Helping Mom and Dad Discover Their Next Hobby

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Want to engage a senior in an activity or hobby? First, you have to know what he or she is passionate about. Senior living communities are designed for residents to feel comfortable, productive and purposeful, filled with a variety of activities. Rightly so, since fulfilling activities are not only good for the soul, but the body as well.  A Rush University study found that people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

With the sudden and unexpected passing of my sister in January, I became sole caregiver for mom, Philomena, 92 and going strong. We relocated her from Florida to an independent living community in Charlotte, N.C. so she could be near us. And that’s when the fun began!

The community she lives in is great. It offers transportation, three meals a day, on-site live-in managers and a full activity program. However, the community’s activities don’t interest mom. Sure, she plays bingo and cards, but her forever lament is how she used to dance.

Several months after her move, I was surprised and excited to see a dance studio rising above her complex, in a building across the street. I made a little visit and talked to the owners about mom’s passion. They had an idea: have mom come over, not just to watch but to participate in classes. Then I thought, but what if she could help the instructors by providing dance instruction as well? Now that would give mom a purpose to make her walker move at “Roadrunner” speed.

When you help a loved one you are caring for find new meaning, it relieves some of your stress as a caregiver. While I spend meaningful time with her, we have few shared activities in common. So having her engaged in other activities gives me one less thing to worry about, and makes her happy at the same time.

If you are searching for the right activity for yourself or someone you love, here are some helpful places to look:

  • Facility Staff. If your loved one lives in or is considering an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, staff should perform an initial assessment to better understand the activities they would like be involved in. This assessment helps design new activities for facilities based on resident preferences. The Residents’ Council and The Family Council also give residents and families a voice, so reach out to these groups if you have questions or ideas.
  • Community Centers. Local YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers and other community groups often provide free events or low-cost classes. If you find one you like, but are worried about getting there, your facility may be able to offer a shuttle.
  • Museums and Colleges. If you’re fortunate enough to be near a college campus or a museum, inquire about classes and tours. Many times these cultural hubs offer discounts for seniors, or may be willing to arrange a special tour for a senior group.
Anthony Cirillo, FACHE, ABC, is president of Fast Forward Consulting, which specializes in experience management and strategic marketing for healthcare facilities. He also is the expert guide in Assisted Living for