Staying Active and Engaged in Long-Term Care

Dear Beth,

My mom is currently living at an assisted living community in the Columbus, Ohio area. However, her health has deteriorated in the past few months and the community has told us that she will need to go to a long-term care community to receive the proper level of care. The community she’s at doesn’t offer what she needs.

I’m worried that when Mom makes the move to long-term care, she won’t enjoy herself. It’s harder for her to walk on her own and she’s been having some memory issues. I don’t want her to be stuck in her room all day because of that.

How can a long-term care community help my mom stay active and engaged? How would you get her involved in activities?


Phyllis S.

Grove City, OH


Related: Choosing an Assisted Living Community: Why Continuum of Care Matters


Dear Phyllis,

I understand your concern. When our parents get older and their health isn’t what it once was, it can be difficult for them to keep doing the things they enjoy. Many adult children such as yourself think that will be particularly true when their parents move to a long-term care community, which is a place where they can receive assistance with personal care needs.

You don’t need to worry. At a long-term care community, there will be plenty of activities for your mom to enjoy at her own pace. Let me give you a quick overview of how a long-term care community will keep your mom active and engaged.

Services and Activities at Long-Term Care Communities

Long-term care communities want to keep residents engaged and entertained—it’s good for their health (more on that below). With that goal in mind, they plan appropriate activities for different interests and abilities.

At Optalis long-term care communities, our activity teams design activities and programs in a way that they feel will best suit each community. They’re meant to promote independence, creative thinking and social skills. All activities are person-centered, meaning they’re specifically adapted to meet the individual needs of the resident.

We encourage residents to participate in activities and help them attend if they have mobility issues. However, we never force them. If they don’t feel like going to a coffee-and-socializing hour, or enjoying some live music, they don’t have to. The social events and activities are not mandatory for residents.

Examples of Long-Term Care Community Events and Activities

Wondering what those activities actually look like? Here are some examples of types of activities residents enjoy at Optalis communities:

  • Pet therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Exercise programs
  • Cooking programs
  • Intergenerational programs
  • Social gatherings
  • Cultural programs
  • Clubs and special events
  • Creative arts
  • Games, cards and puzzles
  • Scheduled outings

Your parent can enjoy things like bingo, brainteasers, visiting musicians, parties, cooking classes, movie viewings and church services. If there’s something that they are interested in but aren’t seeing on the activities calendar, they can always talk to the activities director at the community.

I would advise you to look at the activity calendars of each community you and your mom are evaluating. This will help you get an idea of what is available to your mom and is a good way to get her more excited about making the move.

The Benefits of Physical and Social Activities for Seniors

More and more, long-term care communities are focused on hands-on activities as opposed to passive activities. Multiple studies show that staying social and engaging in creative activities can have a positive effect on senior health.

According to the National Institute on Aging, there’s a positive correlation between social interaction and health. For example:

  • People with healthy levels of social well-being may have a lower risk of age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer.
  • Social isolation can increase the risk of mortality in older adults.
  • Loneliness may cause elevated blood pressure and increase the symptoms of depression.

The benefits of long-term care community activities don’t stop at socialization. They also offer creative outlets, which studies have shown can help improve health.

In fact, a new study showed that doing arts and crafts can delay the onset of memory issues later in life. The study found that:

  • Seniors who engaged in artistic activities were 73% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.
  • Seniors who participated in things like woodworking and quilting were 45% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.
  • Socially active seniors were 55% less likely to have memory problems later in life.

Memory Care Services and Activities

Now, on the topic of memory loss, you also mentioned that your mother has been having some memory issues. It may just be some normal age-related memory loss but it may also be dementia. If it’s the latter, you may want to consider a long-term care community that offers memory care so your mother doesn’t have to move again.

Memory care communities are specifically designed to help seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. They provide a safe and caring environment, as well as activities for those with memory issues.

I hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact us. You might also like our guide to long-term care.

Beth Dickson
Activities Director at West Park Rehabilitation Center, Skilled Nursing & Memory Care


Assisted Living Activities to do in Columbus, Ohio

Initially, visiting a senior loved one in assisted living might seem uncomfortable. What will you do? What should you talk about? Not to fear – with a little planning, you can have a handful of fun activities to suggest. And our list might just inspire you to create your own favorite visiting activity.

Read on for eight ways you can spend the day with your senior loved one, plus get tips for having a successful visit.

Indoor Activities for Assisted Living Residents

If there’s rainy or cold weather outside, or your loved one is low on energy on the day you visit, there are still plenty of fun activities you can do indoors.

Watch a favorite movie of their choosing

Check ahead with your loved one to see if there’s a favorite movie they’d like to watch – or surprise them with one you know they’ll enjoy.

