2020 was a year of adaption and creativity when it comes to activities in senior communities. Month of changing activity calendars, coming up with new activities, and tweaking activity favorites to meet the new norm brought on by the pandemic. 2021 doesn’t mean that is over, but senior communities have come a long way, and 2021 activities can be just as fun and collaborative as they were before the pandemic.
To help you fill your 2021 activity calendars, take from this list of 25 activity ideas that are sure to be a hit for years to come.
1. Celebrate the “National Day”
The website nationaldaycalendar.com has a complete list of what is celebrated each day of the year. Sometimes it’s a legitimate holiday like Easter or Halloween, but most days it’s food or activity. Here’s a glimpse at some of the national holidays in the first few months of 2021:
- January 20th National Butterscotch Day
- January 28th National Kazoo Day
- February 2nd National Tator Tot Day
Not to mention, there are national weeks, months, and international days as well.
2. Resident of the Month (or Week)
Have residents vote for resident of the month or week based on different prompts. For example, encourage residents to vote for the funniest resident or silliest resident. The resident with the most votes will “win” and it’s up to you how they’re celebrated. Perhaps they are brought up and down the halls to wave to their fans (other residents) or maybe they win a candy bar.
3. 1:1 Crafting, Baking, or Walking
If your community has staff to spare, this is a great way to give residents the one on one time with someone, safely. The resident can choose what they’d like to do and it can be anything from crafting, baking, or taking a walk!
A fun idea is to have one on one craft time with residents and each craft goes together to create one large piece of art! Think: Handprints or drawings for a bulletin board.
4. Hallway Fashion Show, Bowling, Exercise, Concert, and More!
Depending on the set up of your facility, hallway activities have endless possibilities. Line residents up along the halls within their doorways to maintain safe distances, and let the fun begin!
Fashion shows can be themed, and include staff or residents as well! Bowling is another option and you can use 2-liter bottles and a soft large ball to roll down the hallway. Exercise classes are so important to keep residents moving, and this way it is as close to a group exercise as it can be, sure to spark plenty of smiles. Another option is a hallway concert or dance party.
5. Lunch Tray Bingo
One way to play bingo is stretching one game for a week. Each day on their lunch tray residents will get a new bingo number to check for on their bingo card.
Create funky bingo cards at this website.
6. Mental Health Checks
Now more than ever mental health is crucial for seniors. During the isolating time the pandemic has created, activities should include mental health-related practices.
You might create dedicated activities for different mental health activities like meditation, journaling, or check-ins with residents. It’s important to keep an open dialogue and connect with seniors during this time and always.
7. Book Club
There are several effective, safe, and fun ways to do a book club during the pandemic. This can be another activity to gather in the hallway for, or if residents have video chatting ability, this is another option.
Find senior appropriate books (with large text) on Amazon or here is a curated list by a senior care agency.
8. Pen Pals
The pandemic has made seeing friends and family difficult (even when in the same facility). A pen pal program within the facility or dedicated time to write (or type) is an activity that will not only kickstart the resident brains but keep everyone connected.
Run a pen pal program with residents writing to residents, or look into the outside community. For example, you can get in contact with a local school and start a pen pal program with them!
9. Assisting Staff
Many seniors find enjoyment and relaxation from cleaning, organizing, and sorting. There are plenty of ways to make this available to residents from organizing paperwork (new, old, fake or real), folding towels, or sorting colored pencils!
As long as safety and hygienic protocol is followed, this is an activity to get residents out of their rooms, interacting with others, and feeling they have a purpose.
10. Video and Phone Calls
Again- This might be with those outside or inside the facility. Seniors in communities tend to grow close to their peers, and a weekly video chat with a friend group is a fun way to keep connected and allow for the girl (or guy) talk they’re craving.
Additionally, many seniors end up calling families too much during the day, especially when stuck inside. By setting specific daily or weekly times for this activity, it helps the resident have something to look forward to and the family has a date to expect a call.
11. Cart Fun
Activity carts are perfect for facilities during this crazy time. It brings fun, food, and activities to the residents in their rooms. Carts vary from food to music to games to a rolling library.
Interested in setting up a cart this year? Find inspiration with our list of 15 activity cart ideas.
12. Door Decorating
Make this a seasonal tradition or one-time contest! Task residents to decorate their doors based on a theme, or let them go wild!
