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Suggested Activity Ideas From Around the World...
Since the unfortunate introduction of COVID-19 to our world, the challenges that nursing homes are facing seem unsurmountable. Our daily routines, and the way we provide services to our precious residents, have forever been changed. Activity/Recreation Professionals have met the challenges "head-on" and work relentlessly to provide emotional support, connection to families, and stimulation/motivation for activity pursuits. This area of our website will be dedicated to sharing successful, innovative ideas that have been posted and/or shared on social media platforms. Our attempt is to post the ideas in one location, to save the Activity/Recreation Professional time and effort in discovering new ideas. We have noted the individual professional's name and facility/location when that was made available. Please make note that it is not our intent to insinuate "proprietary" or copyright protection of these suggestions/ideas. They come from many very creative and innovative Activity/Recreation Professionals around the world. We hope that this area will serve as a valuable resource to interested professionals. We also remind everyone to check your local city/county/state requirements and restrictions before implementing activities involving persons from the community, family members, or animals. And if you have an idea that you would like to share or have added to this site, please click on "Contact" below and forward your message/idea.
Live Broadcast: Utilize your laptop, Zoom, and current cable provider to deliver in- room activity programming. See https://www.nccap.org/covid19 for a tutorial on how to set this up. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar posted by Bryan Rife)
All you need is access to the computer/cable/electrical room, a digital-to- analog converter that converts coaxial audio/video input to HDMI, a laptop to connect to the TV channel box, and a video conferencing app like Zoom.
On your live broadcast, you can give a rundown of the daily news, read daily horoscopes, lead exercise activities, have dance parties, play music requested by residents, call bingo, and much more. The possibilities are nearly limitless. Many of the ideas in this document are great for broadcasting to your residents’ TVs.
Exercise Class: Broadcast a Zumba class or any other fitness class (chair dancing, laughter yoga, et al.) video to residents’ TVs or broadcast a live class led by yourself or another staff member. (suggested by Deborah Lacoboni, Administrator at Claremont Retirement Village in Columbus, OH)
Religious Services: Although residents are not able to gather together in worship at this time, there are many ways for them to remain engaged in religious activities.
Virtual Church Services: Many churches (and synagogues, mosques, etc.) are broadcasting their services live over YouTube and/or Facebook. (Often, these services are available after the live broadcast is over, as well.) If your facility has set up a dedicated channel for in-house broadcasting, you can broadcast one of these services over that channel at a certain time each week. If you have many residents of different denominations and religions, set up a schedule and broadcast their respective services at different times. Even if you do not have in-house broadcasting capabilities, however, your residents can still watch virtual services individually on laptop computers or tablets. (suggested by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Hymns: You can listen to or sing hymns (or other religious music) with residents 1:1 in their rooms. You can also play hymns over a portable speaker and go up and down the halls, or play them over an intercom or dedicated TV channel, so that residents may sing together from their rooms/doorways if they wish. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar posted by Bryan Rife)
Daily Reading: Read a daily Bible verse—or wisdom from another religious text —and discuss it with your residents. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar posted by Bryan Rife)
Allie Long, Activity Director at Rose Glen Manor in North Wilkesboro, NC, reads a daily devotion on each hall as residents listen from their doorways.
Solo or 1:1 Games: There are many games you can play one-on-one with residents in their rooms. You can play board games like checkers, backgammon, dominoes, tic-tac- toe, Parcheesi, Sorry!, Mille Bornes, Yahtzee, Scrabble, or Battleship. You can also play card games like War, Concentration, Go Fish, Uno, Bunko, or Rummy. If your facility has tablets or any handheld video game systems, or if any of your residents have a smartphone, residents can play games by themselves using these devices. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar posted by Bryan Rife)
Visitor Pods: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a video from 9 News about visitor pods being used by MACS (Multicultural Aged Care) in Geelong (a city in the Australian state of Victoria). These pods are shipping containers converted into areas where families can visit their loved ones with only a glass wall dividing them. An intercom allows them to communicate clearly with one another as they eat together or simply chat during 20-minute visits. According to Joy Leggo, a MACS employee, the facility was able to “source the container [and] get it fitted out within seven days”— the project went from an idea to reality within three weeks. Obviously, this is a very ambitious idea that is likely not feasible for most facilities, but it is creative and interesting.
Virtual Visits: Allow loved ones to virtually visit (via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc.) your residents. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar shared by Bryan Rife)
[Your Facility] Idol: If your facility has the ability to broadcast your own channel to residents’ TVs, you can have your own version of American Idol. Have each staff member who is willing to participate sing a song as residents watch on their TVs, and let residents vote for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. You can do this even if you don’t have internal broadcasting capabilities by recording the performances and showing them to each resident individually, or by doing separate live performances on each hallway. (suggested by Bryan Rife)
Guess Who?: Take pictures of staff in their masks and have residents try to guess who they are. (shared by Bryan Rife but credited by him to Renee Joswer of Honolulu, HI).
The Masked Singer: Similar to the American Idol idea, this is your facility’s version of the TV show The Masked Singer. Have each staff member who is willing to participate sing a song while wearing their mask; you can broadcast this live on your facility’s dedicated TV channel or, if your facility does not have that capability, you can either film it and play it for each resident individually or put on performances in each hallway. Have residents try to guess who each “masked singer” is. (suggested by Bryan Rife)
Loved Ones: Depending on how your facility is set up, you may be able to allow loved ones to visit your residents at their windows. If they cannot hear each other well through the window, it may be necessary to also have them call each other and talk over the phone. (suggested in an NCCAP webinar posted by Bryan Rife)
Animal Visits: Though therapy animals are not currently being allowed into most facilities, residents can still get a little animal therapy from window visits. Animals of all sorts have been brightening residents’ days across the country. Reach out to any animal sanctuaries, shelters, or even farms in your area and see if they would be willing to bring some of their animals by. You could also reach out to your community in general and ask if anyone would be willing to visit with their pets.
rabbits from a bunny sanctuary (Kara Reiser, Activity Director at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN)
llamas (Kara Reiser)
alpacas (Altercare Majora Lane in Millserburg, OH—shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
a camel and a llama for Hump Day (Bobbie Jo Adams, Life Enrichment Director at Autumn Woods Health Campus in New Albany, IN)
a pony (Imas Anzal, Activities Director at Hampton Ridge Healthcare & Rehabilitation in Toms River, NJ)
miniature ponies (Shawn Hanberry, a Recreation Services Specialist at James River Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center in Newport News, VA)
Lucky the bird (Ester Milhazes Daly, Activity Specialist at Monmouth Crossing in Freehold, NJ)—actually, by virtue of being a bird in a cage and therefore not an animal anyone would get to touch (and therefore not a potential infection vector), Lucky got to visit each resident in their room
DIY Bird Feeders: Helena Bodine Berardinelli, a CNA at The Manor Health and Rehabilitation Center in Freehold, NJ, posted pictures of residents at her facility making bird feeders in their rooms. Each resident was given a pinecone, a cup of birdseed, and some peanut butter; they spread the peanut butter over the pinecone and stuck the birdseed to the peanut butter, then staff hung the feeders, along with some additional store-bought feeders, outside the residents’ windows.
