One of the big advantages of living in an aged care community is just that – that it’s a community. Loneliness is reaching epidemic proportions among elderly people, and there are a whole host of benefits to community living as you age.
Whether you’re a social butterfly or an introvert, there are many ways you can maximise your experience of community living in aged care. Here are just some of them.
Be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t be tempted to cocoon yourself in your own little world inside your room (and inside your head). Being aware – of other people, of opportunities you have to be involved, and of opportunities to help people – is the first step to feeling a true part of the community.
One of the good things about aged care living is that you can choose to be involved or not as you like. But if you want to really feel a part of the community, make the choice to get involved. Take an active interest in what’s going on in your facility. Most aged care facilities organise regular physical and social activities and outings to keep residents entertained, interested and involved. Participating in these activities will help you break the ice and make new friends quicker than you otherwise might.
Have a look at your facility’s activity calendar, and choose some activities that you think you might enjoy. Don’t stop there though – determine to also participate in some activities you’ve never tried before – at worst, you’ve spent an hour or so with friends even if you didn’t particularly enjoy the activity, and at best you might have had a great time. Before you know it, your days will be filled with a range of fun, interesting and stimulating activities – and all without the stress of organising anything yourself. These activities are designed to help you enjoy your life in an aged care facility, so make the most of them and live life to its fullest.
Maintain or start a hobby
Most aged care facilities will encourage you to continue on with your hobbies, and will help facilitate this for you. Talk to the staff about your interests and how they can support you in continuing these. Whether your hobby is knitting, sewing, writing crime thrillers, making soft toys, creating woodwork models, doing puzzles or playing a musical instrument, there’s no reason you can’t continue it in your aged care facility. You might even be able to start or find a group of likeminded residents who want to participate in the hobby with you. You could start a quilting club, or a jazz band, or a singing group, or make children’s toys for charity – you’re really limited only by your own imagination. Making your hobby social is a great way to make the most of both your new community and your hobby – you might discover new ways of performing your hobby that you never knew about before.
As well, participating in the activities run by the facility might also lead to you discovering a brand new hobby that you never thought to try before! Going to a jazz concert performed by local school children might lead to a newfound interest in jazz or learning an instrument; participating in a craft activity might lead to an interest in making and sending home-made cards. You never know what you might discover and enjoy.
You might also be able to find a hobby you can participate in around the facility, such as helping to maintain the gardens, to create craft or artworks to put on display and brighten up the walls, or arrange flowers for the tables. Having a purpose for your hobby will really help you feel part of the community.
Click here to read about the importance of music in aged care.
Nurture new friendships
Living in an aged care facility usually means being surrounded by a likeminded community of people who will become your companions and friends. In a large community such as an aged care facility, you’re almost certain to find someone you can become good friends with. While you may not have a lot in common with everyone you come across, there’s no reason you can’t still be friends, or friendly at the very least. You’re also likely to build up friendly relationships with staff and aged care workers who you spend a lot of time with. Staff can also help facilitate friendships for residents who have skills or interests in common.
Make sure you nurture these friendships just as you would any other. Make time to see each other, and plan activities to do together, not just the communal ones.
Read more here about how seniors can extend their life by staying connected.
Have a positive attitude
Try and enjoy every day, as each day has something positive and enjoyable about it if you just look for it. It might be something as simple as a beautiful sunset, or a kind word from someone – there’s plenty of joy to be found all around us.
Read more about overcoming the fear of moving into aged care here.
Be respectful of others
Understand that you’ll likely have close neighbours on the other side of a wall, so be mindful of others around you. A little flexibility might be all that’s needed to maintain a happy and supportive community.
Talk to someone if you have a problem, don’t just let it fester. People are often unaware of how their behaviour might come across, so make sure you let them know politely and firmly, rather than gossiping unproductively.
There’s nothing like being in nature for helping you feel calmer, happier and more peaceful. Many aged care facilities have beautiful and well-maintained gardens and grounds for you to stroll in and enjoy. Getting some “green time” and fresh air has so many benefits for everyone, from reducing stress and anger, to increasing focus, positivity and feelings of wellbeing. Plus, it’s a great way to get to know your community, or just spend time in the great outdoors with friends.
Make the most of your time in an aged care facility and enjoy living in a warm and homey community that will hopefully become your home away from home.
You can read more about how to transition and settle into aged care here.