No matter what age a person is, it is just as important to take care of the mind as it is to care for your physical health. Which is exactly why it is vital for people living in aged care to participate in social and leisure activities.
Being engaged in activities is a strong indicator of quality of life and well-being for those who live in aged care.
But it can be difficult for residents who have dementia to partake in activities they enjoy, especially if they have cognitive and functional limitations.
So what’s it really like for people living in aged care? No better way to find out than just plainly asking them – which is what one research did.
Thirty-one residents were interviewed, with various past occupations. There were in teachers, secretaries, a farmer, managers and administrators, business owners, social workers, a waitress, a seamstress, a stenographer as well as sales staff personnel from stores, agencies and organisations.
It was a colourful group of people with a varying tastes and skills. And what they had to say was interesting.
The Social Side of Things
Socialising was important for many of them, “I love to mingle with my friends. And I’ve made some nice friends here, and I don’t think sitting in your room is going to make you get acquainted, so I mingle. Each time they have an [event], I’m there,” one woman said.
Another gentleman told that he “like[d] to compete. I like to play cards; and you know, I like to be with the people.”
Another even verbalised how they participate in activities they’re not interested in just so that they can socialise, “yeah, I play bingo, but I’m not crazy about that, but I do play just to mix and mingle, you know”.
Many of the residents said they enjoyed the entertainment that was offered, usually consisting of music, singing and dancing, “I just love it when they have something musical come in. Any kind of—just any kind of entertainment like that . . . . That’s my favorite thing.”
And it’s not just for watching, participation is also popular as one resident explained,“I like the entertainment they have. I like it when they have a group coming in to sing. I like to [join in and] dance.”
Finding Purpose in Leisure
What many people may not realise is that activities in aged care isn’t simply just “entertainment” for the residents – it also gives them a sense of purpose.
For many, they are able to use skills they learnt from work and other hobbies, and make a contribution, One of the residents crocheted baby clothes to donate to hospitals, “it gives me a lot of purpose in my life to share with the hospitals.”
Leisure activities give a sense of independence and positive self-image for residents. But what is clear is that these residents, and probably many others like them, want to be around people. They want to share activities where they interact and are engaged with one another.
And that doesn’t just apply to interactions within the facility, but also visits and time spent with loved ones. One resident spoke about their regular family visits, “I have a son who lives here in town… every week we try to do something together. I would say [he visits me] once a week.”
Some residents have difficulties in participating in activities because of physical limitations. This may include problems they had with their hands, fingers, feet, and knees, back problems, limited eyesight, and hearing difficulty.
One expressed that she could only participate in a few activities because “that’s all I can do anymore”, while another expressed that the physical demands of the task would get too much for them, “[I] get tired of sitting,”
One woman stopped participating in cooking-related activities due to her physical difficulties: “I doubt if I could even—you have to stand up. You just have to. And I can stand up a little bit, but I have to hold onto something. And so, see, I’m just—you know, I sit.”
There were some residents who expressed that they felt there were not enough activities on offer for them, “we absolutely don’t do anything, and I don’t think that’s good . . . . I would like to do more of anything” while another agreed that “there’s nothing to—really to do”.
These residents felt that their leisure options were limited and that they didn’t align with their hobbies or interest, “I wish we had something more interesting to do, at least once or twice a week…We don’t have any excitement. No excitement ”
However, the majority of respondents remarked that the current schedule for activities was acceptable.
What these people have shown us, is that even though they have dementia and are living in aged care, they still want to be engaged, entertained and involved. They want to interact with others and they want to enjoy things, even if it’s a little more difficult for them. They deserved it as much as everyone else.