Hallway Karaoke: Residents and staff at The Bluffs Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Vicksburg, MS, sang karaoke together in the hall. Residents stayed in their doorways, and the staff member sang with one resident at a time while the others watched/danced/sang along. Be sure to sanitize the microphone after each resident uses it. If you don’t have a karaoke machine, you can just use a portable speaker and look up songs on YouTube. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Auto Paint Shop: A local craftsman donated wooden cars to Autumn Woods Health Campus in New Albany, IN, and residents each got to paint and put stickers on their own car as staff came around with a mobile craft cart. (posted by Autumn Woods Life Enrichment Directory Bobbie Jo Adams and shared by Debbie Hommel, DH Special Services founder)
Roller Coaster Ride: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared an article about virtual roller coaster rides via Canada’s Wonderland YouTube channel (link: https:// www.youtube.com/channel/UCmIgKn7CF8frAV5wdFs2AwQ). Many other roller coaster point-of-view videos from various theme parks may also be found online, such as this official video of the Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster in Busch Gardens Williamsburg (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Z0OBGnUDRM). You can broadcast these virtual rides over your dedicated TV channel or play them for residents one-on-one. Perhaps use the virtual roller coaster rides as a jumping-off point for reminiscing about theme parks or state/county fairs residents have been to, or thrilling activities they enjoyed doing.
Safari: There are many live animal cams available to access for free, allowing your residents to watch their favorite animals even though they cannot leave their rooms. You can broadcast these over your dedicated TV channel or watch them one-on-one with residents. (suggested by the NAAP website, which was linked to by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
puppies (link: https://explore.org/livecams/warrior-canine-connection/ outdoor-puppy-pen)
polar bears (link: https://explore.org/livecams/polar-bears/polar-bear- ouwehand-twin-cubs-cam-2)
honey bees (link: https://explore.org/livecams/honey-bees/honey-bee-hive- cam)
jellyfish (link: https://explore.org/livecams/oceans/moon-jelly-camera)
horses (link: https://explore.org/livecams/kentucky-equine-horses/kentucky- equine-horses)
and many more (link: https://explore.org/livecams)
Monterey Bay Aquarium has live cams available as well, with animals like otters, sharks, and all kinds of fish. (link: https:// www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams; suggested by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
The Cincinnati Zoo has daily virtual zoo visits which it posts to its YouTube channel in the Home Safari playlist. (link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist? list=PLek4nkkPq41obS0YS2V140MJn0rQAYedf; suggested by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
All Aboard!: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a link to an article (https:// www.travelandleisure.com/trip-ideas/bus-train/virtual-train-rides) listing thirteen virtual train rides that could be broadcast to residents’ TVs on your dedicated channel or which residents could watch individually on tablets or computers. You could incorporate this into a theme day: have staff dress as conductors, decorate snack carts like trains and play a train whistle when you come around with the carts, play a round of Mexican Train dominoes with each resident, give out activity packets all about trains (trivia questions, word searches, crosswords, coloring pages, et al.), play music related to trains, reminisce about train rides residents have taken in the past, and so on and so forth.
Balloon Volleyball: Residents sit in their doorways, armed with pool noodles that have been cut in half. They bat balloons back and forth to each other with the noodles, trying to keep them from touching the ground. You could also do this one-on-one with each resident in their room—count each time one of you hits the balloon and see how long of a streak you can keep up before letting the balloon fall. (Vancrest of Payne in Payne, OH; shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Hallway Fishing Tournament: Residents at Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN, competed in a “fishing tournament” from their doorways. Place a blue sheet, blue plastic tablecloth, or long sheet of blue paper on the floor between two residents’ doorways. This is the “water.” Scatter lots of plastic magnetic fish (you can buy these online or just make your own fish with paper and magnets) across the “water,” and give two residents sitting in their doorways a rod and reel with a magnet tied to the end of the fishing line instead of a hook. You can also get fishing hats for them to wear. The residents compete to see who can “catch” the most fish. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services; Yorktown’s Activities Director is Heather Quirk)
Individual Fishing: Angela Grams, Recreation Director at United Living Community in Brookings, SD, posted a photo of a fishing game she created for residents who miss getting to go out and fish for real. She printed out realistic pictures of many varieties of fish (two copies of each picture), cut them out (so it was just the fish itself), and laminated them. Then she hot glued the pairs of laminated fish cut-outs together with a magnet stuck in between each side. (For fun, she also included a boot and some driftwood.) She also tied a magnet to the end of the fishing line on several fishing rods. You can do this with residents individually in their rooms.
Tune-a-Fishing: Joan M. McCormack, a Recreation Programmer at the Salvation Army in Ontario, Canada, commented that she has done something similar to Angela Grams’ fishing activity in the past, but the undersides of her fish had song names or musical trivia questions on them. She called this “Tune-a-Fishing.” When residents catch a fish, they have to sing the song or answer the trivia question.
Play Reading: Bonnie Vorenberg, President of the Senior Theatre Resource Center, suggested having play readings via video calls (Skype, Zoom, etc.). Pick a classic play like Twelfth Night or a fun one- or two-act play like A Delightful Quarantine and give each resident a part, then read through the play together. If you do not have enough laptop computers and/or tablets for residents to have their reading over a video call, this could also be done in a hallway with residents sitting in their doorways. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Spacewalk: NASA has made its media library available to the public for free. Residents can access thousands of amazing pictures and videos, complete with descriptions, on NASA’s website (link: https://images.nasa.gov/). There are pictures of planets, nebulae, spacecraft, astronauts, etc. You could look at some of these pictures and videos with residents one-on-one and use them as a jumping-off point for reminiscing about the space race and subsequent US missions to space. You could also incorporate all of this into a space-themed day; have staff dress up as astronauts or wear NASA shirts, serve space-related snacks (Moon Pies, Cosmic Brownies, Star Crunches, astronaut food, etc.), show a space-related movie like Apollo 13 orArmageddon on your dedicated resident channel, make space-themed crafts, and give out space-themed activity packets with crosswords, word searches, trivia, and so on. (suggested by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Virtual Field Trips: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a link to the NAAP website’s list of activities programming ideas and resources. This list mentioned that Freedom Homeschooling offers free virtual field trips to places like Buckingham Palace, the Great Wall of China, Mars, and many more (https:// freedomhomeschooling.com/virtual-field-trips/?fbclid=IwAR2bbP70Wqd3OzrElrtvUV25xW3-fD7BrXxY24F_RRDtrDP_Fnd1vbwf_sk). Another resource on the list was an article that mentioned doing free virtual tours of National Parks, such as Arches, the Badlands, Denali, and Yellowstone (https:// crafty.diply.com/121060/you-can-virtually-tour-a-whole-bunch-of-national-parks- from-you).
RC Sprint: Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN, posted a video of four residents racing RC cars down the hallway to a finish line. The residents were able to do this from their doorways. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services; Yorktown’s Activities Director is Heather Quirk)
Hallway Never Have I Ever: Play Never Have I Ever with residents as they sit in their doorways. Instead of having them hold up their fingers, however, pass out more easily visible items like colored paint sticks or flags for them to use instead. (suggested on the NAAP website; shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Window Painting: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a photo of a resident’s window from an unidentified facility. The window had been painted on the outside by staff; they drew a butterfly and flowers. Residents who are able could paint their own windows from the inside however they like, or family could visit and paint the outside of their window. Regardless of who is doing the painting, be sure to use window markers or a washable paint so that the artwork can be cleaned off later.
