A Sneak Peek Into 5 Common Senior Living Activities

Seniors who are active and engaged enjoy better physical and mental health and experience less cognitive decline than those who are less connected, research shows. That’s just one way senior living activities help rein in senior care costs while making life more enjoyable for seniors.

The best senior living activities get residents to be active and engaged—but most important, they’re fun. Angel Allaire, the engagement director at Arbor Terrace Shrewsbury, said communication is the secret to keeping residents interested and engaged in senior living activities.

“We listen to our residents and what they want to do and then put our creative spin on their suggestions,” Allaire said. “If they say, ‘We want to learn a new exercise,’ our team comes up with fun, new techniques. For example, we started a garbage can drumming (with drum sticks!) exercise class, like you would see in the Broadway show Stomp.”

Because residents play a big role in setting senior living activity calendars, every community offers something different. But rest assured that there’s something for everyone.

1. Happy Hours and Social Events

ArborTerraceHerndon_023_print.jpgWho doesn’t love having appetizers and a drink with friends after a long day? It’s no surprise that happy hours, social events, and activities involving food and drink consistently rank as the most popular among residents.

At Arbor Terrace of Athens, for example, the Tea and Delights Women’s Club and Wine and Cheese Fridays are two of the most popular senior activities for both residents and their family members.

“We make it very elegant, use our living room instead of the activity room,” Karen Strength, the engagement director, said. “Sometimes we have live musicians or karaoke or dancing. Another favorite is where we use an iPad for music and allow everyone to take turns choosing the next song. [Residents] love the camaraderie, that they can have wine if they want, and they like the time of day, right before dinner.”

Whether it’s wine and cheese, garden tea, or morning coffee and doughnuts, there are plenty of opportunities for residents to enjoy the company of their neighbors—and food and drink.

Download The Busy Person's Guide to Recreation in Retirement

2. Fitness and Wellness Programs

ArborTerraceHerndon_034_small.jpgSeniors who are physically active live more independently and experience better physical and emotional health than those who aren’t, research shows. But don’t worry—fitness and wellness senior living activities are also designed to be fun first and foremost.

Melissa Crabtree, the engagement director at Arbor Terrace at Kingwood Town Center, said boxercising is one of the community’s most popular activities, adding, “I think the challenge and motivation from the boxercise class is a boost for residents.”

Meghan Lowy, the engagement director at Arbor Terrace Peachtree City, said Zumba is most popular, because residents “laugh throughout the activity, which keeps them happy.”

Meanwhile, adding a lot of variety and mixing up fitness programs with different weights, pool noodles, and music keeps things light and fun at Barrington Terrace of Naples.

GettyImages-612838720.jpg“They don't realize they are exercising, because they are having so much fun,” Christine Heaton, the engagement director at Barrington Terrace of Naples, said.

Engagement director, Michael Kaminski, said balloon volleyball is one of the community’s most popular activities, because “it's fun, physical, and easy to participate [in].”

3. Community Game Time 

Organized community game times always rank among the most popular senior living activities. From card games to Bingo to Jenga to board games to charades, there’s always plenty of friendly competition to keep residents sharp.

“The most popular activity in our community is cornhole,” Maculie Lerissette of Arbor Terrace at Citrus Park said. “The residents have a great time, all while encouraging one another! No one is hard on themselves, and we laugh every time.”

Melissa Tullis of Arbor Terrace at Crabapple said she loves to play trivia with her Evergreen memory care residents.

“It is a time to let them feel good about remembering, and it is a time for us to bond over laughter and joy,” Tullis said. “I have some pretty clever residents who love to joke, and it is a great time for all. I look forward to that activity every day, but mostly I look forward to being asked, ‘Are you going to do your quiz show today?’”

4. Special Trips and Outings


Any excuse to get out and go on an adventure is a good excuse. Some of the most popular senior living activities are lunch dates, bus trips, and trips to museums or other landmarks.

“Outings and adventures of any kind,” Karen Strength, the engagement director at Arbor Terrace of Athens, said. “I like seeing the residents enjoying things together, the connections formed between residents and between residents and staff on field trips. There is something about being out of our normal environment that fosters friendships. It also allows for growth. Learning new things, seeing new sights, and meeting new people is very good for our residents.”

Melissa McDonald of Arbor Terrace of East Cobb agreed that a weekly scenic drive with residents is among her favorite senior activities.

“My residents love to get out of the building and see something new,” McDonald said. “I know the area pretty well, so we have driven to the lake, to an Arabian horse farm where the horses sometimes come right up to the fence, through forests and farmlands, and into expensive neighborhoods to see the mansions. We talk and laugh during the drive, and it is a fun, bonding experience.”

5. Arts and Crafts Time

DSC00676.jpgWhether you’re picking up a new hobby or teaching a favorite craft hobby to neighbors, arts and crafts always ranks among the favorite activities of senior living staff and residents alike.

“I love doing anything with them that they can feel good about. It can be gardening, crafts, cooking, or as simple as a puzzle they finish,” Heather Lawrence of Arbor Terrace of Burnt Hickory said. “I love to see that they feel good about themselves and what they are doing.”

DSC00563.jpgFor Melissa Crabtree of Arbor Terrace at Kingwood Town Center, flower arranging is her favorite activity.

“The ladies love this class,” Crabtree said. “They are so chatty and so excited to see what flowers and greenery they have to work with. Beyond that, I hear for days that follow how the arrangements brighten up their apartments.”

Learning More About Senior Living Activities

No matter your interests or hobbies, fun and engaging senior living activities await. Learn more about senior living and senior living activities by downloading the free guide Senior Living Demystified.

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