If your loved one’s assisted living community has TVs and DVD players, see if you can borrow or use one for an afternoon. If not, bring along a

laptop with a DVD drive or a streaming service account. Make it a special occasion with popcorn or their favorite movie theater snack, as long as it doesn’t interfere with any dietary restrictions.

Look through photos together

Nearly everyone loves looking at photos and reminiscing about the memories they’ve captured. Bring along a photo album from years ago. Alternatively, have a selection of current photos – of things like vacation spots, pets, or kids – on a tablet that they can easily hold and look at.

Ask them if there are any photos they enjoy or would like to have for themselves. On a subsequent visit, you can return with prints of their favorites in frames or a small album for them to keep.

Play a game or do a puzzle

A dreary day outdoors calls for a fun activity indoors. Bring along a selection of games your loved one might enjoy, whether it’s a deck of cards, a set of checkers or chess, dominoes, or a board game.

Doing a puzzle is also a great choice for an assisted living visit. Pick out a puzzle that your loved one will enjoy, and look for larger pieces and bright colors so it’s easy for them to see. If they have an area of their room where the puzzle can be kept, you can always work on it little by little over multiple visits.

Bring along the kids

Many seniors love visiting with children – especially their grandchildren!

Plan a visit with your child during a time they will be awake and alert. Give them a few instructions on what to expect before you arrive so they aren’t completely unprepared, and lay out a few ground rules – no yelling or running in the halls, for example.

Your child might enjoy sharing their toys, hobbies, or interests with their loved one, so don’t be afraid to bring along a few items that will get the conversation going.

Related: Senior-friendly places in Columbus, Ohio>>

Outdoor Activities for Seniors

If your loved one’s health permits, there are plenty of things you can do to spend the day with them outside of the assisted living community. Read on for four ideas.

Take a walk

Getting out and enjoying the fresh air is a great way for seniors – and you – to spend the day. If their assisted living community has walking paths and they’re in good enough shape to use them, go for a stroll. You can also find a nearby park or nature preserve to visit. Just look for flat, paved paths.

If your loved one uses a wheelchair, push them along a path with a scenic view so they can still get the benefits of some time spent outside.

Parks and outdoor areas your loved one might like in Columbus include the Park of Roses or the Scioto Audubon Metro Park (great for spotting birds and waterfowl).

Enjoy a treat

What’s your senior loved one’s favorite snack or drink? Take them on an outing to enjoy something fun, as long as they don’t have any dietary restrictions.

Stop by a local coffee shop to pick up a hot beverage, or get an ice cream cone at your nearest Graeter’s or Jeni’s.

If your loved one would feel uncomfortable being in a crowd or having to walk from the car to the store, you can always go through a drive-through or pick something up to bring back to their assisted living community.

Attend a show

Find tickets for a play or musical performance that would appeal to your senior loved one. Columbus has a number of venues for big names scattered all over the city.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be a Broadway performance. Check out the calendars at Otterbein University or Ohio State for art, concert, or theatre events coming soon.

Visit a friend

Plan ahead and see if there’s a family member or friend who would be interested in having your loved one over. When the day arrives, pick your loved one up at the assisted living community and bring them to the chosen home for a fun visit.

Once there, you can always try any of the activities mentioned above, like playing a game or looking at photos.

More Tips for an Assisted Living Home Visit

Many seniors face loneliness and a lack of human interaction. Even in an assisted living community where they’re surrounded by neighbors, it’s still good for residents to spend time with their friends and family.

Although you might face your own feelings of discomfort when you visit the assisted living community, try to simply focus on spending time with your loved one. You’re there to see them and help them feel loved.

Related: Historical places around Columbus that seniors will love >>

Below are more guidelines to help make your visit a success, according to Sixty and Me:

  • Be respectful of visiting hours, if they exist.
  • Plan your visit at a time when your loved one is usually free. Remember, they may have their own schedule for mealtimes, naps and other activities.
  • Don’t worry about completing a planned activity or sticking to a script. Go with the flow if your loved one isn’t feeling well or doesn’t want to do what you’ve planned.
  • Be present during the visit. Don’t check your phone or disengage from the conversation – show your loved one that you care for and appreciate them as they are.
  • Visit regularly, but strive for quality over quantity. Make sure your loved one knows they’re loved and that you want to see them frequently.

Don’t be afraid to touch during the visit. Even if your loved one isn’t much of a hugger, a pat on the back or resting your hand on their shoulder for a moment lets them experience much-needed physical contact. Just tailor it to their personality and preferences.

Learn More About Assisted Living Options

Have questions about how assisted living works? We can help. Our helpful guide to assisted living at The MacIntosh Company will show you what life in an assisted living community is like and what we can offer that other communities don’t. Read more >>