RC Obstacle Course: The Enclave Senior Living at Saxony in Fishers, IN, posted a video of residents driving several RC vehicles through an obstacle course in their hallway. The obstacles were just pool noodles cut into shorter lengths and strewn about the hall. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Hallway Drum Circle: Lori Presser, NCCAP vice president, shared a video (link:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADxU_vKTy3M&feature=youtu.be) on how to lead hallway drum circles using readily-available, everyday objects like Tupperware, coffee tins, pot lids and pencils, and so on, or even just clapping hands. Residents can stay in their doorways, and you can lead them in drumming to beats you make up, or you all can drum along to some of your favorite songs.
Hallway Cornhole: Let residents play Cornhole from their doorways. (suggested on the NAAP website; shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Live Performances: Although you cannot bring outside entertainers into your facility right now, you can still have them perform for your residents outside and let residents watch from their windows. If any of your staff is musically or otherwise talented, you can have them perform in hallways or 1:1 in residents’ rooms.
Elvis Impersonator: Brandi Dye, Activities Director at Calvert County Nursing Center in Prince Frederick, MD, posted photos of an Elvis impersonator performing an outdoor concert for residents at her facility as they watched from their windows.
Bagpipes: Lindsay Cameron of Overlander Residential Care in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, posted a video of a friend of hers who came to play her bagpipes while walking around the outside of the facility.
Guitarist: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Maplewood Senior Living in Westport, CT, with a video of a musician playing his guitar and singing outside the facility while residents opened their windows and enjoyed the show from their rooms.
Saxophonist: Bryan Rife shared a post from Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN, with a video of residents playing “Name that Tune” as a saxophonist played outside their windows for Window Jazz Fest. They also just enjoyed listening to him play. (Yorktown’s Activities Director is Heather Quirk)
Religious Singer: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Complete Care at Shorrock Gardens in Brick Township, NJ, showing a video of Jewish singer Shulem Lemmer putting on an outdoor concert for the staff and residents of their facility.
Dance Performance: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a video from Arnold Walter Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Hazlet, NJ, of Activity Director Liz Argueta’s dance class performing a show for the staff and residents.
Mariachi Band: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from LaRayne Barrios, Activities Director at Marquis Forest Grove Assisted Living in Forest Grove, OR, showing a mariachi band putting on a concert for residents right outside the front doors of the facility on Cinco de Mayo. You could incorporate this into a Taco Tuesday or other Mexican-themed day.
Local Bands: Quail Park Morrison Ranch in Gilbert, AZ, has had local bands put on outdoor concerts for residents. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
[Your Facility]’s Got Talent: Have a hallway talent show where residents (and staff) can showcase any kind of talent, no matter how small. (suggested by Connie McNeal, Activities Director at Willow Brook Christian Village in Delaware, OH)
Recreating Famous Paintings: Overlook Village Retirement Community in Moline, IL, got its residents to participate in the current social media trend of taking photos that recreate famous paintings (such as Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” or DaVinci’s “Mona Lisa”) with whatever objects, clothing, etc. they have available. Just Google this trend for inspiration. It’s a fun way to get residents thinking creatively and can also be combined with discussing art history, favorite paintings, favorite artists, and things like that. You can combine this idea with the traveling art museum idea and take printed pictures of the original paintings along with residents’ recreations around to all the residents so they can enjoy what each resident came up with. You can also send the photos to residents’ families. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Royal Flush Bowling Tournament: Hold a bowling tournament in your facility’s hallways and have residents compete from their doorways. Instead of bowling pins, stack several rolls of toilet paper into a triangle. Use a kickball for your bowling ball. Give the first place winner a framed picture of a golden toilet; last place gets a framed picture of a plunger. (suggested by Angie Reed, Activities Director at Besser Senior Living Community in Alpena, MI)
Thank-You Cards: Residents at St. Joseph Senior Living in Louisville, OH, made thank- you cards and pins for staff to express their thanks and appreciation for all that they have been doing during this difficult time. This would be an uplifting activity for both residents and staff. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Mario Kart Battle: Tie three helium balloons to an RC car and have a staff member drive it up and down the hallway. Pass out Nerf guns to the residents so they can shoot at the balloons. When all three balloons have been shot, the residents win. (suggested on the NAAP website; shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
“Senior to Senior” Words of Wisdom: Residents at St. Mary of the Woods Senior Living Community in Avon, OH, offered their advice to 2020 graduates. Each resident held up a sign with their words of wisdom written on it, and the facility posted pictures of this to their Facebook page.
Words of Wisdom: Debbie Wettlaufer Boush, Recreational Assistant at AristaCare at Loyalsock in Mountoursville, PA, shared pictures from her facility of residents holding a whiteboard on which each had written their “words of wisdom” to share with the world. You could do the same thing with your residents and post the pictures on a bulletin board in your facility, take all the pictures around to residents so they can see what everyone came up with, send the pictures to residents’ families, or post them on social media like AristaCare did.
Hallway Hokey Pokey: Lisa Queen of Montgomery General Extended Care in Montgomery, WV, posted a video of staff doing the Hokey Pokey with residents from their doorways. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Hallway Olympics: Come up with a variety of Olympics-inspired hallway games for your residents to compete in. Do it all in one day or spread it out over a week. You can have opening and closing ceremonies, award medals to contestants who place first through third, decorate your facility in Olympic colors and flags from US States, and present each resident with a participation plaque they can hang on their wall. (suggested by Barbara Ritchey, Regional Lifestyle Consultant and Lifestyle Coordinator at Americare Senior Living in Sikeston, MO)
Torch Relay: Make a “torch” from a flashlight with construction paper “flames” stuck on top of it. Have a staff member go down each hallway with the torch as part of the opening ceremonies. (suggested by Lisa Fortier, Activity Director at Peak Resources in Wilmington, NC)
Marksmanship: Have residents shoot at targets with Nerf guns. (suggested by Barbara Ritchey, Regional Lifestyle Consultant and Lifestyle Coordinator at Americare Senior Living in Sikeston, MO)
Javelin Throw: Cut pool noodles so they are half as long as usual. These are the “javelins.” Have residents compete to see who can throw the javelins the farthest down the hallway. (suggested by Lisa Fortier, Activity Director at Peak Resources in Wilmington, NC)
Ring Toss: Fill five 2-liter bottles with water and dye the water in each bottle a different color—red, blue, yellow, green, and black, the Olympic colors. (You could also just paint the outside of each bottle those colors instead of dying the water.) Get plastic rings (like diving rings or something similar), also in Olympic colors if you can, and have residents compete to toss the rings onto the bottles from their doorways. (suggested by Barbara Ritchey, Regional Lifestyle Consultant and Lifestyle Coordinator at Americare Senior Living in Sikeston, MO)
