May has been designated Older Americans Month, with the purpose of recognizing how valuable older Americans are to our society and how they improve our nation’s social fabric. Senior citizens who are still active in their communities can easily be honored for their contributions, both past and present, but what about seniors who are living in nursing facilities?

This year’s theme of Older Americans Month is Connect, Create, Contribute. Here’s how seniors living in nursing homes can participate:

Connect with Each Other

Loneliness is one of the worst ailments of old age. Bringing people together is one of the greatest gifts you can give a group of senior citizens. An arts and crafts class, exercise class or game night helps people connect. Residents can also come together to hear members of their community tell their life stories.

Connect to the Younger Generation

Connections between children and the elderly benefit both generations. School groups, youth groups and summer camps can visit nursing facilities. They can entertain residents with a show or bring activities or games to play together. Preschoolers and senior citizens can even participate in the same exercise class.

Connect with Staff

A study conducted in The Netherlands concluded that positive interactions with staff was a big factor in satisfaction and a feeling of home among residents of nursing facilities, particularly with the caregivers they connect with every day. Caregivers have the ability to make seniors feel better about themselves and better about their lives. They can emphasize the importance of personal appearance in a positive way and encourage seniors to socialize with them and with other residents. Conversely, miscommunication and negative communication with caregivers causes seniors to feel isolated and not at home.

These connections encourage seniors to continue to contribute actively to society, which in turn makes their lives more meaningful and potentially longer.