5 Things You Can Do Today to Improve Your Retirement Home and Assisted Living Residents' Happiness

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When someone registers (or gets registered) to live at a retirement residence, it’s usually where he or she plans to live for the rest of their lives. Neither the residents nor their families would want them to live in a place that takes an emotional toll on them.

As the director of a retirement living community, you’re in the business of happiness. You want to ensure your residents are receiving the highest level of care at all times, and feel nothing but joy in their final years. After all, the reputation of your facility not only precedes you, but continues to lift up its status, attracting more senior citizens along the way.

Here are five things you can do to raise the bar at your facility:


Read about the latest innovations in cognitive therapy for seniors.


1. Increase the caregiver-to-resident ratio

For families entrusting their loved ones into the hands of a residential home, one very important consideration is the amount of dedicated care and attention each person will receive. There are too many horror stories about seniors with limited mobility being left unattended for hours on end, receiving no help when required and having no one to talk to for long periods of time.

Various American states do offer some kind of guide to finding assisted-living facilities in their locality and the ASPE offers insight into the current state policy. Even so, one of the greatest frustrations for adult children who are seeking care for their aging parents comes from a lack of regulation around caregiver ratios. In fact, many facilities won’t even publish their staff numbers.  

Reassure your residents and their families by offering a high number of in-house caregivers to be available around the clock. Note that a caregiver (or personal care assistants) do differ from general staff at your facility. An extra chef won’t do much to comfort your residents in the middle of the night.

 

2. Offer a superior culinary program

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It’s well known, both anecdotally and scientifically, that good food makes us feel happier on a day-to-day basis.

Your facility should offer a culinary experience that extends past a basic ‘feeding’. Your residents want to experience meals that are wholesome, flavourful, and nutritious while having an opportunity to relax with their friends. Make sure residents can choose from a diverse menu that caters to different kinds of culinary pleasures. Switch it up with casual eats, home-style favourites, themed cuisine, or even some fancy fine-dining nights.

To elevate your facility to the next level of service, offer multiple places for residents to eat. For example, have a café to offer casual snacks and bistro-style food, a formal dining room for sit-down meals, and a private dining hall to give residents the option to host events for their guests, friends, and family.

 

3. Provide a variety of entertainment

Never assume your residents have lowered expectations for entertainment because of their physical or mental limitations.

Your residents want variety. In fact, they need a diverse range of stimulation to keep them cognitively active. Consider offering the following:

  • Lounge Area

    A luxurious lounge space that’s outfitted with pool tables, a fireplace, a reading area, and perhaps even a piano allows your residents to feel like they have a social life again.
     

  • Dog Park or Pet Area

    What’s more comforting than a lovable, fluffy puppy sitting in your lap? Designate an area for pet therapy, and schedule regular visits by well-trained furry creatures. The benefits of interactions with pets have been well documented and include improvements in mood, communication ability, memory, and movement.
     

  • Art Room

    Many of your residents will have enjoyed artistic expression in the earlier years of their lives and would probably greatly appreciate the chance to do it again. Self expression through art is also a great opportunity for cognitive stimulation for seniors suffering from dementia, Alzheimer's, depression, or other cognitive disabilities.

    A resident from the Sienna Living retirement home in Toronto, Canada, had this to say when asked what she liked best about that residence:

“I was offered space to paint. I was asked to be part of my residence’s art exhibit and the company’s ‘Art of Living’ art exhibit in Toronto.” - Mrs. Wiksten

 

4. Weekly Outings

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Nothing is more depressing than losing the feeling of independence. As humans, we enjoy the ability to exercise choice and deliberation. Many of your residents may start off feeling a little restless and disgruntled during their first few weeks at a long-term facility -- especially if they are used to living alone.

Provide a regular opportunity for your residents to go out into the world and hear the sounds and smells of daily life again. Organize assisted ‘field trips’ to relaxing places they might enjoy like art galleries, public gardens, pet stores, golf courses, or even just out to a park for a walk.  
 

5. Onsite Activities Director

Invest in a dedicated activities director (that’s ideally licensed as a recreational therapist) to ensure continuous investment into your facility’s programs. As ironic as it might seem, an old-age home that’s stuck in the past will fail.

It is imperative that your long-term care facility continues to improve its services with each passing year. With the influx of new technology into the healthcare and lifestyle industries, your residents (and their families) will expect to experience innovative programming throughout their stay.

For example, more and more facilities around the United States and across the world are offering specialized services for memory care. One way you can make your facility stand out from the rest is by offering custom, scientifically-backed virtual reality (VR) or 3D immersive experiences. The effectivity of VR-based and 3D cognitive rehabilitation has already been well established and offers a multitude of benefits to the care facilities as well, including:

  • Reduced overhead costs.

  • Personalized reminiscence therapy.

  • Ease of delivery for recreational therapists and caregivers.

  • Increased potential clients.

If you’d like to find out more about using VR and 3D technology to improve the quality of life for your residents, check out our white paper here.