Golf: Get a few practice putting greens, some putters, and lots of golf balls. Let a few residents at a time putt from their doorways, and have a competition to see who can get all their balls in the hole in the fewest strokes. (posted by Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN—Yorktown’s Activities Director is Heather Quirk; shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Shot Put: Get some bean bags (like the kind used for Cornhole) and have residents compete to see who can throw them the farthest down the hallway. (suggested by Lisa Fortier, Activity Director at Peak Resources in Wilmington, NC)
Punt, Pass, and Kick: I guess you just get a toy football and have a competition to see who can punt, pass, and kick it the farthest. This wasn’t really described, just named. (suggested by Barbara Ritchey, Regional Lifestyle Consultant and Lifestyle Coordinator at Americare Senior Living in Sikeston, MO)
Discus Throw: Get a Frisbee to use as the “discus.” (It may be good to find a soft Frisbee since it will be thrown inside.) Have residents compete to see who can throw the discus the farthest down the hallway. (suggested by Lisa Fortier, Activity Director at Peak Resources in Wilmington, NC)
Soccer-ockey: Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN, posted a video of residents playing “soccer-ockey”—a hybrid soccer-hockey hallway game. A sheet of plastic is taped down in the hallway and a net set up at one end. One resident acts as goalie from their doorway, wielding a broom to guard the net, and two other residents down the hall use toy hockey sticks to try to hit toy hockey pucks and miniature soccer balls into the net. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services; Yorktown’s Activities Director is Heather Quirk)
Basketball: Have a shooting competition to see which resident can make the most shots in a certain amount of time. Use toy basketballs. For the basketball goal, there are several different options—a child-sized toy goal, a small goal that is meant to be hunt on a door, or even just a round laundry basket, to name a few. (suggested by Barbara Ritchey, Regional Lifestyle Consultant and Lifestyle Coordinator at Americare Senior Living in Sikeston, MO)
Hallway Pong: Two residents compete from their doorways to see who can get the most ping pong balls (they are given 12 each) into 6 cups (which have a small amount of water in them) set up on a tray in front of them. They bounce the ping pong balls on the tray like you would bounce them on a ping pong table for beer pong. The resident with the most balls in their cups when both residents are out of balls wins. (suggested by Heather Quirk, Activities Director at Yorktown Manor in Yorktown, IN)
Pet Adoption: Residents at Somerford House in Frederick, MD, celebrated National Shelter Pet Adoption Day by “adopting” their own pets (stuffed animals). Staff came around with a cart of stuffed animals, which included birds in an actual birdcage, a life-size snake, monkeys, ducks, elephants, et al. Each resident got an adoption certificate, too. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Activity Packets: Margaret Zani (unknown position/facility) of Somerville, Victoria, Australia, commented that she has been printing off free word searches, crosswords, Sudoku puzzles, and spot-the-difference pictures and making them into packets to hand out to her residents. Kimberly Amos, Activities Director at an undisclosed facility in Indianapolis, IN, commented that her residents have been doing printable puzzles, coloring packets, poems, inspirational stories, and talking.
Musical Coffee Cart: Gianna Prospero-Garrow, Health Center Activity Director at Harrogate Retirement Community in Lakewood, NJ, commented that she and her staff play music every morning when they come around with a coffee cart to each resident’s room, and also when they have special carts come around, like an ice cream cart or a traveling store.
Kentucky Derby: Have two staff members “ride” stick horses down the hall and let residents bet on the winner with fake money. (suggested on the NAAP website; shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Traveling Store: Ask residents what they need and put those items plus some snacks and other useful items (travel-size shampoo, combs, lotion, etc.) on a cart. Take the cart around to each resident’s room and let residents “shop” for what they need/ want. (suggested by Gianna Prospero-Garrow, Health Center Activity Director at Harrogate Retirement Community in Lakewood, NJ) Similarly, Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Atria at Villages of Windsor in Lake Worth, FL. Residents of that facility had been missing their weekly Target and Starbucks trips, so staff dressed up as Target employees and brought around a cart full of items—including Starbucks Frappuccinos—that residents could “shop” for.
Axe Throwing: Get your residents in on one of the hottest new trends and throw some axes! Keana Bertocci-Myers, Activities Director at Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg, PA, shared photos of residents at her facility having fun throwing toy axes at an inflatable target. The game, which she purchased at Sam’s Club, consists of an inflatable axe-throwing target and toy axes. The axes stick to the target “board” with velcro. (As a bonus, the reverse side of the inflatable axe target is a dart board, and the game also comes with suction-cup-tipped darts.) Axe throwing could be done as a tournament in the hallway or one-on-one with residents in their rooms.
Tie-Dye T-Shirts: Brooklynne Cowburn, Recreational Services Coordinator at UPMC Cole Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Coudersport, PA, posted that residents at her facility each made a tie-dye t-shirt and then got to wear it for a 60s day, where staff went around to each room “riding” in a Volkswagen bus (cardboard cut and painted to look like the front of a VW bus).
Walking Banana Pudding: Crystal Lynn Winklepleck, an NAAP student at Edencrest at Siena Hills in Ankeny, IA, posted pictures of “Walking Banana Pudding.” Staff took around a cart filled with bananas, banana pudding cups, spray whipped cream, and individual packs of mini Nilla wafers to each resident’s room. Then they opened the bag of wafers and added to it the pudding, slices of banana, and the whipped cream.
Night at the Museum: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a post from Evin at Oconomowoc in Oconomowoc, WI, suggesting that residents take advantage of virtual tours and digital galleries of art museums around the world. (Here is a link to the collections of many museums, including the Musée d’Orsay, MoMA, The Met, and the National Gallery in London: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner? hl=en&fbclid=IwAR3zEnbIo7kGlxKjLHkMffjoO6-DSLFT36Q5ZPim4P7MXLepL54gr6TzGjU.)
Darts: NCCAP’s Facebook page shared a photo of an unnamed staff member from an unspecified facility holding up a magnetic dartboard and letting a resident throw darts at it from their doorway. You could hold a tournament in each hallway and let residents play from their doorways so they can all watch each other. However, you could also just play with each resident individually in their room.
COVID-19 Positivity Board: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Marquis Plum Ridge in Klamath Falls, OR, showing residents holding up their “COVID-19 Positivity Boards.” The facility got a simple blackboard in a wooden frame and drew chalklines on it to divide it into four areas. Each space asked residents to write something: the first, name and age; the second, a message for family; the third, some words of wisdom; and the fourth, a funny joke. Marquis Plum Ridge took photos of each resident with their board and posted the pictures to their Facebook page, but your facility could take photos and send them to residents’ families, put them on a bulletin board in your facility, or hang each resident’s photo in their room. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Flower Arranging: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a post from The Heights Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Broadview Heights, OH, showing a resident making a flower arrangement in her room. Get a variety of flowers and let residents select some and create their own arrangement. If you can’t get your hands on a bunch of real flowers for your residents to use (or if you’re not allowed to bring flowers into your facility at this time), consider having residents make their own flowers out of construction paper—there are plenty of simple ideas and tutorials for how to do this online—and just have them arrange the paper flowers however they want in a vase or glass.
