View Full Version : Thread of my retirement home activity ideas!

07-06-15, 02:09 AM
So I'll soon be starting work at a retirement home as an assistant in the Life Enrichment and Activities Department.
lol every time I think about it I get all giddy inside! From all the research I've done and everything I've been told from my boss...this 'job' sounds amazing!
I get to do all the fun things! All the games and the parties and the activities.

I thought maybe I'd start a thread here at ADDF to just throw out some ideas I have for different things involving my 'job' (really don't like calling it a's so much more than just a job to me). It'll help keep me organized, and it'll help me from forgetting different ideas. It may even help me spark new ideas, or can be a place where I can more fully develop my ideas.

I of course could keep all this in a journal or notebook...but I'd much rather do it online here. Maybe some of you can give me some feedback on my ideas, or come up with some ideas yourselves to share with me!

07-06-15, 02:14 AM
This is awesome!! :)

I worked for the elderly for a year and would visit them in nursing homes/assisted living.

We usually played...


Bingo! :rolleyes::lol:

I know so original.

Hehe it was very fun though. I think it's a great idea that you started a thread for your ideas. You are clearly passionate about this and I know you'll do an outstanding job. :)

07-06-15, 03:09 AM
So last Tuesday my boss told me how he's got a Sensory Group set up for the residents, but that he's been frustrated at how little effort his current staff members have put into the group.
I chimed right and and told him that now that I'm working there...why don't we go about changing that? :)

He gave me a big smile, and told me that's one of his big hopes for me.

So I've done a small amount of researching about sensory therapy...and omgness I've got all sorts of cool ideas! I can SO see this activity becoming my baby lol. It may well give me an amazing opportunity to let out some creativity I don't often get to use!

I'm SOOOOO looking forward to these groups.

It's all about stimulating the senses. Sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste.

I do have to be mindful in that these are elders everything I do has to be something that wont be overwhelming to them.

So anyhow, here's some Ideas I have:



--Placing some (pleasant) strong smelling things in little paper cups (such as coffee, an orange, vanilla or some freshly picked/cut grass) then blind fold the person and have them smell what's in the cub and write down what they think it might be.
Then when everyone's done I can show them what was in each cup and we can share and compare what everyone's guesses were.

--I can bring in some nice flowers with an assortment of different kinds of flowers in different colors and I can pass the flowers individually around while we discuss our favorite smelling and looking flowers.

--I can bring in some candles that smell like baking bread or pies and let them burn while we're doing a very well may bring back some memories for someone.

--I can find consecrated/liquid scents of some sort...vanilla, lemon, peppermint...etc...and put a few drops of each on separate cotton balls and have the residents attempt to match the cotton balls to the correct scents.

--I can do more research on aroma therapy and get some oils and use them during some of the groups where smell isn't the main focus. I could use the oils in the background just for a pleasant smell.


--I can blend up some different fruits (bananas, apples, oranges etc) and put them each in small containers. I can pass the individual blends around and we can smell them and try to determine what they are...and then I can give each person a small spoonful to see if we can guess which fruit they are.

--It'd be really fun to bring in some exotic fruits...especially if I can find fruits that weren't readily available to them when they were younger, and bring them in. We could pass them around to feel them and examine them, and then I could cut them open and we could smell each of the fruits...and for those of us who are brave enough...we can taste a bit of the fruits to see what they taste like.


--Rain stick. These were really popular when I was a kid for some reason. They're pretty much hollow sticks with beads in them so that when you tip them upside down the beads inside roll down and make really neat sounds.

--Thunder Drum. It's a hollow tube/drum with a long spring coming out of it lol. Not sure how else to describe it :P. It makes some really weird sounds!

--Hand rattles/shakers.

--'Sounds of nature' cd's playing in the background

--Once I start getting to know them more I can start looking for old cd's with some of their favorite singers they grew up with.

--I could get one of those small artificial desk waterfalls or something to let run in the back ground...just for the soothing sounds of running water.


