15 Activities for Loners and Introverts in Senior Care

15 Activities for Loners and Introverts in Senior Care

Found In: Activities Articles One-on-One

In most senior care communities, there are residents who prefer solitude or have introverted tendencies. These individuals enjoy being in their bedrooms and often choose not to actively seek interactions with others.
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In most senior care communities, there are residents who prefer solitude or have introverted tendencies. These individuals enjoy being in their bedrooms and often choose not to actively seek interactions with others.

Approximately 25% of the population is naturally inclined towards solitude or introversion based on statistical data. It is just one more in the myriad of possible personality traits unless clinical assessment deems otherwise.

Loners vs. Introverts: An Important Distinction

Loners are people who avoid or do not actively seek human interaction; they prefer to be alone. Introverts, on the other hand, prefer to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves rather than talk openly. This does not necessarily mean that introverts prefer to be alone, but their thoughtful and reflective nature causes them to be quieter by nature.

Both terms, although very different in meaning, are used interchangeably to describe people who enjoy solitude. A loner chooses to be alone and avoid socializing while an introvert feels drained after socializing and needs time out to recharge.

Related: How to Motivate Residents in Long Term Care

The word ‘loner’, when used in the context of aging often carries a negative connotation. However, the commonly accepted belief that we should all be social creatures is flawed. Loners can be independent, creative and happy people in their own way.

Common Reasons for Choosing Solitude

  • Reflective nature 
  • Need for personal space
  • Shy or overly sensitive
  • Intolerant personality
  • A family tradition of privacy
  • Preference for meaningful one-on-one connections
  • Religious considerations

Solitude is a normal human need and much emphasis is placed on being ‘social’ when a reasonable lack of social activity is perfectly natural.

Mental Illness and Social Alienation Considerations

Determining whether individuals who isolate themselves are experiencing some sort of mental illness (depression, anxiety, social phobia, etc) or social alienation can be challenging. Here are some considerations that may be indicators of underlying mental health concerns:

  • Duration and Intensity: Isolation that persists for an extended period and intensifies.

  • Functional Impairment: Isolation that affects daily functioning and overall well-being.

  • Co-occurring Symptoms: Persistent sadness, excessive worry, changes in sleep or appetite, low self-esteem, or difficulty in social situations.

  • Contextual Factors: Circumstances and events that might contribute to the isolation. Social alienation could result from negative experiences or feelings of exclusion.

It is important to approach these situations with empathy, and respect, and without making assumptions. Each individual is unique, and professional assessment can help differentiate between personal preferences, mental health concerns, and social alienation. 

Isolation in Senior Care: Addressing the Challenges

The presence of loners and introverts in long-term care facilities can present challenges. Sometimes their need for solitude and personal space may conflict with the limitations imposed by the care setting, leading to a heightened risk of isolation. 

For example:

  • Limited Opportunities for Privacy: Communal living arrangements & shared spaces can make them uncomfortable or overwhelmed, leading them to withdraw further.

  • Group-Centered Activities: Introverts and loners may choose to refrain from group activities promoting socialization, further isolating themselves socially.

  • Social Expectations and Pressure: The pressure to form connections with others can cause introverts to withdraw and avoid social situations, increasing their risk of isolation.

  • Misunderstanding and Stigmatization: Other people may not comprehend their need for solitude, leading to social exclusion and increasing their sense of isolation.

To effectively address this challenge, it is crucial for staff, particularly those involved in activities, to recognize and accommodate the needs of introverted or loner residents.

By implementing strategies that strike a balance between respecting their desire for solitude and ensuring social engagement, the negative consequences of isolation can be mitigated. 

Related: Social Isolation - How To Support Your Clients

15 Activities for Loners and Introverts

1. Bird Keeping: A low-maintenance bird such as a budgie, cockatiel, or finch in a spacious cage can be a wonderful companion for a loner.