Lucky Roller: Residents sit in their doorways. Give each resident six cards (index cards, small pieces of paper, whatever), numbered 1-6. The residents place their bets for the round by picking one of their cards and holding it up. A staff member in the hallway rolls a large 6-sided die and calls out what it lands on. If what is rolled is the number on a resident’s card, they get to put that card aside. Then do the same thing for the next round, and the round after that, and so on; the first resident with no cards left in their hand wins. (suggested by April Kunath Rocksvold, Resident Enrichment Coordinator at Cowhorn Creek Estates in Texarkana, TX)
Mobile Art Museum: Ester Milhazes Daly, Activity Specialist at Monmouth Crossing in Freehold, NJ, and her staff created a “mobile art museum” using a cart and artwork from three of their staff members. They took the cart around to each resident’s room, where the residents enjoyed looking at the art and hearing the stories that went along with it. For more engagement, you could have the residents create the art for the mobile museum instead of just using staff’s work. (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Paper Airplanes: Print off instructions for different types of paper airplanes to make. Instructions are easy to find on the internet—foldnfly.com is a great resource with easy to complex folds, and it tells you what each design is geared towards (distance, air time, loops, etc.). Help residents fold their planes if they need help, then get them to decorate the planes however they want (stickers, colored pencils/markers/ crayons).
Distance Throw: Have residents sitting in their doorways each throw their paper airplane down the hallway. Whoever has the plane that flies the longest distance wins. Measure the distance with a tape measure. (suggested byRaechel Bjelland Wilkens, Activities Director at Premier Estates of Toledo in Toledo, IA)
Accuracy Throw: Rebecca Meeker, Activities Director at Walnut Ridge Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Walnut Ridge, AR, commented a photo of the “targets” she uses for her residents to try to throw their paper airplanes through. It is a large poster board or piece of cardboard standing upright with 3 holes cut into it—a large one, a medium-sized one, and a small one. They are worth 10, 20, and 30 points, respectively. The board is painted black, with silver trim around the holes as well as silver numbers denoting the holes’ point values, and at the top of the board “Flight School” is painted in safety yellow.
Chicken Dance: Casey Caterino, Engage Life Director at Atria Briarcliff Manor in Briarcliff, NY, shared a video of her residents doing the Chicken Dance for National Dance Like a Chicken Day (May 14th). That particular holiday has unfortunately come and gone, but you don’t really need a reason to dance like a chicken. It’s just a fun way to get everyone moving!
Call Light Bingo: Give out Bingo cards to residents in their rooms. Call Bingo over the intercom. Residents press their call lights to signal that they have Bingo. (suggested by Kim Cline, Activities Director at SKLD New Lebanon in New Lebanon, OH)
Duck Hunt: Purchase some plastic ducks or create your own paper duck targets by printing out pictures of ducks, cutting them out, and standing each one up somehow (glue them to empty water bottles or cereal boxes or anything so that they won’t just spontaneously fall over). Also get a Nerf gun or equivalent dart gun—one that looks like a shotgun adds extra authenticity, but whatever you already have on hand or can find most easily works just as well. Set up the ducks at varying distances and let the resident shoot at them with the Nerf gun. This can be done in the hallway as a tournament (give the ducks point values based on distance and see who racks up the most points) or as a 1:1 activity in residents’ rooms. (suggested by Rosemarie Searle, a Diversional Therapist at Kowhai Manor in Greymouth, New Zealand)
Live with Carnegie Hall: Carnegie Hall has launched a free series of live-streamed performances. These could be broadcast on a dedicated TV channel or watched individually with residents. A schedule of upcoming performances and an archive of past performances are available on Carnegie Hall’s website. (link: https:// www.carnegiehall.org/Explore/Watch-and-Listen/Live-with-Carnegie-Hall; suggested by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Shooting Gallery: Create targets for your residents to shoot at with Nerf guns. You can use multi-color plastic balls and cardboard tubes (like from paper towels or toilet tissue rolls). Assign point values to cardboard tubes of varying heights, and write these point values on the tubes so as to be easily visible. Stand each tube upright on one end and place a ball on top of it. The resident then shoots at the balls with a Nerf gun in an attempt to knock them off their perches. (suggested by Rebecca Meeker, Activities Director at Walnut Ridge Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center in Walnut Ridge, AR)
Hugs & Kisses: Since no actual hugs or kisses are allowed during social distancing, you can give out Hugs (Little Hug Fruit Barrels juice drinks) and Kisses (Hershey’s Kisses) instead as a reminder to your residents that you care. (suggested by Cindy L. Cattell, Activities Director at Lake Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Lewisville, TX)
Stained Glass: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from The Kenwood by Senior Star in Cincinnati, OH, showing a resident working on a stained-glass door project. Staff created a design on the glass door with painter’s tape, and residents each got to color in a section of the “stained glass” with window markers. Residents could also each turn their own window into stained glass.
Hallway Horseshoes: Shawn Hanberry, Recreation Services Specialist at James River Convalescent and Rehabilitation Center in Newport News, VA, shared a picture of a resident playing horseshoes in the hall from the doorway with a toy horseshoes set (plastic horseshoes and a plastic “stake” suction-cupped to the floor). You could also let residents play individually in their rooms.
Sweets Cart: Kara Reiser, Activity Director at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN, shared photos of a sweets cart decorated with a balloon arch, checkered tablecloth, and pennants that she used to deliver sweet treats to her residents.
Positivity Chain: Picture a traditional paper chain with links made of construction paper in all different colors, but each link is heart-shaped rather than round. Get each resident (and staff member!) to write something positive on their link, then connect all the links to form a long chain of positivity. It may be easier to staple each link together rather than trying to interlock them with one another like in a traditional paper chain, because the indentation of the heart shape reduces the space inside each link. This has the added benefit of keeping the heart shape of each link apparent. (suggested by Shelby Clark, a Recreation Therapist at Mountain Ridge Health and Rehabilitation in Black Mountain, NC)
Virtual Coffee Chats: Let residents video call each other while they have their morning coffee so they can just chat. (suggested by Meredith Mennona of First Community Village in Columbus, OH)
Fresh Bread: Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President, shared a video from Apple Village Assisted Living in Layton, UT, showing a staff member slicing fresh, homemade bread to deliver to residents. If your facility has set up live broadcast capabilities, you could broadcast the process of making the bread to the residents’ TVs before you deliver the finished product to them in their rooms.
YouTube & You: Weekly, have a “YouTube & You” 1:1 with each resident. Ask them what they might like to watch—maybe they want to see their favorite type of animal, watch a music video or live performance from a favorite band or artist, learn something, “travel” to somewhere new or somewhere they’ve been before, etc.—and watch it with them. Talk with them about what you watched together. (suggested by Tracie Williams, unknown position/facility/location)
Tea Party: Gracie Daniel (unknown position/facility/location) shared photos of a tea party cart she took around to all the ladies in her facility. The cart was decorated to be very pink and frilly, and Gracie served coffee, tea, and an assortment of pastries. You certainly don’t have to exclude the men from this, but if you want to make it less “girly” for them, you could decorate the tea party cart to be posh-looking without being fru-fru.
Doorway Exercise: The Heights Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Broadview Heights, OH, posted a video showing staff leading residents in exercises as residents stood in their doorways. (shared by Lori Presser, NCCAP Vice President)
Hallway Gambling: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Monmouth Crossing in Freehold, NJ, showing residents participating in “hallway gambling.” Staff came around with carts for each game decorated to match whatever game they were playing with the residents—Texas Hold ‘Em, Roulette, and Concentration—and winners got scratch-off tickets for a chance to win the jackpot.
Theme Days: Come up with different themes to base your activities, snacks, and attire around in order to keep things interesting.
