When planning exercise and physical activity programs for our active older adults, it’s sometimes easy to get lost in the nuts and bolts of programming, and as a result, we can forget to ask one important question about our programs. “Are the residents having fun?” We know how important fun and play is for all ages, but it’s especially crucial for senior living residents that commonly struggle with anxiety, loneliness, and depression.
Finding ways to create a fun environment is especially important when developing exercise programs because for most people exercising isn’t inherently a “fun” endeavor. This is even more the case for the average active aging resident who might have limited exposure to exercise, and when they think of exercise all they picture is what they see on reality TV shows. So, how can we can make our programming more enjoyable for all residents?
We don’t always think about sports when it comes to senior living, but sports play is a great way to add fun into your current programming, and to provide your residents a chance to relieve past glories, or have an experience they’d never expected to have. The best part is that every sport can be modified to fit your residents and their abilities. This past spring we introduced Chair Volleyball to the residents at North Oaks, and it was an instant hit. They had so much fun, that they played for almost an hour and didn’t realize it. Most encouraging was that the majority of the group had never played volleyball in their lives, and now had a brand new experience they could return to for social interaction and movement.
Adding a social aspect to group fitness classes
This is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest thing you can do today. Instead of just walking through the door, teaching, and leaving; strive to make your classes more interactive. This could be as simple as having participants count repetitions when lifting weights with you. Earlier in my career I started classes off by telling a silly joke, and it became a hit. From that point on, I allowed participants to provide the jokes every day. It was simple, a lot of fun, a great opportunity for important social interaction, and was something to look forward to before each class.
[Read More: How One Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness]
Striking up random silliness
Here is where you have a tremendous opportunity to be creative and take advantage of the personalities of each residents. It can be as simple as playing music with different themes in the fitness center, in a group classes, or having a day where the participants wear funny hats and dress in the same color. The potential ideas are limitless and can really help create an environment where the residents are active members of your programs and not just passive participants.
Obviously, what every person considers to be fun will be different, but that provides an incredible opportunity to try new things and think outside of the box. Finding ways to increase the “fun level” of your programming can sometimes be a challenge, but there are plenty of easy, lost cost ways to increase the value of programs for residents. What are some ideas that you have tried in your facility to make your programs more fun? If you’re thinking about this for the first time, it’s time to have some fun and get creative!