2. Weather Station: Loners can participate independently in this captivating activity, measuring temperature, rainfall, humidity, and other elements. Weather Station Activities

3. Pet Companionship: If your facility allows it, consider adopting a small, quiet, and friendly pet as a suitable companion. Pets in Senior Living Communities

4. Mobile Library: Introduce a mobile library service on a weekly or monthly basis, offering large print books, audiobooks, and CDs. Mobile Library Trolley

5. Bird Watching: Encourage residents to observe birds in their own backyard.  Investing in a pair of binoculars will enhance the experience. Bird-Watching Activities

6. Gardening Spaces: Allocate small garden plots or containers for residents to tend to plants and flowers, providing a rewarding activity that can be done individually.

7. Tech Workshops:
Offer workshops on the use of technology devices, so residents can explore digital resources, connect with loved ones, or engage in online hobbies.

8. One-on-One-Visits: Loners often enjoy strong connections with staff, volunteers, and residents through shared interests and mutual respect. Tips for One-on-One Visits

9. Helping Hands: Ask residents to help you with a task such as sorting envelopes or organizing materials for a craft activity. People like to contribute and feel important.

10. Listening Areas: Set up comfortable listening areas where residents can enjoy music or audiobooks using headphones.

11. Puzzle Stations:  Leave a jigsaw out at all times. Residents can put in pieces when they feel like it. You will be surprised how many pop in and add a few pieces every now and then.

12. Coloring Activities: Provide high-quality coloring materials and intricate coloring sheets to engage loners in a calming and creative activity.

13. Independent Exercise Options: Provide access to exercise equipment, such as stationary bikes or treadmills, allowing residents to engage in physical activity independently.

14. Collage Crafting: One of the most versatile art activities, collages can be made from anything you have at hand: fabric, leather, newspaper, nails, safety pins, buttons, etc. Collages can be abstract or based on a theme and can be made in the privacy of one’s own room.

15. Movie Time: Arrange private screenings or small group movie sessions where residents can watch films of their choice in a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Always endeavor to create an environment that respects and supports the preferences of loners and introverts, allowing them to engage in activities that suit their individual interests and provide moments of peace and fulfillment.


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Comments   Post a Comment

Bryn 31st Dec 2020
Do you have activities and one on one activities for introverts in skilled nursing during the pandemic. These are all great ideas, unfortunately not realistic for the current pandemic that we're in.
Susan 31st Dec 2020 Activity Director
Hi Bryn
You could adapt some of these activities
You could give them an activity packet and then help them to start some things in the packet
You could get them coloring pages and markers or pencils to color them with
Jenni 1st Aug 2020
I've only just found this page. Just wanted to say it's refreshing to see an acknowledgment of loners and introverts in Senior Care. I'm not there yet, but have often wondered how I'd cope. I'm not keen on groups or joining in on organised activities. My interests haven't aged appropriately and I'd be really bored with board games, craft sessions and movie nights when I'd rather listen to rock music and chat with all generations.
Talita 2nd Aug 2020
Thanks for your feedback Jenni. Yes, so important to take a person centred approach in senior care. Everyone is different.
Yvette 2nd Jun 2020
Another idea is to have them help with jobs. The CEO of our home often gives a resident small tasks such as sorting envelopes etc. They love to contribute and feel important.
Melody Rodriguez 4th May 2019
Hi I have a resident who is vision impaired and can be hard of hearing who does not like to mix with other people but will not watch or listen to the TV. Did not like audio books. Tried to play with a large vision impaired pack of cards but still could not see. She is frustrated just sitting in her room. We are trying to set up a small garden area for her as she loves plants but became agitated as she would then have to water them. Any help and ideas would be appreciated. Oh and she will only come out of her room for meals as she is on an O2 concentrator.

Thanks in advance
Owen 22nd Jan 2019 Retired
Most Seniors can remember the nursery rhymes that they learned as a kid but how many of them can recall all the words now. A game we played at the Redwood Club here in Tawa, Wellington was to give them the first few lines of a nursery rhyme and ask them to finish it. This did bring back many memories, especially when they could not remember what the completion was and had to be told.