Holidays: Jo Anne Harrison-Becker posted a list of things the month of June celebrates. For example, June is African-American Music Appreciation Month, Give a Bunch of Balloons Month, International Surf Music Month, National Turkey Lovers Month, and National Zoo and Aquarium Month, to name just a few. June “holidays” also include National Donut Day (June 5th), National Yo-Yo Day (June 6th), National Best Friends Day (June 8th), the birthday of the U.S. Army (June 14th), National Eat Your Vegetables Day (June 17th), Father’s Day (June 21st), and National Sunglasses Day (June 27th), among many more. Jo Anne Harrison-Becker suggests incorporating one of these celebratory themes into your activities, especially 1:1 activities.
Ice Cream Day: Turn your cart into an ice cream truck or create one you can “ride” in with cardboard, paint, construction paper, etc. Dress up like an old- school ice cream man (white shirt, bowtie, paper hat) and play ice cream truck music from a portable speaker. Go around delivering ice cream to residents. (suggested by Kara Reiser, Activity Director at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN)
Jurassic Park Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Amber Hills in Ebensburg, PA, which had a Jurassic Park day for its residents. They showed the movie Jurassic Park on their designated resident- channel, had a staff member wear an inflatable T-rex costume and dance with residents, and served dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Another dinosaur-related activity residents might enjoy is perusing the American Museum of Natural History’s dinosaur exhibit online (link: https://www.amnh.org/plan- your-visit/self-guided-tours/dinosaurs).
Elvis Presley Day: Gianna Prospero-Garrow, Health Center Activity Director at Harrogate Retirement Community in Lakewood, NJ, posted photos of a staff member dressed up as Elvis delivering peanut butter and banana sandwiches to residents at her facility (shared by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services). You could play Elvis’ music from a portable speaker as you delivered the sandwiches. Other potential Elvis-related activities include broadcasting one or more of his movies on your facility’s dedicated TV channel (if you have set one up), watching some of Elvis’ performances online (one-on-one with residents or broadcast to their TVs), playing Name that Tune with Elvis’ music, having an Elvis trivia competition, and of course Elvis-themed activity packets.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s Day: Laura Nicole West, Life Enrichment Manager at Sunrise Senior Living in New Jersey, shared photos of a Breakfast at Tiffany’s day at her facility. They went around to each resident’s room with a snack cart decorated with a black tablecloth and a smaller blue tablecloth, diamonds, and a big cardboard cutout of Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly. The snacks they served were Tiffany mimosas, miniature scones, and cupcakes with blue icing. Laura herself was also dressed as Holly Golightly from the movie (updo, pearls, black dress, long gloves, iconic sunglasses). If you have set up a dedicated TV channel at your facility, you could broadcast Breakfast at Tiffany’s, too.
Hawaiian Day: Kara Reiser, Activity Director at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN, shared photos of a Hawaiian-themed day at Johanna Shores. There was a snack cart decorated with hula skirts, leis, cut-outs of hibiscus flowers, and an inflatable parrot; staff dressed in Hawaiian-themed clothing; and as the staff brought the snack cart to each resident’s room, they sang and danced with them (one staff member even played a ukulele).
Pink Flamingo Day: Kori Rochefort, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Glazier Commons in Chelsea, MI, posted a photo of a pink flamingo-themed snack cart at her facility. The cart was decorated with a white tablecloth, a pink ribbon and bow tied around it, and pink yard flamingoes. The snack was pink lemonade. One staff member was dressed in pink, including pink glasses, and another was wearing an inflatable flamingo costume.
Tropical Cruise Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from St. Mary of the Woods Senior Living Community in Avon, OH, which had a “tropical cruise” for its residents while still social distancing. Staff dressed up in theme (cruise ship captain, snorkelers, fish, etc.), decorated the facility (with balloons, signposts for tropical destinations, blue paper and cut- out fish, flamingoes, anchors, tropical backdrops, etc.), played island music, and gave the residents props (captain hats, plastic margarita glasses, leis, beach balls, sunglasses, etc.). They also created a “ship” out of cardboard that residents could take pictures in.
Baseball Day: Debbie Hommel shared a post from Our House of Assisted Living of Ogden in Ogden, UT, showing staff passing out Cracker Jacks and juice boxes to residents for a baseball-themed day. You could also get staff to wear apparel from their favorite baseball teams, reminisce with residents about baseball games they’ve been to or played in, sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” together in the halls, or show classic baseball games on your dedicated resident TV channel (link: https://www.mlb.com/news/watch-classic-mlb-games-for- free).
Prince Day: Cindy Mills Housel, Recreation Director at Easton Health and Rehabilitation Center in Easton, PA, posted photos of staff celebrating Prince on the anniversary of his death (but this could be done any day). Staff dressed up like Prince or wore purple, and the snack cart was decorated with a purple tablecloth, doves, Prince’s symbol, Prince albums, and an artist’s rendering of Prince in a “Little Red Corvette.” The snacks were individual baggies of popcorn (tied off with purple ribbon) and grape soda served in purple cups. You could play Prince’s music while taking the snack cart around to residents.
Taco Tuesday: You don’t have to do this on Tuesday or call it Taco Tuesday; that’s just a convenient name for a Mexican/Tex-Mex-themed day. Most of the ideas below are from facilities’ Cinco de Mayo celebrations, but they work just as well for Taco Tuesday or similarly-themed days.
- Sandra Marie, a staff member at an unspecified nursing home, shared photos of herself and other staff members with a fiesta cart they took around to their residents for Cinco de Mayo. They served chips and salsa with sangria from the festive cart while playing Spanish music and salsa dancing.
- Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Friendship Village of Schaumburg in Schaumburg, IL, showing a video of staff at that facility wearing sombreros and fake mustaches stuck to their masks as they delivered freshly-baked churros to their residents for Cinco de Mayo.
- Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Casey Caterino, Engage Life Director at Atria Briarcliff Manor in Briarcliff Manor, NY, with videos of staff celebrating Cinco de Mayo with residents by dressing like a mariachi band and pretending to play along to mariachi music.
- Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Willowood Care Center in Brunswick, OH, which celebrated Cinco de Mayo with staff and residents. Staff dressed up in theme (one lady was an avocado, another was wearing a traditional Mexican skirt, and still another was a Mexican beer bottle). The staff went around serving residents taquitos, tortillas, guacamole, Corona beer, and margaritas.
- Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Cambria Care Center in Ebensburg, PA, showing residents enjoying Taco Tuesday. Staff visited each room with a “taco truck” cart and delivered taco salad to residents. Residents also got to take a virtual field trip to Mexico broadcast over the facility’s designated resident channel.
Corona Busters: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Melanie Noble, Activity Director at McCarthy Court in New Bern, NC, with pictures of staff and snack carts in a “Corona Busters” theme. The staff were dressed as Ghostbusters, complete with a ghost balloon, and the snack carts were decorated with white tablecloths and the Ghostbusters symbol, with a blurb saying: “Who you gonna call? Corona Busters!” One of the snacks was green Jello, which could be called ectoplasm (ghost slime) for the purpose of the theme. The other snacks were unrelated to the theme, but you could do ghost-shaped cookies or something for another related snack. You could broadcast Ghostbusters to residents’ TVs for another related activity.