--I SO want to get a portable fire pit this summer for them! I know a lot of them like to sit outside and enjoy the fresh air, and there's plenty of space for a small pit. We're in the middle of Wyoming just under some beautiful mountains...I know a lot of these guys have had to of done some camping in their life times.
This may not be possible though. For safety and health reasons. One big problem I can see is the smoke fires create. A lot of people at this place have to use oxygen tanks and the smoke could really make it difficult on them :(. I love the idea...but it just might not work out. Definitely something I'll be discussing with my boss though.

--I'd LOVE to bring in a kaleidoscope! I bet some of them had these as toys growing up! :)

--A ViewMaster with some slides I think they may enjoy. There's tons of slides that can be found!

--I can collect a bunch of leaves and bark this fall as the leaves in our local trees begin to change beautiful colors to look at and to hold and to admire. I can research the different trees and we can talk about some cool facts about them.
Better yet...I can take them on a short bus ride up into the base of the mountains and we I can do all of this somewhere where we can actually see the trees in all of their beautiful colors!


--I want to make a bunch of bean bags made of a bunch of materials (my mom and grandma have tons of scraps I could use!) filled with a bunch of different fillings!

--I can put common objects (baseball glove, tennis/golf ball, banana...etc) one at a time into a box or bag and have them reach in to try and guess what the object is using just their hands.

--Seashells and sand! I can get a cheap bag of sand, place it in some sort of big container, and then get a cheap thing of seashells to mix in with the sand. We can then pass the container around searching for seashells and admiring them! :)


Anyhow, these are just a few ideas I've had. Hopefully I'll have many more ideas come to me! lol

They need to be simple and nothing that that can be overwhelming. And they need to be fun and enjoyable and encouraging.

Hopefully after a few weeks I'll get to know the people better and then can start coming up with some more ideas based on what they want.


07-06-15, 03:15 AM
Current events discussion group
My aunt is in a retirement community, she loves this!
She always read the paper, and still does I think. when I was studying here (pre internet!) she woud send me newspaper clippings. very smart woman, always way ahead of her time.

07-06-15, 03:15 AM
This is awesome!! :)

I worked for the elderly for a year and would visit them in nursing homes/assisted living.

We usually played...


Bingo! :rolleyes::lol:

I know so original.

Hehe it was very fun though. I think it's a great idea that you started a thread for your ideas. You are clearly passionate about this and I know you'll do an outstanding job. :)

haha this is one of the activities I look forward to the most! :lol:
Me and my sister use to go play bingo down town a lot haha :p. It was big in our town there for a long time. My sister was crazy and usually had 6 cards she could keep track of. I could barely keep up with 2! :p

It was also my dad's favorite activity he got to do when he worked at a different retirement home for about a year.

The one thing that I don't like about the bingo they don't give out any prizes! BOOO! lol :p
Me and my dad were always shopping around at the dollar store for cute little prizes for his retirement home.

I'm going to beg my boss to start handing out little prizes at bingo to make it even more fun!

Also there's a girl with down syndrome who LOVES coming in to call the numbers :D. She deserves a prize each time for being such a big help! :D

07-06-15, 03:17 AM
Current events discussion group
My aunt is in a retirement community, she loves this!
She always read the paper, and still does I think. when I was studying here (pre internet!) she woud send me newspaper clippings. very smart woman, always way ahead of her time.

They do this each day :). I don't usually pay close attention to local news, though my mom gets the daily local newspaper and I'm actually really looking forward to having an excuse to actually keep on top of our local news!

07-06-15, 10:54 AM
As the person who may be the most senior citizen on this forum ;)
I'm not on oxygen but I've had asthma most of my life.

Smoke from a fire pit doesn't usually bother me too much.
But the scented candles make me very sick.
I love the idea of natural smells though and guessing those.

Something my multi-age group did a couple of months ago was to put on
some music and have each person step into the middle of the circle,
one at a time, say their names and dance a little.

Everyone else was clapping their hands and saying "Go Oscar! Go Oscar!
Go Oscar, Go!"

