The Benefits of Silence in Senior Care

The Benefits of Silence in Senior Care

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles

Have you ever left an event feeling exhausted and overstimulated? Our residents are often shuffled from one group activity to another, with little time in-between. A bit of silence to rest and recover their energy can go a long way!
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Have you ever left an event feeling exhausted and overstimulated? Our residents are often shuffled from one group activity to another, with little time in-between. A bit of silence to rest and recover their energy can go a long way!

A Day in the Life of Residents

When you consider a typical day in the life of one of your residents, you may be surprised at how little downtime they actually get. They get up in the morning and likely chat with their caregiver while completing hygiene tasks. Then, it is off to breakfast with a table full of chatty friends before heading to morning exercise and then a few more activities to stay busy.

Lunch brings more conversation with their tablemates and perhaps a quick nap before a fun social in the afternoon. Then, it’s time for dinner and evening conversations with staff and friends before bed. That doesn’t include any therapy sessions or family visits. What a busy day!

As Activity Professionals, we already know the many benefits of staying active and engaged. Socialization is key for healthy living, especially in the senior years, and we work hard to make sure our residents have plenty of opportunities to socialize, learn, and participate. However, sometimes a little silence can truly be golden.

The Benefits of Silence and Solitude

According to Psychology Today, silence has plenty of benefits. Busy (and loud) senior living communities can increase stress levels, while silence can actually create new brain cells.

Beyond new brain growth, silence can also decrease blood pressure, encourage healthier sleep patterns, and decrease heart disease. Silence can also create better social connections, helping to foster active listening and responses. Who would have guessed that silence can help us connect with others?

With a worldwide culture of keeping busy, it is easy to become stressed out and overwhelmed, even right in your lovely senior living community. Fortunately, you can encourage rest and recovery by making space for healthy silence and solitude.

Talk about the Benefits of Silence with Residents

It can seem counterintuitive to make space for silence and solitude at your senior living community. After all, residents who prefer solitude are often on our ever-growing 1:1 list. However, everyone (even your most busy and social residents) can benefit from some silence.

Begin by incorporating more silence and opportunities for solitude in your activity calendar by talking about it first. Write a note in your newsletter about the science behind silence, and provide your action plan for offering these benefits to your residents.

Bring it up in your next Resident Council or Family Committee meeting to talk about why silence and solitude are important, along with the difference between planned solitude and offenses like neglect.

4 Group Activities Incorporating Silence

1. Meditation
Incorporate guided silent activities by exploring meditation and guided imagery. These activities are not quite silent, as a leader will speak to guide the experience, but residents will be still and calm. After your guided silent activities, be sure to ask the residents how they feel immediately after the activity and then again after a few hours. Document their feelings and share their comments with interested (or skeptical) family members or staff.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation for the Elderly
Rainbow Guided Meditatoin

2. Quiet Creative Activities
You can also host silent creative activities, where participants are quiet but not necessarily still. Activities like group journal writing, painting, or pottery classes can be done in silence quite effectively - you may even find you are getting an entirely new group of participants for your silent offerings.

3. Mindfulness
Mindfulness helps bring people back to the here and now. It stops the mind from worrying about the past or the future by focusing on the present moment. Mindfulness can be easily incorporated into the day-to-day routine for residents and should be on the activities calendar at least once a day.
3 Ways To Practise Mindfulness With The Elderly
Mindfulness Activity

4. Silent Gatherings
Consider hosting a weekly “silent” gathering for interested residents. Make the most of the opportunity by dimming the lights, placing a sign on the activity room door that reminds passersby of your silent group, and offering eye masks to participants. Begin, and end, your silent group with a relaxing sound like a single chime or gong beat. Start your silent groups slowly, keeping the silence for only 10 minutes. Then, as you and your group become used to it, extend your silence to 30 minutes.

Individual Silence and Solitude Inspiration

Group silence activities are lovely, but you may also consider making silence and solitude more easily obtained for individuals who prefer to stay in their rooms. Have a Silence Is Golden box that residents can check-out from any activity staff member.

Include a door hanging sign that says “Do Not Disturb: I’m Enjoying a Silent Moment Alone” along with a few noted scientific benefits of silence. Include an eye mask, essential oil diffuser with lavender oil, and even a pencil for quiet journaling.

Silence as a Gateway to Health

Even the most extroverted person can benefit from silence and solitude, especially when they live in a busy and loud senior living community. As you and your residents become comfortable with having silence incorporated into your weekly calendar, you can begin to experiment with other quieter pursuits like mindfulness, meditation, and more relaxation techniques that encourage self-reflection and change, like the Alexander Technique.

Silence is just as important for residents as the fabulous themed social you worked so hard on!

How are you going to incorporate intentional silence and solitude into your resident calendar this month? 

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Rev Joseph 30th Mar 2022 Chaplain
Drawing from the Article : Silence as an Oasis,Stiver, Tanya, N.J. Enfield, P. Brown,, Universals and cultural variation in turn-taking in conversation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 106, No. 26 ' Silent moments in therapy serve as an oasis from the chatter that fills most of our lives. Like an oasis, supportive silences can refresh, nurture and strengthen those around it. Because such spaces in conversation are outside usual human interactions, they can let something different happen. They are a powerful tool that we each need to develop thoughtfully and purposefully.' This explains how we get new revelations during our quiet moments. According to the scriptures , Jesus often withdrew himself from his followers to a solitary place to pray and to hear from God. At times we need allow silence to communicate with the service Users as long as we remain alert of their circumstances.
Susan 31st Mar 2022 Activity Director
Thanks for your input Rev Joseph
Olwyn 17th May 2019 Diversional Therapist
Lovely ideas here. Thank you Haley. Overstimulation can definitely be a problem. Some days in the afternoon, right after the lunchtime meal, I put a youtube movie on of fish in a fish tank, with no sound. Even the medical and allied staff enjoy this hour of peacefulness. There are many similar videos such as waterfalls, or waves crashing on a beach on Youtube. I have also found some DVD's in the Op shop thrift stores.
Haley 21st May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Great idea, Olywn! I'm sure it adds a peaceful element in your community during a chaotic time (meals are always loud and bustling).
AJ 17th May 2019 Activity Director
Yes, the days of "activities as a party atmosphere all day everyday" are so outdated. We have leisure reading, at 2:30 everyday where residents can come in browse newspaper, magazines, do a word search puzzle, etc. 3x a week (during the winter months) we have coffee cafe where it is a coffee house atmosphere, light music in the back ground, coffee/tea/hot apple cider are served. Things dont always have to be loud, bright and in motion to be an activity!
Haley 21st May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
I completely agree, AJ. I'm also glad that we can meet the needs of our residents in a variety of different ways, since everyone is unique. Love your coffee shop idea as well - keep up the good work!
Kim 14th May 2019 lifestyle
I just can't love this enough. Personally I am a big believer in silence and find that our residents can be over stimulated which therefore causes " behaviours" . I like to have a peaceful setting for our activities and read the feeling in the room before we decide to play music or chat. Myself in social situations where there is so much noise and commotion going on I feel anxious and angry at times so can completely understand how this would affect our residents on a daily basis. This is a great read and very informative. Well done.
Haley 15th May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Thanks for the feedback, Kim! Like you, I find myself overwhelmed and overstimulated during busy events or in big crowds - our residents likely feel that way sometimes too. Thankful you already see the benefits of peaceful settings - your residents are better for it!
Jo Elise 11th May 2019 Therapist
Haley 15th May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Glad you enjoyed this article, Jo! Here's to peaceful moments for you and your residents.
Haley 10th May 2019 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: The Health Benefits of Silence in Senior Care
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