By Haley Burress United States
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?