Full-time caregiving can be a harrowing job, and many family members are not able to provide the needed assistance a loved one requires around the clock. In fact, it's equally important to take care of their own health and well-being if they are to be successful caregivers.  Adult day care offers a possible solution to bridge the gap between at-home care and having to move your loved one to a nursing facility.

While safety may be the number one priority in the care of a loved one in the home, there are many additional pitfalls to consider. Boredom and depression can result from being left alone for too long during the day; a lack of companionship and activity can decrease mental sharpness. Rather than resign yourself to moving your loved one into a full-time facility which can be both distressing and costly, adult day care centers offer a viable alternative.


What Is an Adult Day Care?

Adult day care services emerged several decades ago. This popular and rapidly growing service provides an alternative to institutional care when families need help caring for a loved one, but either cannot afford assisted living or chooses to care for them at home. There are more than 4,000 adult day centers nationwide, offering services to more than 150,000 seniors and as the population ages.

Adult day care offers mental, social, and physical stimulation and activities for seniors. They specialize in catering to those who have lost some independence because of physical or cognitive impairments or chronic health conditions. In regard to its social aspects, these centers are similar to senior community centers, but differ in that senior community centers attracts more self-reliant, independent and mobile adults. Additionally, they can provide meals, recreation, and some health-related services.

For the most part, people who attend an adult day care center usually live at home with a caregiver. The ultimate goal of these programs is to delay or prevent institutionalization by providing alternative care, enhancing self-esteem, and encouraging socialization.

Why Should You Consider Adult Day Care?

There are many benefits to choosing an adult day care center. They provide a social outlet for seniors, allowing them to bond with other individuals with similar needs and keep busy with fun and entertaining activities that keep their minds sharp and their creativity booming. At the same time, the centers give a respite to the caregivers, allowing them to work outside the home, run errands, or simply have time away from the demands of full-time caregiving without the guilt of institutionalizing a loved one or leaving her in a less than ideal situation.

The benefits are not only from the perspective of the caregiver receiving relief but also from the senior who needs care. There is great peace of mind in knowing your loved one's chances of having an accident are reduced, or that forgetting to take medication will become impossible. A center will monitor medications, offer meals and some physical therapy, and a chance to socialize with other seniors.

Adult Day Care Enables Caregivers To:

  • Keep a job outside of their home
  • Have help with the physical difficulties of caring for a loved one
  • Avoid the guilt of putting a parent in a "home"
  • Obtain respite from what can be a 24-hour responsibility
  • Take time away to rejuvenate your relationship

Adult Day Care Can Offer Seniors:

  • The chance to live with family, but not be a 24-hour burden
  • Opportunities for social interaction with peers and mental stimulation
  • A program of stimulating activities
  • Meals and snacks with provisions for special dietary needs
  • Physical, occupational or speech therapy in a non-medical environment
  • Help with activities of daily living
  • Transportation for daily needs

Adult day care centers allow seniors to enjoy safe and productive days in a caring environment while returning to the comfort and familiarity of home at night. They provide social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home during the day. This valuable service can be used to relieve the caregiver or his or her duties for the day while ensuring that the care recipient will still receive proper care in a safe, friendly environment.


Adult Day Care Activities

colors and drawings

Access to a wide variety of activities offers seniors enjoyment in their time away from their home environment. They incorporate both fun and companionship to brighten their day and provide vital mental stimulation. Recipients share meals, play games, and sometimes enjoy outings with others like them. While activities vary greatly from one facility to another, you can expect to have a variety of games, arts, and crafts, music and exercise classes available to choose from. Special occasions in this group setting also offer an opportunity for seniors to socialize and participate in real-world tasks they may not otherwise get a chance to.  Following are some examples of the broader categories and the benefits they can provide to seniors in adult day care.

Group Games

Group games provide one of the best ways to keep the mind healthy and stimulated.

Whether it's a card game or a board game, group games can provide socialization and laughter, concentration and creativity.

  • Card games such as bridge, rummy, or pinochle can stimulate the brain and help memory loss
  • Board games like Scrabble, dominoes, monopoly, and bingo encourage healthy competition and personal achievement
  • Drawing games are helpful with motor skills and speech recall
  • Charades brings out the silliest impulses in everyone and laughter can be great medicine for an elderly person
  • Reminiscing, or sharing memories with friends and family is a valuable tool in promoting mental acuity

Individual Games

Just because you're in a group setting doesn't mean you can't enjoy some personal time. An individual game can help with cognitive skills and memory and being at an adult day care center will provide seniors with a wide selection of materials. 

Whether paper or electronic, individual gameplay is a simple yet important tool for stimulating the mind.

  • Crossword, Sudoku, word search and other puzzles can help with vocabulary, cognitive skill, and other mental capabilities
  • Computer games are widely available on the internet, such as "Brain Games" offered by AARP
  • Reading a good book in a comfortable setting can be very therapeutic as well

Arts and Crafts

Hand stiching

Arts and crafts and other creative projects can help alleviate boredom and keep seniors’ minds busy. They can be especially helpful with hand-eye coordination, cognitive abilities, and concentration. Many seniors shy away from creative activities because they feel as though they are not creative enough or are not artistic; however, in an adult day care setting, they can explore a range of possibilities.

Projects can be easily adapted to accommodate special needs.

  • Drawing and painting provide a wide range of opportunities for every level of talent
  • Collages use multiple materials creatively and can stimulate conversation over clippings and content
  • Knitting and crocheting projects can range from potholders to hats for newborn babies


Music brings joy to people of all ages, and as it turns out, music is valuable as a therapy as well. Listening to music can help the elderly increase or maintain their level of physical, mental and social/emotional functioning.

old man playing piano

It can act as a calming agent for a troubled mind or a stimulant for entertainment.

  • Sing-alongs and impromptu bands with everyday objects can create a rousing social experience
  • Listening to music from the past can help with memory recall and stimulate group sharing
  • Dancing or simple arm movements provide both enjoyment and exercise


foot on the yoga mat

While seniors have a wide range of physical and mental abilities, there is no disputing the wealth of benefits that come from daily exercise. In an adult day care setting, seniors have the added advantage of socialization and variety.

Exercise can be used to improve balance and physical strength and tailored to fit the needs and abilities of each participant.

  • Games like lawn bowling, croquet, and shuffleboard are appealing to seniors who are relatively fit
  • Exercises like Tai Chi and yoga, which are great for balance, can be lead by a daycare staff member or followed on DVD 
  • Supervised walks in natural or city surroundings provide exercise and fresh air at a measured pace

Special Occasions

In addition to games, crafts, music, and exercise, activities such as birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and luncheons provide an opportunity for adult day care clients to assist with food preparation, decorations, and table setting. These activities create a feeling reminiscent of life at home and provide an opportunity to perform familiar tasks in a safe and social environment.  



Caring for an elderly person can put an emotional and financial strain on anyone. Adult day care programs offer relief to family members and caregivers alike, allowing them to go to work, handle personal business, or just relax while knowing their relative is well cared for and safe. Loved ones experience a wealth of benefits which range from increased mental stimulation and socialization to structure in daily activities and respite from isolation.  With a range of possible activities, seniors can explore their golden years in the company of peers in a setting that is both safe and enjoyable.


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