Mustache Day: Brittany DeAnne Charnley, Resident Experience Coordinator at Echo Ridge in Knoxville, TN, posted photos of a “mustache day” at her facility. Staff and residents wore fake mustaches—even on top of their masks—and staff passed out a mustache trivia quiz to residents. Other mustache-related activity ideas could be a word search or crossword puzzle with mustache-related words (types of mustaches, like handlebar, chevron, Fu Manchu, pencil, or walrus; famous people with iconic mustaches, like Tom Selleck, Sam Elliot, Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dalí, Hulk Hogan, or Freddie Mercury); a coloring sheet of a blank man’s face where residents get to draw in the facial features, including a mustache; and serving mustache-shaped snacks (cookies, brownies, whatever can be easily shaped/cut to look like a mustache).
Rock Star Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Our House Assisted Living of Ogden in Ogden, UT, showing a staff member dressed up like rock star “Cindy Mohawk” (pink mohawk, pink fishnet gloves, pink shirt) taking around a food cart while blasting “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.” The food cart was decorated with two mannequin heads wearing studded chokers and with their own mohawks made out of fruit kebabs, which is the snack that was being served. You could play classic rock songs on a portable speaker and go up and down the hallways, play Name that Tune in the hallway with classic rock songs, and reminisce with residents about their favorite rock bands and concerts they’ve been to.
Pirate Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Melanie Russel McLary of Transitional Health Services of Kannapolis in Kannapolis, NC. Melanie and other staff at her facility had a pirate-themed day where they all dressed up in pirate costumes. For pirate-y activities, you could broadcast pirate movies (Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Island, Hook, The Pirates of Penzance) on your facility’s dedicated resident channel, create pirate-themed activity packets, sing sea shanties in the hallway, serve pirate- related snacks (chocolate gold coins, Goldfish, Cap’n Crunch), and so on.
Wizard of Oz Day: Theresa Clearwater Valdez Bingham of The Willows at Holmdel in Holmdel, NJ, posted a photo of a Wizard of Oz-themed snack cart. One staff member was dressed as Glenda the Good Witch, and another as the Wicked Witch of the West. The cart was decorated with yellow “bricks” (yellow paper with lines drawn on it), pictures from the movie, and a cardboard and paper replica of Dorothy’s house (complete with the Wicked Witch of the East’s legs sticking out from under it). If you have set up a dedicated channel for residents in your facility, you could broadcast the movie on it for residents to watch.
Roaring 20s Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Brandywine Living at Senior Suites in East Norriton, PA, which had a Roaring 20s-themed happy hour for its residents. The snack cart was decorated in black and gold with an art deco aesthetic, and staff and residents alike were dressed in 20s style (e.g., flapper headbands, feather boas, long gloves).
1960s Day: Ricky Rosania, Activities Assistant at Victoria Manor in North Cape May, NJ, shared photos and a video of staff and residents having a 60s dress-up day. They played 60s music in the hallways and served root beer floats to the residents. Residents could also make tie-dye shirts (this idea is mentioned above).
1980s Day: Robin Hanna, Activities Director at St. Mary of the Woods Senior Living Community in Avon, OH, shared photos of a 1980s day at her facility. Staff dressed up in ‘80s fashion or as iconic 80s characters (e.g., Doogie Howser, M.D.) and took around a cart with a boombox on it playing 80s music. Other potential 80s-themed activities include broadcasting iconic 80s movies to your residents’ TVs, reminiscing about historic events that occurred in the 80s (or even about favorite fashions, bands, movie starts, etc. that were big in the 80s), doing 80s workouts, and passing out 80s-themed activity packets.
Milk & Cookies Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Our House of Assisted Living in Ogden, Utah, showing staff delivering cookies to their residents. The snack cart was blue-themed and featured a sign saying “Brought to You by the Letter C,” and one staff member was dressed like Cookie Monster. Debbie Hommel also shared a similar post from Melanie Russel McLary of Transitional Health Services of Kannapolis in Kannapolis, NC. Melanie and another staff member dressed up as a cookie and a carton of milk to deliver milk and hot-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies to their residents.
Western Day: Debbie Hommel shared a post from Scott Lake Health and Rehabilitation in Lakeland, FL, showing a snack cart decorated to look like a Conestoga wagon for a Western-themed day the facility had. In addition to the decorated snack cart, you could broadcast old Western movies and TV shows to residents’ TVs and dress up like cowboys.
Carnival Day: Haley Mizell Peters (unknown position/facility/location) posted photos of a carnival cart her facility took around to each resident. It was decorated with balloons, a red and white striped tablecloth, a carnival tent cardboard centerpiece, pennants, and stuffed animals (bears and monkeys). On the cart were a prize wheel for residents to spin and a ring toss (6 painted glass bottles). Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Scott Lake Health and Rehabilitation in Lakeland, FL, showing pictures of a carnival-themed snack cart staff there took around to their residents’ rooms. It was decorated with streamers and a brightly-colored tablecloth and featured pretzels, Cracker Jacks, cheese puffs, and cotton candy.
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Melanie Russel McLary of Transitional Health Services of Kannapolis in Kannapolis, NC. Melanie and other staff at her facility had a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” Jamaican-themed day for the residents. They dressed up in Jamaican colors and tropical clothing, decorated their snack cart, and delivered piña coladas to residents. You could also play Jamaican music.
Paris Day: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Stirling Park Retirement Community in Ottawa, Canada, which celebrated Mother’s Day with a “trip” to Paris. The dining area was decorated like a Parisian café, and residents were served mimosas; coffee; a croissant sandwich; a salad with raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries; a Neapolitan cake; and a macaron. Later, some residents had Parisian High Tea. For dinner, the residents got to have coq au vin and a glass of wine as they enjoyed some French music. This is a pretty involved and not very socially-distant set up, but you can take inspiration from it and do a food cart or something.
Earth Day: You can do this even though the official Earth Day has come and gone already. Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from St. Mary of the Woods Senior Living Community in Avon, OH, showing staff and residents celebrating Earth Day and Arbor Day. Staff turned a cart into a “traveling rainforest” by decorating it with fake plants, balloons, and a green tablecloth and playing rainforest sounds from a tablet. Residents got to plant flowers and decorate their flower pots with stickers as well as make their own rain sticks. The snack served was “dirt and worms.”
Sunshine Stroll: If your residents are allowed to leave their rooms, on days that you have good weather, try to take residents out for a walk one at a time to get some much-needed fresh air, Vitamin D, and exercise. (suggested by Lynn Hatt Wood of Caroleton Healthcare Center in Connersville, IN)
Hallway Connect Four: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Complete Care at Linwood in Linwood, NJ, showing residents playing a giant version of Connect Four in the hallway with Activities Aid Jeannine. Each resident was in their doorway, but they could just as easily play in their room. The Activities Director, Esha Devon, commented that she got the giant Connect Four game on Amazon, but a normal-sized version would work just as well.
Looking Forward: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Avalon Assisted Living at Bridgewater in Bridgewater Township, NJ, showing pictures of staff and residents holding whiteboards on which they had written their answers to the question: “What is the first thing that you are going to do when the stay-at-home order is lifted?” You can do this with your residents and post the pictures on a bulletin board in your facility, take the pictures around for all the residents to see, send the photos to residents’ families, or post them on social media like Avalon did.