Really lots of fun
Lorraine 10th Apr 2020 Activitie Coordinator
I do this quiz regularly and they love it. Some of my residents will resight the whole nursery rhyme a. And reminise about there children when they were young. Lovely to see them interacting with each other.
Owen 19th Jan 2019 Retired
The jigsaw organiser pictured is an ideal tool to complete puzzles in and leave for others to add pieces now and then as they feel like it,
Talita 25th Jan 2019
Thank you Owen, sorry for the delay sorting out this image!
Owen 15th Jan 2019 Retired
An interest we at The Redwood Club in Wellington tried recently was a visit to a garden model railway. Most were not at all interested in gardens or model railways or both but with a little persuasion we managed to take everyone on the outing. Our host really turned it on for the visit with chairs in the shade, drinks and nibbles as well as the trains running through the garden. Everyone came away enthusiastic over the visit and could not stop talking about it, This was a great success which could be repeated again or with some other hobby such as the vintage cars already mentioned above. Your Golden Carers site is full of ideas. Thank you sincerely.
Talita 15th Jan 2019
Thank you Owen! Your support means so much to us.
Owen 17th Jan 2019 Retired
Here is a photo
Lesley Taylor 17th May 2018
Hi there. I appreciate what you are trying to do here. My dad was in a care home for many years and it seemed as if all the residents were expected to participate and socialize. I'd like to set the record straight about introverts. We are not shy. Shyness is a clinical problem that can be addressed. And introversion is not a mental disorder. Introversion is normal. Introversion is not the same as being highly sensitive although some introverts are highly sensitive. Introversion is not a problem to be solved. Most introverts are not lonely. We enjoy our solitude! Having said all of this I am glad that you are addressing this issue and I realize how difficult it is to help seniors in care, all who have different needs. The most important thing is to assess each person individually before decided on what type of activities or care they require. Thanks!
Debbylynn 14th Jan 2019 Activity Assistant
couldn't agree with you more on some people like to be alone and like themselves , Lesley taylor. not everybody wants to hang with the group
Kay 1st Aug 2017
Hi a good programme to try with residents of all abilities, some will need more help than others, is the British Gymnastics Foundation "Love to Move" exercises. They are really easy assymetrical, bilateral hand exercises that can have the effect of 'rewiring' the brain. I hold the hands of my residents that cannot do it themselves , and as time goes on I see them trying hard themselves to do the exercises. Well worth doing.
Darlene 29th Jul 2017
I appreciate all the helpful comments and ideas and have definitely put some2 use! My challenge is that I work in a memory care unit where 90% of the residents have severe memory issues and the remaining10% cannot communicate. Art therapy seems 2 be something they ALL enjoy, however working with SO many different levels of Alzheimer's and the degree of decine has proven extremely challenging! No matter what the activity. How do I handle this 2 better serve the residents? Especially when I have on some days 6 to 9 people and my volunteer CAN'T be there? It can be exhausting and the residents moods can shift from one minute2 the next.....thanks4 ALL the great tips you offer!
judy 26th Jun 2017
I will probably have to go into assisted living soon. It will have to be a facility where I can have my computer with its 32"- screen on my modem set up. As an introvert I love playing bridge on line, working 500-piece jigsaw puzzles, reading books, doing my own banking, working logic puzzles, listening to classical music and comedians, watching movies ALL ON LINE. And of course it enables me to stay in touch with my loved ones and just a couple friends who are still living via email. I may have to wear earphones for the entertainments that have an audio, but that's doable. When not doing the above, I love hard crossword puzzles. No TV for me - commercials too boring!
Talita 26th Jun 2017
Thanks so much for your feedback Judy. I wish you all the very best for the future. I hope you find the perfect place!
gail 12th Aug 2016
Play the UNGAME It encourages conversing and telling stories of one's life. No winners or losers. Everyone has a story to tell about their life, The questions are really good to start sharing and reminiscing.
Beth 5th May 2017 Activities Coordinator
Is this a game you can purchase
peggysue 16th Apr 2016
I have recently started work as an 'activities officer' in aged care and at least one third of residents are basically non-ambulate - sitting in a water chair as well as non-verbal.most of these residents have also little or no use of their hands and arms. Apart from hand massage, manicure, ensuring they attend music and sing-a-longs, I read poetry to them and the paper(only positive stories). I need more ideas to improve the quality of life for these residents! any & all suggestions will be greatly appreciated!
Donna 22nd Apr 2016 Quality Adviser
I have found these residents enjoy garden walks. Also if your able to get an Ipad you can google things that interested them in the past eg nature, birds, trains, boats even film clips of their favourite singing group. If they were travellers you could google places they have been and talk to them about this. They may not be able to respond but you can normally get a lot from facial expressions. It is a great way to do reminising with them.
Debi 7th Feb 2016 Activities Director
My Residents have enjoyed the adult coloring sheets. They are always asking for more. They also enjoy word search, crossword puzzles and trivia sheets. Packets are handed out weekly.
Doris 16th Aug 2015 Recreation Therapist
I worked in a care facility that ran a Seniors "Spin Class". It was lead by a Recreation and Occupational Therapy staff member. The stationary bicycles came in two styles an upright regular bike or normal style as well as the low rider type. The lower rider was where you were seated in a regular chair but strapped your feet into a stationary bicycle. Various music was played while participants cycled, some were familiar songs that they sang along to. This program was well received by those who joined in.
Sheila 4th Aug 2014 Occupational Therapist
I love all the comments that have come through - Solange - I am working in a Frail care Centre where even an exercise bicycle is not an option because of the fraility of the residents. Though I do run a "chairobics" session each day.
Another option for the loners is a crossword or puzzle challenge which can be handed out at the beginning of the week and then a prize awarded for the first correct entry drawn. I have a lady who spends much time alone but now has a volunteer doing the cryptic crossword with her because of her macular degeneration. Now another lady has joined them so suddenly we have a small group.
We also have a jigsaw out on a table in the lounge for everyone to enjoy.
Solange 30th Jul 2014 Diversional Therapist
Balance is indeed a problem for most elderly people. Nevertheless, cycling accounts for 23% of all journeys for people 65 and older in the Netherlands. The sport is not deep-seated in our culture but it is becoming increasingly popular all over the world.

