Meaning is Medicine

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Meaning is Medicine

Posted on October 18, 2022

The person-first concept of the “social prescription” in senior living helps connect elders with meaning by not relying on medicine but instead using a social solution based on their life history, individual preferences, and current abilities. Our residents deserve prescriptions for time in nature, meditation, music, healthy nutrition options, painting and any other engaging activity that brings meaning, purpose, and agency into their lives.

Often these types of “prescriptions” are affordable and can have a more positive impact on health when compared to expensive and sometimes harmful prescriptions for medication. A social prescription integrates fully with a person’s individuality focusing on making available social and environmental options that will be the most meaningful for them.

At Linked Senior, through our Resident Engagement Institute, we have compiled essential research[1] to create a roadmap for providers to enable the social prescription model by following these key steps:

  1. Combat Ageism – harmful ageist stereotypes can negatively impact the health and wellbeing of both residents and staff. The truth is research shows happiness tends to peak around age 30 and then decline through midlife until it rises again after age 70. Aging is living!
  2. Using KPIs and Data: We believe in the 85/35 rule, which means that senior living providers should set goals of engaging at least 85% of their residents monthly and prescribe at least 35 minutes of meaningful engagement per resident per day.
  3. Proper Staffing: To engage residents appropriately, the following staffing levels are required: 1 staff member for every 27 residents in assisted living, 1 staff member for every 23 residents in skilled nursing and 1 staff member for every 13 residents in memory care communities.
  4. Fund Resident Engagement – Appropriate funding should be allocated to connect residents with meaning through engagement so that they are receiving care based on their unique needs and preferences. This kind of investment also helps an organization’s bottom line by increasing satisfaction, improving health outcomes, and maintaining occupancy.
  5.  Optimize Data with Technology – it’s time to move beyond paper! With the right technology, life enrichment and activity professionals can easily collect information about each of their residents and put it to use in real time, allowing them to spend more time connecting them to meaning through engagement rather than organizing, planning, and documenting. There should be at least 1 device for 25 residents available for the programming team.
  6. Support Interdisciplinary Teamwork: Engaging residents in a meaningful way and making social prescriptions is not just the job of the life enrichment professional. Clinical or care teams should be involved in programming in at least 1/3 of resident engagement. All staff members need to be educated in how to learn a resident’s life story so that they can engage them based on their unique needs and preferences.

Learn more about how to incorporate these steps into your strategic planning.

Linked Senior believes in a world where people of all ages are respected and valued. To make this a reality though, we need to offer people more than just medicine when they are facing obstacles with their physical and mental health. Senior living communities can start their journey of making the social prescription a reality for their residents and staff by focusing on these key benchmarks.

[1]  From senior living communities and analyzed information shared during this year’s 3rd Annual #ActivitiesStrong Virtual Summit for activity and life enrichment professionals


This blog post was written in partnership with Dr. Jennifer Stelter, Psy.D., CDP, CADDCT, CCTP, Chief Engagement Officer, Resident Engagement Institute, Director of Product Research, Linked Senior.