According to recent studies, older adults have experienced increased depression, loneliness, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts, as well as decreased physical health and overall quality of life as a result of COVID-19 and social isolation. As providers who relate so intimately with this population, we ask ourselves, what can we do now?
Participation in leisure, or the use of free time for enjoyment, has a large impact on the health and well-being of older adults. Research suggests that active engagement in healthy leisure can help to maintain preserved cognition, overall physical functioning, mental health, and quality of life. Now, more than ever, residents need opportunities to engage in meaningful activities that bring purpose and joy to their days. Through active collaboration and creativity from the interdisciplinary team, we can facilitate improved morale, satisfaction, and health for those in our care. Review the following opportunities to explore ways to keep the resident’s mind, body, and spirit engaged:
- Identify hobbies that are meaningful to the resident or activities they are willing to explore. Talk to your therapy team about the Resident’s InterestChecklist for collaborative discussion.
- Request family and friends bring in items, games, or activities that are meaningful to the resident.
- Use creativity to incorporate resident’s interests into the care plan. Are there activity groups, events, or outings in which the resident could participate? Are there specific roles or responsibilities the resident could “own” (i.e. delivering mail, providing daily announcements, assisting with facility decorations, leading a weekly book club discussion)?
- Encourage participation in activities of interest during the resident’s downtime. Discuss safety precautions and resident capabilities with your therapy team.
- Provide opportunities for virtual leisure. Online card games, weekly FaceTime calls with loved ones, online learning platforms, and digital tours through museums and galleries around the world allow for engagement despite physical barriers.
- Communicate with your resident. Ensure that each resident feels known, heard, and cared for on both the physical and emotional level.
Although we can’t change what COVID -19 has brought to so many of our residents over the past two years, we are able to move forward with a fresh focus on their overall well-being. Through participation in healthy leisure, we can help our residents rediscover delight in their days.