Resident Engagement in an Assisted Living Community

The Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care issued a white paper on the importance of resident engagement in long-term care facilities, including in assisted living communities. Before we dive into the benefits of resident engagement for those who reside in an assisted living facility, a usable definition of what is meant by resident engagement in an assisted living community is necessary.

The Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care has crafted a meaningful definition of long-term care resident engagement that is well-suited to men and women in assisted living. A clinical and research-based definition of engagement for those residing in long-term care (including assisted living) is the act of being occupied or involved with an external stimulus. According to the Institute for Patient and Family Centered Care, this technical definition is a solid start. However, more is needed, particularly when it comes to a psycho-social component to this definition. 

For example, meaningful interactions between staff members and residents as they socialize. This is important because it ensures that person-centered experiences are delivered in a way that empowers older adults to live each day with purpose, whatever that might mean for them. Resident engagement needs to be defined as the act of collaborating with the older adult so they are able to find purpose every single day.

Research on Resident Engagement 

There is an increasing number of research projects dedicated to analyzing the effects of assisted living community resident engagement. One such project is the Rush Memory and Aging Project. This is a study of 2,500 older people in the Chicago area. The Rush Memory and Aging Project found that purpose in life is one of the most robust predictors of health and wellness among men and women in their Golden Years. Those with a high sense of purpose are less likely to develop dementia. 

The Rush Memory and Aging Project also found that older individuals have a slower rate of cognitive decline as well as a lower risk of mortality when they are better engaged. Engaged older people also experience less of an effect from Alzheimer’s disease in the brain. 

This research data is considered an excellent example of how optimizing resident engagement can increase purpose and ultimately positively influence health.

A study in 2017 conducted by the International Council on Active Aging, found that people who participated in activities lived 2.6 years longer on average. Yet another study from the International Council on Active Aging published two years later collected survey responses from 267 senior living professionals. This second study found that 60 percent of respondents believed that by 2023 their community would focus on wellness and lifestyle. This focus would go beyond just provision of care based only on a diagnosis. 

The provision of meaningful engagement for residents of assisted living communities is also associated with positive clinical and financial outcomes. In September 2019, Linked Senior published the results of a research study in the Seniors Housing & Care Journal. The Linked Senior research study showed an increased social interaction, including the use of online technology like social media platforms, enhanced the engagement of residents of assisted living in a positive manner. 

Activities to Boost Resident Engagement in Assisted Living

Facilitating resident engagement in an assisted living community need not be complicated. The reality is that some very basic programs, activities, and events can be useful in facilitating and enhancing assisted living resident engagement. These include:

  • Group fitness classes
  • Team scavenger hunts
  • Dinner parties with themes
  • Learning programs that include:
    • Computer classes
    • Lectures (onsite or virtual)
    • Art classes
    • Music lessons
    • Cooking or baking classes
    • Ongoing continuing education
  • Entertainment programs
  • Arts and crafts activities (in addition to classes)
  • Movie nights (or mornings or afternoons)
  • Game nights (or mornings or afternoons)

When it comes to activities designed to boost resident engagement, it is also beneficial all around to get family members involved regularly as well.  

Future of Resident Engagement in Assisted Living

The importance of consistent and ongoing resident engagement has become front and center in the operation of long-term care facilities. This includes everything from memory centers to nursing homes to assisted living communities. As a result, a look at the future of resident engagement in assisted living is important.

Person First

The future of assisted living resident engagement will be focused on a “person first” approach. This will be a holistic (or whole person) approach that prioritizes strategies that are person centered together with tools designed to advance wellness as a priority. The person first dimensions of wellness are multifaceted:

  • Social
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual
  • Environmental
  • Physical
  • Vocational
  • Spiritual

Data Driven

Resident engagement in an assisted living community setting must be data driven. By that it is meant that assisted living providers (administrators and staff) need to collect actionable information about what types of activities, programs, events, and actions enhances the quality of life for residents in this type of long-term care setting. 

Within the long-term care industry more broadly, an effort is made to implement measurable goals and objectives when it comes to resident engagement. Overall, facilities in the long-term care industry have settled on a broadly agreed upon objective of engaging at least 85 percent of their residents in some meaningful manner every month of the year. 

Community or Organization Wide Effort

Another strategy that enhances resident engagement is to make the effort community or organization wide. While individual residents do need specific action plans in regards to engagement, the comprehensive plan needs to include all residents of a particular community or organization in the engagement enhancement process. 

If you are considering assisted living, one area in which you will want to explore is the commitment of a particular community to resident engagement. The same holds true if you are the adult child of a senior parent considering assisted living at this time. The bottom line is that an assisted living community that has made a true commitment to resident engagement will be a community that fosters and enhances the overall wellbeing of a resident.