Resident Experience

Breaking Boundaries: Rethinking Gender-Based Programming in Senior Living

June 20, 2024

In senior living communities, providing inclusive and engaging programming is essential for fostering social connections, promoting well-being, and enhancing the overall quality of life for residents. Gender-based programs, such as men's coffee clubs and women's spa days, are commonly implemented to cater to the unique interests and preferences of older adults. While these programs can offer valuable opportunities for socialization and enjoyment, they also raise important considerations regarding inclusivity and gender stereotypes.

Let's explore the pros and cons of gender-based programs in senior living communities to help you make informed decisions about programming in your community.

Pros of Gender-Based Programs

  • Targeted Programming: Gender-based programs allow recreation staff to tailor activities to the specific interests and preferences of men and women. By offering activities such as woodworking or sports for men and spa days or crafting for women, staff can create engaging and relevant experiences for residents.
  • Socialization Opportunities: Gender-specific programs can provide residents with opportunities to connect with others who share similar interests and experiences. These programs can foster camaraderie and belonging, leading to meaningful friendships and support networks.
  • Variety and Choice: Offering a mix of gender-based and gender-neutral programs ensures that residents have a diverse range of activities to choose from. This allows individuals to participate in activities that align with their interests and preferences, promoting engagement and satisfaction.

Cons of Gender-Based Programs

  • Reinforcement of Gender Stereotypes: Gender-based programs may perpetuate traditional gender roles and stereotypes, limiting residents' opportunities for self-expression and exploration. For example, assuming that all men enjoy woodworking or sports and all women prefer spa days or crafts overlooks the diversity of interests within each gender.
  • Exclusion of Nonbinary and Gender-Nonconforming Individuals: Gender-based programs may inadvertently exclude residents who do not identify strictly as male or female. This can create feelings of isolation and marginalization for individuals whose gender identities fall outside of traditional binary categories.
  • Missed Opportunities for Cross-Gender Interaction: Gender-segregated programs may limit opportunities for residents to interact and socialize with individuals of different genders. Interactions across genders can promote understanding, empathy, and diversity within the community, enriching the social fabric of senior living environments.

Evolving Perspectives on Gender and Inclusivity

In today's changing social landscape, there is a growing recognition of the diversity of interests and preferences within each gender, as well as the existence of gender identities beyond the traditional binary. As society evolves and challenges traditional gender norms, recreation staff may need to re-examine the role of gender-based programming in senior living communities to ensure inclusivity and diversity.

Moving Towards Inclusive Programming

As awareness and acceptance of nonbinary and gender-nonconforming identities grow, recreation staff must consider how to create inclusive environments that honor and respect the diverse gender identities of all residents. This may involve:

  • Providing opportunities for individuals to self-select activities based on their interests rather than their perceived gender.
  • Facilitating open dialogue about gender identity and expression.
  • Offering gender-neutral programming options.
  • Avoid gendering activities - Women's Spa Day or Men's Golf Club are excluding people who may enjoy or be curious about those activities!
  • Partnering with LGBTQ+ organizations to create inclusive events and resources.

Gender-based programs in senior living communities offer both advantages and challenges.  While they can provide targeted socialization and engagement, they also risk reinforcing stereotypes and excluding certain individuals. As recreation professionals, it's essential to strike a balance and consider the evolving understanding of gender to create programming that best serves the diverse needs and interests of all residents.

Looking to explore inclusive programming? You should check out our webinar ft Liberty Senior Living: Exploring Discrimination of LGBT+ Residents in Senior Living for more great advice. 

Katie Stewart

Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.

Holly Mathias

Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.

Wendy Riopelle

Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.

Want to get articles like this one fresh in your inbox when they’re published? Sign up for our newsletter and join the Welbi Family today.

Want to learn more about how Welbi can assist with your community’s QAPI program? Book a live demonstration of Welbi today!

Never miss a post!
Sign up for our newsletter
Never miss a post!

Join our mailing list to get our latest newsletters straight in your inbox.