Bingo. When retirement communities are mentioned, a few of us picture seniors sitting around playing the game for hours on end. While admittedly bingo still is a popular activity in communities around St. Louis, a variety of programs abounds to keep residents entertained.

Garden View Care Centers

     While residents of Garden View are no longer raising children or involved in careers, administrator Rhonda Uhlenbrock wants to make sure they still have plenty of meaningful activities, such as cooking class, men’s group—even an occasional luau complete with hula dancers.

    “Whether it’s cutting up the vegetables or being the guy who passes around the sandpaper at men’s group, we give each individual a new sense of purpose,” Uhlenbrock says.

The Chesterfield facility focuses on a three-stage dementia care program, and residents at all levels, along with seniors who attend adult day care, participate in activities catered toward their cognitive and physical abilities.

    While there are a multitude of options for the dementia residents, the most popular activity is the simplest: an opportunity to dance during the daily five minutes of ‘Happy Feet.’ Every resident and staff member takes a few moments at the beginning of each day to move around to music, whether they can stand up or are confined to a wheelchair.

    “The whole premise is positive physical touch,” Uhlenbrock says. “We give permission to the staff to stop what they’re doing and have some fun. The residents may be getting exercise, but it’s truly a morale booster more than anything.”

The Villas at Delmar Gardens

    At The Villas at Delmar Gardens, there’s no time to get bored, says company VP Kathy Gilmore. To prove that point, its five area retirement communities offer an array of social activities seven days a week, from musical entertainment to community outreach programs to simple crafts.

    Part of that socialization is the daily happy hour, widely attended by residents, whether they’re having a cocktail or Coke, or visiting with friends.

    The communities also have learned to combine socialization with their wellness programs, providing fitness centers, exercise classes and walking clubs to keep residents healthy and independent. Wii bowling has become a popular activity, allowing seniors to “get that range-of-motion exercise while having a ball and cheering each other on,” Gilmore explains.

    Just don’t keep them from their happy hour. “I love how they go exercise, then go hang out in the ice cream parlor or go to happy hour with their buddies,” Gilmore says. “Whatever we’re doing out in the community, it’s important to bring that into our daily activity programming for our residents.”

Friendship Village Chesterfield

    Monday mornings can be tough on anyone, whether it’s at the office or at home. The residents at Friendship Village Chesterfield defeat those beginning-of-the-week blues with a weekly ‘Friendly Mug’ coffee hour variety show.

    Coordinated by retired musician Owen Reinert and a committee of residents, the program is “completely packed with music, trivia, guest speakers and different types of entertainment and education,” says activities director Jenifer Russell. “It reminds me of the Johnny Carson show.”

    During the rest of the week, the community offers an average of seven to eight activities per day for residents to choose from. There is an intergenerational program with Claymont Elementary School, where seniors work with students, as well as those involved in creative writing and drama groups. “It keeps the residents active and involved cognitively,” Russell notes.

    And at the end of week, Friendship Village dispels the assumption that retirement homes are sleepy communities with a theme dinner and live entertainment to create exciting Friday nights for the residents.

    “The majority of the residents can’t go out on Friday and Saturday nights as much anymore,” Russell explains. “So we want to bring that same world that they had 20 years ago to the campus. It’s a night out on the town without having to leave.”  LN