It's a little harder to dance in a wheelchair, but if I could get out there
on my two walking canes, everyone should be encouraged to be a little
active and a little show-off-y. :D

07-06-15, 03:23 PM
(((((((GrandmaLuna))))))) :giggle:

I hadn't even consider that with the aroma therapy/candles. I'm really glad you brought that up!
I've been around mentally handicapped people my entire life...but I have almost no experience with the elderly. I've got a whole lot to learn!

I've only met a small number of the residents there so far. They were all in wheelchairs, but I know not all the residents are in wheel chairs.
I love your idea of the dance! Heck, we can even get some of them in wheel chairs to dance with a little assistance :D.


07-06-15, 07:19 PM
Was going to mention that the scented candles might be hard for some but Lunacie beat me to it!
But I LOVE your ideas for the sensory group Psycho :D You are so creative :) I think that would have been a big hit where I used to work :D Where I was there was a wide variety of functioning levels in our participants, some with very advanced alzheimers or who needed a lot of physical assistance, and others who were very mentally clear and or physically able. But anyways, with the alzheimers, things like that sensory stuff could really trigger some of their memories. And that is awesome!! Also when we would do music, sometimes folks who had trouble talking from strokes or alzheimers would suddenly be able to sing along! That was really great too.

I love the ideas about foliage and bark and sand and shells!! So sweet :) And the rainstick idea too, I have a really nice one of those! I wish I could loan it to you lol. My kids love it. Also I feel like, tipping the stick over (at least, mine, cuz it's really big lol) could be really good physical coordination, if anyone is working on that.

Gosh you are making me wish I had the creativity to come up with activities myself when I was doing this. I mostly helped out other people with their things, and we had a lot of stuff that was already established. I mean, I would do music stuff...we had singalongs which were really fun and books with the words to songs in them. If you want some singalong music from previous generations I could help you with that actually, if you need :) Though, actually, I'm sure where you are probably is all set with that.

Something that we did, maybe they would already do this at your place, but that's pretty simple is if you have a large pad of paper, put up a BIG EASY TO SEE crossword puzzle on it. Like you could find some really simple crossword puzzles online or get a book of them and draw a couple out really big. Anyways, then you read the hints and everyone works on it together. It's good to get easy ones so the group will finish them and feel good :)

oh also - back to the rainsticks - art projects were a hit where I used to work too. And you can totally make and decorate rainsticks. It might take some prep on your part though but like, paper towel rolls with toothpicks stuck in them, tape the outside where the toothpicks are to keep them in place. They won't last forever but! Then the participants can pour the beans in, and you put circles of paper at the ends of the tube so the beans/rice don't fall out. Then you can decorate the outside with markers or paint :D The art teacher at my school had a really good rain stick project that was actually a little more sturdy than this but I don't remember what she did, hmmm

Anyways have fun!! :D I found with working with the elderly, even if I had an activity that didn't work out as planned, they understood (unlike kids, ack) that I was new and they appreciated me trying, and they would be very nice and supportive about it.

07-07-15, 01:10 AM
Songs that they have known all their lives can be almost like magic.

07-09-15, 10:28 AM
New idea...maybe I can bring in some plastic figurines of some of the local wild life we have (deer, antelope, black bears, mountain lions...etc) and print out some nice photos and some really interesting fact sheets on the animals I can go over with them.

Maybe we can discuss some of the animals we ourselves have seen in our lifetime and share some stories together :).

07-09-15, 10:30 AM
It's nice too...cause my mom and my grandma are big into crafts, so I have access to all sorts of things I can use in the future.
My mom also has a nice laminator so I can laminate some of the papers and stuff I print out for my activities to make them water proof and long lasting.

Gah, I can't wait to start!!

07-09-15, 10:39 AM
Songs that they have known all their lives can be almost like magic.

this is true; we've done some concerts in nursing homes
we played a Glenn Miller medley once, the 2 activites women were dancing with a couple of the residents. it was really nice.
the first part was "Little Brown Jug", it's just catchy and these 2 activities leader women (I think they were sisters) standing in the back, just kind of started tapping their feet a bit.