Many people are now starting cycling in their 60s + years. The University of Sydney conducted two Pilot Studies of the effects of bicycling on balance and leg strength among older adults between 49 – 79 years of age. The research concluded that those who had cycled in the preceding month “performed significantly better on measures of decision time and response time than those who had not”.

The research added that cycling is less stressful than walking and that the risks are outweighed by the benefits. I realize that there aren’t many ’cyclists’ in long-term care but soon we will hear of ‘Cycling Programs for older Adults’ being recommended.
Jacqueline 30th Jul 2014 Diversional therapy team leader
Yes our residents partake in most of those activites loner or not but one of the things that we do for our residents that prefer their own company is find a like minded volunteer to spend some time with them and encourage them to start the journey of telling their lifestory.
This often results in that person and the volunteer being very good friends. We our lucky to have our own coffee shop so that the resident and the volunteer will enjoy their conversation and friendship in that environment.
Leanne 30th Jul 2014 Lifestyle Coordinator
Thanks for a great article. I was thinking of hiring a couple of adult tricycles which would alleviate the balancing issue. We can organise our own 'tour de France' complete with a yellow guernsey! I love this job :)
Sheila 29th Jul 2014 Occupational Therapist
Well done - great article and I am so glad that you have made mention of the fact that some residents enjoy their own company. When living in a communal setting where rooms have to be shared its hard for residents to find "their own space and time to themselves".

I have also noted that unless every resident is joining in with activities there is pressure on the facilitator to include everyone or somehow you are perceived as not having done your job.. No activity is therapeutic unless the person wishes to be a part of it. Choice is so important especially in a frail care setting where so few choices are left.

The only activity I would exclude is biking - not many elderly people still have the ability to balance safely!
Robyn 29th Jul 2014 CEO
Jigsaws are another idea for residents that don't like mixing with others. We leave a jigsaw out at all times and the residents can go and put in the pieces when they like. Once the jigsaw is finished we place it in the main sitting area for all to enjoy until the next one is done. It's amazing the amount of residents that like to pop in and add a few pieces every now and then.
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