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Not too long ago, one might see activities such as bingo, crafts and cards filling up the calendar for a senior living community. Today, senior living providers need to step it up a notch to keep up with the interests of the senior population.

Seniors today expect and deserve so much more. They want to be entertained, challenged and enlightened. After all, one of the main reasons people choose to move into senior living is to increase socialization and combat loneliness. Although bingo, cards and crafts are still enjoyable and fun, there are so many more things to do and to learn.

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In any senior living community, programs should cover physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. And to keep up with today’s savvy senior, communities need to find out their residents’ interests and think outside of the box.

Over the past few years, The Willow Falls Senior Living Community has added several new programs to its activity calendar. For instance, in addition to the usual exercise class, Willow Falls offers an aquatic arthritis class, known as Rusty Hinges. The class is open to Willow Falls residents, as well as people from the outside community. It has become so popular that they have added more class times.

Those who really want to have fun while getting some exercise can try out the line dancing class. They might need the exercise to burn off the extra calories from tasting food prepared by the “Saucy Seniors” cooking group. For the wine enthusiasts, The Willow Falls Wine Group has been added. This girls-only club gathers for tastings and other fun wine-related activities.

Seniors can also learn about and celebrate different cultures and countries. Once per month, the community celebrates a specific country for a week. Residents enjoy the ethnic foods, music and discussions about theirs and others’ heritage.

Having fun and keeping busy is not the only goal of activities. It is so important to offer programs that are educational. For instance, Willow Falls has recently rolled out “In the Know.” It is a monthly program that will bring speakers in to share information on topics that are important to seniors.

Other fun brain-stimulating activities include scrabble, jumbo group crossword puzzles, book clubs and even restaurant critiquing.

The Retired Restaurant Reviewers go out to local restaurants to enjoy dining together, while having discussions about their experience.

Not all of the fun takes place on site. There are numerous opportunities to get out on the town to restaurants, shows, and shopping.

Activities offer so many great benefits to seniors and help them to find camaraderie. Social, physical and emotional contact are essential to everyday life, and help to combat loneliness and depression. So many seniors choose to stay at home because they are afraid they will lose their independence. The truth is, moving into a senior living community helps them to gain independence and so much more.

Willow Falls is located at 1681 Willow Circle Drive, Crest Hill.

For more information, call Julie Bewer at (815) 725-5868. Visit online at www.willowfalls.com.

— Willow Falls Senior Living Community