Research shows that staying mentally and physically active helps to maintain good health as you grow older. Studies show that seniors who stay socially active and engaged experience a variety of benefits, including:
- Better cognitive function — Social activities keep us sharp and mentally engaged. Challenging the brain throughout the aging process is vital not only for better mental health, but also for giving the memory a boost. An active brain allows for sharper concentration, enhanced function and focus, and improved problem-solving skills.
- Maintaining good emotional health — Connecting with others helps keep you in a positive mood.
- Improving physical health — Socially active seniors tend to be more physically active, too.
- Boosted immune system — Studies show that seniors who stay engaged with others, and life around them, have higher levels of immune-system functioning.
- Restful sleep — Research shows that people who have more fulfilling relationships in their lives tend to sleep better than those who don’t.
Given the benefits, we’ve implemented a jobs program at Willow Bend to help pair residents with meaningful work based on their interests, hobbies and cognitive levels. We begin by gauging their interest in participating in a job-like activity within the facility. Those who wish to participate are assigned jobs either on specific days and times or whenever they have downtime. Job options include:
- Door greeter
- Folding towels
- Rolling silverware
- Setting dining room tables
- Arranging flowers for tables
- Organizing the library
- Serving as liaison for new residents and orienting them to the facility
We started this program at Willow Bend under the direction of our speech therapist, Chandler Lemaster. “There’s a correlation between having jobs and increasing quality of life,” Chandler explains. “They feel like they have a purpose, and it can increase cognition and decrease depression.”
We have a LTC resident who spent his days walking in loops around the facility and reading in the library. When he was picked up by Speech Therapy, he expressed that he was bored and that every day was the same. In finding out his life history, we discovered that he used to be a mechanical engineer and loves to work with his hands. We showed him our “wheelchair graveyard,” and he has now accepted the job of fixing our wheelchairs! He comes to the therapy gym daily, often multiple times, and repairs brakes that have loosened, or replaces parts from broken chairs. We have never seen him smile so big as when he fixed the brakes on his own for the first time!
When asked about the program, he stated, “It gives me something to look forward to each day. I know I have a purpose for the day and something to look forward to.”
View poster: Jobs for Residents (PDF format)
Barbara Mohrle, DOR – Willow Bend Nursing and Rehabilitation