Why is it that when a person is moved into a skilled nursing facility, the assumption is that miraculously, he or she loves to play Bingo?  I mean, do you know any forty year olds who, on a Friday night, invite friends over for a great game of Bingo?

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the game of Bingo.  In fact, I’ve seen nursing home residents who are fierce competitors at the game.  If you’re calling the game, Lord help you if you slow down and don’t keep a steady rhythm of B4……….N21……….I30……….O18…  You are liable to have a riot on your hands and those walkers can do some serious damage to a shin!

Seriously, aren’t there other, more meaningful activities that older adults might be interested in as opposed to Bingo?  I’m not suggesting that life in a nursing home should be life on a chain gang.  Not everyone wants to make license plates either.

What I am suggesting is that residents should simply be asked what they enjoy doing or what they think they might enjoy doing.  Add another page to the stack of admission documents that might list various activity options.  Frankly, if a new resident were asked what they liked to do, I think they’d be floored (not literally – keep those restraints put up!).

The types of activities can be as varied as we are as individuals.  There seems to be a widespread assumption that older adults become more alike as they age.  My experience does not prove this out.  In fact, if anything, older adults become more interesting with age and new interests might even emerge if presented with the opportunities to pursue them.

Older adults who have never picked up a paintbrush in their lives can have a great time learning to paint.  I’ve seen marvelous paintings by older adults living with Alzheimer’s.  Container gardening is another terrific activity with the added benefit of a fresh bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich when the fruit ripens.  Wii games can be fantastic in providing safe exercise opportunities in an engaging social environment; several facilities have even started Wii bowling leagues with their residents.

In central Arkansas, there are scores of outside activities.  Day trips to the Clinton Library, farmers markets, a library, the state capitol and a host of other venues are relatively easy to arrange.  Life Quest offers fabulous classes covering a wide range of subjects.

Bingo can be a fun game that many people enjoy.  If that’s the joy of an older adult’s life, I hope they can play it to their heart’s content.  If it isn’t, or if there might be other meaningful activities of interest, let’s make a concerted effort to find those opportunities.  As for me, I don’t even like Bingo.

Sam Sellers, President of Home Helpers of central Arkansas.  www.homecarelittlerock.com

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