and crafts for seniors is mental health. Whether painting with watercolors or designing a homemade birthday card, research indicates that these activities improve mood and boost self-confidence.

Artmaking challenges older adults to learn new skills, create something unique, and take pride in their finished projects, which can enhance self-esteem and overall well-being. Crafting is also beneficial for those living with depression or insomnia. It can help improve mental acuity, reducing the risk of developing dementia.

Group settings in an assisted living facility featuring art classes with an instructor can be very beneficial. It doesn't have to be a painting class, either. It could be charcoal drawing classes or other artistic endeavors, such as pottery or knitting.

While the activity is important, the interaction and socialization with other residents and staff can make it fun and beneficial.

Game Night

Playing board games may seem like an ordinary pastime, but time spent around the table offers real benefits, especially for older adults. These benefits include:

  • Cognitive Stimulation: Engaging in board games helps keep the mind sharp and can improve memory and cognitive function.
  • Emotional Well-being: The fun, enjoyment, and laughter derived from playing games can boost mood and reduce stress.
  • Social Interaction: Board games provide a great socializing opportunity, helping combat loneliness and build connections with others.
  • Physical Health: Some games require physical movement or dexterity, which can help maintain fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
  • Sense of Accomplishment: Successfully completing a game or achieving a win can boost self-esteem and provide a sense of achievement.

Playing board games offers numerous benefits for assisted living residents, from enhancing cognitive function to fostering social interaction and emotional well-being. These activities not only keep the mind active but also create a sense of community and accomplishment among residents.

Bingo is a classic in retirement communities, and for a good reason—it's easy to play and fun for everyone to participate in. Plus, it doesn't take much to throw a bingo party that residents and their families can enjoy.

Other games include:

  • Chess and Checkers: Stimulate critical thinking and provide a platform for friendly competition.
  • Trivial Pursuit: Offers a fun way to test and expand knowledge across various topics.
  • Scattergories: Promotes quick thinking and creativity.

Music Nights and Concerts

Along with physical activities, games, and creative classes, a concert night at the facility brings residents together to enjoy each other's company. Residents can perform concerts themselves or invite school bands, choir groups, and others to put on a show for the facility.

The magic of music unlocks treasured memories for residents in long-term care. Familiar tunes can transport them back in time, creating a sense of comfort and sparking meaningful conversations.

The meaningful conversations between residents and staff combat loneliness in addition to enjoying the music itself.

Socialization Will Increase Over Time

After your initial encouragement, your mom or dad will find their own unique way to connect with their neighbors. Several studies show that seniors who participate in social activities and remain connected have a positive impact on their overall quality of life.

Don't worry if, at first, your loved one's participation seems driven by a personal interest in the activity rather than a desire to make friends.

Over time, and with your encouragement, your loved one will develop meaningful relationships with fellow residents and staff and fully engage in community life.

Finding the Right Assisted Living Facility

If your loved one is already in a long-term care facility and the facility is not doing enough to promote socialization, don't be shy about making suggestions.

When looking for a quality caregiver, senior community, or long-term care facility, be sure they offer the services your loved one needs and desires. Assisted living facilities are an excellent option for socialization and more formalized care without the institutional feel.

You can use the free LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory to search for the types of facilities and services your loved one needs. The directory has over 80,000 listings, and you can quickly review the services each provider offers to narrow down the options quickly.

Keep in mind that the cost of long-term care services is rising but varies depending on many factors. Health insurance, including Medicare, only pays for short-term skilled care. Unless your loved one has Long-Term Care Insurance, the cost of care services will be borne by your loved one. LTC Insurance is medically underwritten so a policy must be purchased before someone needs care and is often purchased before someone retires. 

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About the Author

Mallory Knee is a freelance writer for multiple online publications where she can showcase her affinity for all things beauty and fashion. She particularly enjoys writing for communities of passionate women who come together for a shared interest and empower one another in the process. In her free time, you can find Mallory trying a fun new dinner recipe, practicing calligraphy, or hanging out with her family.

LTC News Contributor Mallory Knee

Mallory Knee

Contributor since September 25th, 2020

Editor's Note

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For those with an LTC policy, LTC NEWS can help process claims from any Long-Term Care Insurance policy. LTC NEWS, in partnership with Amada Senior Care, a nationally recognized in-home healthcare agency, ensures that you and your loved ones receive the quality care you deserve. This service comes at no cost or obligation - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.

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