07-09-15, 11:01 AM
Okay...I'mma need a second job so I can afford to do everything I want to do with these guys! lol >.<'

I need to start doing more research on some fun free activities...or figure out ways to incorporate more D.I.Y. with my ideas.

07-12-15, 10:38 PM
....Check out Craigslist under the Freebies section can also ask for stuff you want in particular ......

07-13-15, 02:17 PM
In the same idea of bingo, you can consider some additional games/championship. A nice laminated certificate for chess champ, dominos champ, gin rummy champ, etc. can go a long way and can really get the residents sparked by a little competition and stir the mental juices.

I think the other thing to consider here is bringing people in...volunteers. Local congregations. Girl scout/boy scout troops, etc. because a lot of people want to share their stories; to have someone to talk to. For the people in the center to perhaps share a skill. Are there still people who knit or crochet. Help the kids earn their badges. Learn knots. I'm sure some people already know their flowers and how to plant and tend to plants, how plants grow. Do arts and crafts together. Oh...make dream catchers (popsicle sticks and yarn).

Also I would consider what they can give to others. Going back to people that quilt or knit. Not everyone has lost their dexterity. Note you can ask the volunteers to help provide fabric, thread, yarn. There's a huge opportunity to ask for donations. Probably can be a part of the effort.

For the literay crowd. Book club. Short story review. Poems. If you can work with the Library to perhaps loan books. Bring in kids for the older folks to read to them. This will depend on where they are mentally and physically.

Movie night!! How much do they want to go back and watch the oldies but goodies. Libraries sometimes carry old movies.

Also may want to note that the Glen Miller crowd may not be as much of the population and your Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis folks are starting to move into the retirement community. Start off by asking what music they like. A little survey. Also the library may have selections for these genres. Would be sweet if you could get the boss to agree to a karoke machine. That would be so awesome. Or just print out the words and have sing alongs. Also, you can play...Name That Tune.

In the spirit of Name That can have Name That...history figure, decade, entertainer, tv show, radio show, movie, etc.

07-13-15, 03:02 PM
Just hit me. Ask local florists if there are any flowers on the way to the trash or any donations they wish to give for a floral arrangement day. Perhaps they can come in and show some pointers. You can also use them for dried flower arrangements.

Also, around the holidays I would look to any tree farms, etc. that would be willing to provide greenery for arrangments that the group can give to the firehouse, etc.

Decoupage: Dried flowers, newspapers, magazines, construction paper.

Does the center have a monthly budget?

07-15-15, 02:49 AM
Omgosh Andi! lol You've got so many great ideas :D Thanks a lot!
I LOOOOVE the idea of going to some of the flower shops in town to ask if they've got some flowers they'd like to donate!! Or Christmas Trees (omg I'm WAY too excited about decorating the place all up for this year's christmas!!).

And in bringing in different volunteer groups! I would've never even thought to consider asking some scouts to stop by. I very much so plan on thinking about this and doing some research to see if there's something I can come up with! Help the kids earn some badges AND give my grandma and grandpas someone to visit with! :D Such a neat idea!!

I need to see if there's anyone who can bring in some dogs too once in awhile!

Also really like the book/poetry club! :yes: Now that's a great idea and something they don't have set up at the home. Yet! :D

I don't know if they have a budget set aside for activities yet...I'm sure they do...but I'm kinda nervous about asking lol. I had a freaking dream last night that I was being fired because I was spending all of the home's money on things for activities and was bankrupting them. They were really upset with me because their sole purpose in hiring me was so I could help them spend LESS money on activities haha.
What a dumb dream xP.


Thank you so much! :D

Just hit me.

:( /cry

Maybe I just hug you instead!


07-15-15, 04:05 AM
When my husbands grandmother was in assisted living, they used to have trivia night. The workers used the trivial pursuit cards. They went through them ahead of time so the the questions would be relevant to the residents and at one point they bought a special addition set as well. The set it up kind of like jepardy (sp) by using a board with little cardboard slots to reveal the "prize" money. We played with her and it was a blast. I think the actual prizes were stuff like ice cream sundaes and like having your hair done by the traveling hair stylist. Just an idea.