Some fun themes:
- A season
- Favorite things
- A color
- A holiday
- A favorite quote
Here’s an amazing example of door decor for Veterans Day.
13. Art Competition
Competition is always a fun way to get residents involved and interested! An art competition would consist of each resident creating their art (with any medium, unless specified) and once they’ve created their masterpiece independently, the art is showcased in a common hallway.
14. Surf the Internet
The internet is an amazing thing, but unfortunately, many seniors don’t have access, knowledge, or the vision to manage it themselves. Allotting time to surf the internet on a shared iPad or laptop is a great activity idea especially during the times of being cooped up.
This can also serve as the time residents buy things they would like from stores, in lew of traveling outside the facility to stores.
Additional options for internet surfing:
- Google Earth
15. Escape with Eversound’s Activity Programming
Like the internet, Eversound activity programming offers a way to escape the four walls and into wherever the resident wants to go.
Premium programming provides:
- Guided programs
- On-demand videos from exclusive partners
- Ready-to-go printables
- A variety of topics from art to history to science
16. In-room Gardening
Bring the outdoors in! Gardening is a therapeutic way to keep residents working with their hands, relaxing but also staying engaged.
Take some pointers from The Arbors Assisted Living Facility who shared easy gardening ideas for seniors!
17. Apartment/Room Makeover
This will depend on the ability to make changes to resident rooms, but there are tons of ways to give them a change in scenery and improve their room or apartment.
Some ideas for makeover:
- Fresh paint
- A new statement piece like a lamp
- Adding plants
- Changing bed spread
- Switching out curtains
18. Movie Night (popcorn, PJs, same movie)
Movie night in separate rooms can be just as fun. Build up to the special movie day with flyers posted and teasers on the morning bulletin. Pick a date and time a movie will be airing or when every resident’s room can have access to the movie.
Don’t forget the pajamas and popcorn!
19. Sports Themed Days
Any sport fanatics? This one is fun for residents and staff and can make for conversation starters and fun rivalries as football wraps up and other sports begin!
Ways to incorporate sports into activity calendar:
- Wear a jersey day
- Team color day
- Watch a live game
- Watch a classic game
- Have a “pep rally”
- Play a sport via hallway, video game, or paper
20. Independent Scavenger Hunt
It’s important to keep residents active, and a scavenger hunt that brings the resident around the facility (safely). Is a fun way to do this. A scavenger hunt can be a one-day thing, or can last a week or month!
Make it a treasure hunt with a fun prize to be discovered at the end! Don’t forget to spice up the hunt with rhyming or silly clues.
Examples of scavenger hunt clues:
- You’ll score if you go see who sits near the front door
- Don’t be silly, go find Billy
21. Interview Residents
While some residents may not be interested in talking about themselves or sharing their life story, others will be! Interviewing residents and writing it down is not only a fun way to connect with residents but can be a nice gift for loved ones.
Here are some great questions to include:
- Do you know the name of the hospital you were born at?
- What is your favorite memory?
- How would you describe the word “love?”
- Did you or your family have traditions? What were they?
22. Learn Something New
Resolution or not, everyone should learn tons of new things each year! Even though residents are of old age, doesn’t mean they don’t have things they would like to try or learn for the first time!
Make this activity even more fun by allowing staff to teach the resident(s) or introducing them to new technology that might improve their daily life!
23. Spring Cleaning
Keeping things neat and tidy is important in any season. Set aside a day on your calendar for spring cleaning, and be sure staff is available to assist as needed!
Some options to go along with this are repurposing items thrown away for crafts, giving to another resident, or setting aside for a summer garage sale to raise money!
24. Pampering Day
The guy can use a shave and the ladies some moisturizing! Use an activity cart of fun items like nail polish, mirrors, makeup, hot towels, and maybe some decadent desserts to top it all off!
Both men and women will love a day dedicated to feeling good and looking good! Hint: Ask your residents what they want!
Residents have opinions and should be heard! If your facility doesn’t have committees to discuss things and air grievances, it’s important to implement soon! This can make for a weekly or monthly activity with a different topic each meeting.
Fill Your Calendars!
Don’t forget the most important part about the activities: The residents! Ask them what they would love to do, what would get their participation, and just as importantly, what don’t they want on the calendar? Allow residents to have a say and you’ll see happier, more engaged residents this year. Good luck with stacking your calendars and keeping everyone safe while having fun!