4 ways for residents to go social!

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4 ways for residents to go social!

Posted on September 27, 2010

About 60% of nursing home residents are visited less than once a year. Many older people never have visitors and spend their days alone and lonely.

In addition to the housing and medical role of the senior community, one should never forget they also need to create and support stimulating life for our elders.
As Dr Bill Thomas points out across his work, building human habitats in senior communities is a commitment for improvement of the residents’ quality of life by making it socially stimulating. The loneliness, helplessness, and boredom gives way to human relationships, helpfulness, and stimulation.
Strengthening the physical and social environment has been shown to support health and strengthen community action for health. In an attempt to improve the social factors that influence the health of individuals and the community, community interventions should include strategies to build networks and social capital.
Activity and life enrichment staff are the front line to create and enforce social relationship. They are the ones in charge of the calendar of the community and have ongoing interactions with residents.

Here are four easy ways to increase opportunities for social interaction in your community:
1. Keep track of residents who have similar interests and introduce them to each other. Try to stimulate conversation by pairing them based on what they enjoy. The happiest residents are the ones who manage to make friends after they move in!
2. Encourage competition – healthy competition is always good. As noted by researcher Allen N. Schore, in his groundbreaking, Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self, challenges that don’t lead to overwhelming stress may stimulate the growth of new brain cells.
3. Ask people to help each other! It has been proven that tutoring results in improvements in cognitive functioning and this is associated with significant changes in brain activation patterns.
4. As previously noted, put some residents in charge! This will give them responsibility and will let them help you!

Here are a few ways to increase social interactions with popular games and activities:

  • Trivia – Create teams and track how they perform over time. This will also make sure people will come back to have their team win
  • Word or brain games – Mix the best and worst players. This will increase the chatting between residents. Don’t forget to encourage the group showing the best teamwork.
  • Theme day or evening – Have easy to understand but also thought provoking elements to your events. This will bring both high and low functioning people together, allowing them to mingle!
  • Current events – Foster and support conversation. Encourage residents to say what they think. The best results are attained when they’re discussing amongst themselves!
  • Weekly winners – For some of your games or contests, don’t forget to highlight winners.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to residents by more than words. In The Developing Mind, Daniel J. Siegel uses the phrase “the feeling of being felt” to describe relationships that shape the mental circuits responsible for memory, emotion, and self-awareness. Brain-altering communication is triggered by deeply felt emotions that register in facial expressions, eye contact, touch, posture, movements, pace and timing, intensity and tone of voice.

Most activity directors are outgoing, which is an essential part of the job. The real challenge is to communicate well and support social interaction. When you look at it, it seems to be a win-win for everyone!!