by Theresa Kalka
Activities Director
Southern Hills Skilled Nursing & Rehab

A younger population of residents is increasing in skilled nursing facilities, but it is not being actively acknowledged. In a study by Miami University’s Scripps Gerontology Center, one in five long-stay Medicaid residents are under the age of 65, which is higher than the national average. Also, in this report, it also stated that nearly five in ten people of the younger Medicaid population have a diagnosis of a severe mental illness. Although further research is needed to figure out why younger residents are remaining in long term care facilities, this basic study can help staff address the needs of the younger residents in their facilities.

Younger Nursing Home Residents

There are a variety of issues that are being faced by these younger residents. With the importance of person centered care, it is necessary to recognize these younger residents and improve their quality of life during their time in a facility. One way to improve their quality of life is to give them a purpose and a sense of accomplishment. This will empower and give the resident a reason to get up every morning. These activities should match their individual interests and abilities. Also, with an increase of mental illness, this may cause residents to act out with behaviors if bored in or angry with their situation. If an activity does not match their mental level, then the resident may not be willing to participate in the activity. It is essential to create meaningful activities that are on their level for mental and physical needs. This will better your chances for a positive outcome.

The activities offered should have physical, cognitive, social, emotional, creative, and spiritual components. Physical activities can help increase flexibility, and improve dexterity, balance, and strength. Cognitive activities help with improving reasoning, memory, and problem-solving skills. Emotional activities can help the resident improve their mental health. Creativity allows the resident to express him or herself in a new way, and feel proud of a new creation. Getting in touch with one’s spirituality can give solace to someone that feels so powerless. Activities involving emotional health, spirituality, and creativity can help decrease depression. Every activity calendar should have this wide range of interests.

Some specific activities could be using game systems such as an Xbox, Playstation, and Wii, or having pizza parties, game night, movie night, and card club throughout the month. There could be outings that are geared for young men and women such as casinos, arcades, festivals, and music concerts. Some places have work programs, where residents can assist with daily jobs at the facility such as assisting with activities, laundry, facility radio, bus upkeep, and facility greeter. A younger resident might be interested in teaching or demonstrating to the other residents a special skill they have such as a musical or artistic talent, cooking class, foreign language, or floral arranging. Game tournament and contests might be enjoyable for the residents as well. Also, it helps to offer reading material and music options that are geared toward a younger crowd. Some residents, young or old, do not always enjoy listening to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. Be sure to try new activities to give your residents the best chance possible to have a positive experience in the facility.