How to Support Seniors in Community Programming
You can tell a lot about a community by how they treat their senior citizens. It’s important to take care of the elderly; many of them have spent a large part of their lives raising children and grandchildren, taking care of their communities, and some may have employed people and provided them with a living wage.
There are many activities available that can help increase the quality of life and well-being of your seniors. With proper planning, it’s easy to make a big impact in their community. Here are some of our tips for making the most of your recreation programs for seniors.
What are their Needs?
Seniors need physical activity, social interaction, entertainment, mental stimulation, and meaning, in order to improve their overall well-being. Your community may have specific programs or a culture that provides a few of these needs, while a couple of other needs might be neglected. By taking a look at what opportunities seniors in your community have and don’t have, your recreation programs for seniors can be designed to make the biggest impact by filling in the holes in your programming.
With seniors mostly being fully retired and with their families taking care of the young ones, many may feel like they’ve lost their sense of purpose. Helping to give their life meaning in some form or another can help bring that sense of purpose back.
Working with Seniors Homes
Depending on the types of seniors homes in your community and their internal programming, people who reside in these communal homes may be more in need of your recreation programs. Partnering up with them to provide their residents with recreation programs aimed at meeting their needs can help supplement whatever programs the homes provide internally.
Change of scenery is always nice as well, and providing recreation programs for seniors throughout your facilities can help them get out more. These programs can initially be launched as pilot projects, in partnership with nearby homes first, in order to test the effectiveness of the programs before you increase their scope.
Recreation programs for seniors don’t have to all be sports or physical activity-oriented. Setting up social nights where seniors can attend and enjoy interacting with others allows seniors more opportunities to socialize. Games and activity nights are always popular but spicing things up can help bring out some new seniors to your events. Dance parties and classes, dinner gatherings, and art classes are great examples, and those three together hit a broad range of interests.
An active mind is a healthy mind; book clubs can also help less extroverted seniors who may forego most types of social gatherings. Travel clubs and other opportunities where they can share their personal experiences as a group can help them come together over mutual interests.
Get Pets Involved
Pets can play a crucial role in the well-being of your seniors. Pets — especially dogs — can give seniors a sense of responsibility and purpose, while adding so much happiness from a cute, furry, lovable animal. Physical activity tends to go up, as dogs need to be walked and let out to do their business. Dog walking programs that integrate seniors can be helpful for everyone involved.
Be mindful of the physical needs of owning particular breeds of animal, and the physical abilities of the potential walker. A big, strong dog may not be a good idea for someone who has weak wrists, for example. Safety should be the primary concern. Seniors homes are often looking for service animals to make visits; a program that local parks and recreation and other organizations can help build and maintain.
The Role of Volunteers
Just like working with children, some staff members are better suited than others at being involved with programming for seniors. Finding volunteers and staff that enjoy spending time and working with seniors is important for ensuring both parties are having a great time.
Many students need volunteer hours for their accreditation or to graduate, giving your organization a great source for new volunteers that can be renewed, every school year. Having positive relationships with the local high schools and colleges can help you communicate your volunteer positions to local students.
On the flip side, seniors volunteering can give them a sense of purpose and help to alleviate loneliness and boredom. Look within your parks and rec organization, to see if there are appropriate places for seniors to volunteer. Make it happen!