When selecting a nursing home or assisted living housing for a loved one, it’s important to consider every aspect of what the facility has to offer. Obviously, it’s important that the home is clean and comfortable, with a fully-qualified staff available around the clock to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your relative. However, many families fail to consider what kinds of additional services the aged care home might provide, particularly with regard to leisure activities. Your loved one’s twilight years should be spent in rest and relaxation, but it’s equally important that the elderly stay active-both physically and mentally-to promote overall health and happiness. Most facilities will offer some kind of social or entertainment program, but the following three activities have proven especially helpful in promoting emotional well-being in nursing home residents.

1. Dance Away Depression

Doctors have long known of the link between physical and mental health. Simply put, engaging in some kind of physical activity can significantly boost your mood, even if it’s low-impact exercise, like yoga or dancing! Engaging in physical activity helps the body generate more serotonin, the chemical responsible for our sense of contentment and stability. What’s more, engaging in exercise that you find enjoyable has an even greater chance of boosting your body’s production of serotonin, which is where the dancing comes in. Seniors with good mobility can indulge in a little cardiovascular activity when they tackle swing or salsa steps, or move at a slower pace with a laid-back foxtrot.

2. Get Poetic

Many elderly people have a deep fondness for literature and poetry. However, it has only recently gained popularity as a therapeutic tool for use in assisted living facilities. Nursing home patients, particularly those suffering from dementia, have responded incredibly well to poetry facilitation programs. Not only does creative writing help to engage the brain in a low-stakes manner where there are no wrong answers, but it also helps improve imaginative recollection, and the recitation of poetry enhances memory. Programs like this are also usually a collaborative process, with a strong social element that gets residents interacting with one another on a deeper, more meaningful level. Best of all, at the end of the session, patients have a tangible artistic creation to take with them; a beautiful poem that they can take pride in having helped write.

3. Festivities with the Family

It’s all too common for the days to start blending together when living in a nursing home. The environment is, by its nature, regimented so the occasional interruption to the usual schedule can be a welcome change. Seasonal activities, such as dressing the Christmas tree or carving pumpkins for Halloween, can help residents celebrate the passage of time, rather than mourn it. Many seasonal activities are also great opportunities for family visits, like holding an Easter egg hunt for residents’ grandchildren.

Ideally, a nursing home will provide a range of engaging recreational activities for residents to participate in, in addition to everyday entertainment such as board games, cards, and access to multimedia. Remember: health and happiness are not mutually exclusive. It’s important to adopt a holistic approach to aged care, one that incorporates physical activity, social interaction, and mental stimulation.