Bacon Cart: Give your residents a morning boost by taking around a cart full of bacon to each of them. Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN, showing Activity Director Kara Reiser and another staff member wearing inflatable pig costumes and singing and dancing to “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” before serving bacon to residents in their rooms.
Prize Wheel: Make or buy your own prize wheel and take it around to each resident’s room while playing upbeat music. Let each resident spin the wheel (after sanitizing their hands) and win a prize. The prizes can be whatever you want them to be; some ideas include a bag of chips, $1.00, assorted candies, pudding cups, and knickknacks. (suggested by Marcy Mushinksi, Director of Recreation at Allaire Rehab & Nursing in Freehold Township, NJ)
Tiki Bar: Sandy Barnes, Life Enrichment Director at Aberdeen Village in Olathe, KS, posted a photo of a frozen drink tiki bar she and her staff had for residents on a Friday afternoon. The “bar” (a white folding table) was decorated with grass skirts and a string of leis. The wall behind the bar was adorned with fishing nets and tiki masks. This would have to be a mobile tiki bar right now, so a cart could be decorated similarly to Aberdeen Village’s table and wall.
Dance-Off: Tiffany Jo S., Activity Director at East Side Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Warsaw, NY, shared a video of residents and staff at her facility having fun with a dance-off. They played music, and staff danced in the hall as residents danced in their doorways.
Plant a Flower: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Vintage Knolls in Danville, PA, where staff took a garden cart around to each room and allowed residents to plant a flower for their rooms from their doorways. For more engagement, residents could decorate their flower pots before planting their flowers.
Radio Show: Marie Guarascio, Activities Director at Transitions Healthcare in Washington, PA, commented that she does a radio show over the intercom of her facility. Residents can turn in song request slips throughout the day, and she plays one requested song every hour.
In-Room Scavenger Hunt: Put together a list of items that residents are likely to have in their rooms and have them go on a scavenger hunt to find the items. (suggested byApril Huddleston, Activities Director at Elk City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Elk City, OK)
Collaborative Storytelling: This is a good 1:1 activity that still manages to connect residents as a group. Take an unusual or interesting image of a person, and get one resident to name the person in the image and say who they might be. Write this down. A second resident, after being told what the first came up with, adds what the person might be doing, and so on as each resident adds to the story and you chronicle their tales. At the end, you can print up the whole story and give (or read) a copy to each resident so they can hear what story everyone’s ideas combined to tell. (suggested by Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services)
Lend an Ear: Racquel Gonzales-Milliner of Beach Terrace Care Center in Long Beach, NY, said that her most successful 1:1 activity has been giving her residents a listening ear and allowing them to trust and confide in her. Just sit and talk with your residents!
Pop-Up Dance Parade: Go to different hallways on different days and have a “pop-up dance parade.” Play music from a Bluetooth speaker and dance down the hall with your staff (or by yourself if you have to), and encourage residents to come to their doorways to watch and move to the music however they want to—clapping, dancing, whatever. (suggested by Sandy Barnes, Life Enrichment Director at Aberdeen Village in Olathe, KS)
Hallway Line Dancing: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Nursing Home in Hamilton Township, NJ, with a video of staff members doing the Cha Cha Slide in the hallway as residents watched from their rooms. Debbie also shared another post from Life Center of Orange Park in Orange Park, FL, which showed staff there line dancing in the hall for residents’ entertainment. However, the fact that residents can’t come out from their doorways and join the line dancing with staff doesn’t mean that they can’t join in on the dancing. You can get residents to do the dance moves along with you from their doorways, too.
Farmer’s Market: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a post from Attic Angel Community in Middleton, WI, where staff brought a cart of fresh produce around to the residents since they can’t go out to the farmer’s market themselves. One staff member dressed like a farmer, and the other dressed in vegetable-themed clothing.
Fortune Telling: Dress up like a stereotypical fortune teller (red bandana/scarf on head, lots of necklaces and bracelets, skirt, etc.) and decorate a cart with candles, a crystal ball, red and black fabrics, and so on to resemble a fortune teller’s table or tent. Visit each resident in their room. To “read” their fortune, you can use several methods. One is to use Q Cards, a deck of colorful cards that forecast your fortune with a picture and a word or short phrase. (They aren’t “real” tarot cards, so they make it clear that this is all in good fun and not serious.) Try to relate each fortune back to life in your facility. For example, if a resident’s card says “risk,” tell them that they will “try a new item on their dinner plate in the future.” If it says “jackpot,” they will “win big at bingo.” You can also use a deck of regular playing cards to tell residents their “Las Vegas fortunes.” You can find different charts online that assign a fortune to each card and read from one of those. In addition to telling fortunes, give out little slips of paper (like in a fortune cookie) with “Confucius say...” quips on them. These quips can also be found online. (suggested by Kathy Wanamaker-Sleight, unknown position/facility/location)
Name Five: Play in the hallway with residents in their doorways. You choose a category, and the residents need to collectively come up with five things that fall into that category. For example: vegetables, Elvis Presley songs, soft drinks, or kinds of bears. You may want to spend extra time on each category because if your residents like to keep going beyond five things; this often leads to reminiscing and good discussion. You could also play Name Five with residents one-on-one. (suggested by Susan Bailey Davis, unknown position/facility/location)
Mad Libs: Purchase Mad Libs booklets from a dollar store or print off Mad Libs from the internet. Do a whole Mad Libs story with each resident (suggested by Tina Dyal, Activity Director at Heritage Center in Evansville, IN) or make it into more of a group activity by getting one or two words from each resident, then going back to all the residents and reading them the whole story (suggested by Alicia Knudson Pedersen of The Estates at Fridley in Fridley, MN).
Grant-a-Wish: Ask each of your residents: “If you could trade a roll of toilet paper for anything, what would you trade it for?” (They might write things like a banana, a bottle of Coke, vodka, a can of sardines and a bag of chips, or a breakfast bar—all of these are wishes from residents at Stonehenge of Springville.) Write their response on a poster/whiteboard/blackboard and take a picture of them holding it up. Post these pictures somewhere in your facility for staff to see and ask staff to sign up to for a resident whose wish they want to grant. Give the residents their wishes; take a picture of each resident with their item(s) and post these pictures next to the original ones so staff can see. It would also be nice to send these pictures to residents’ families. (suggested by Suzan Stone Grant of Stonehenge of Springville in Springville, UT)
Parades: If your facility is set up so that all residents could see a vehicle parade drive by from their windows, or if your residents are allowed to go outside while social distancing from each other and watch a parade drive by, then you could have a car parade. You could also have a parade of people walk past residents’ windows if they are all ground-level. Another option is a parade put on by staff down each hallway.
Rescue Animal Parade: Diane Wheeler (unknown position/facility/location) posted that her facility had a local animal rescue do an animal parade around the outside of the building as residents watched from their windows. The shelter also videoed the parade and posted the videos online so staff could show the videos to residents 1:1. After the parade, residents and staff spent the day talking about happy memories of growing up and family pets.
Farm Animal Parade: Candie Cain-Fligor of Elmwood Assisted Living & Skilled Nursing in Fremont, OH, commented that her facility had Dress Like a Farmer Day, on which they also had a farm animal parade outside residents’ windows. They had horses, goats, a donkey, a pig, chickens, ducks, a cow, dogs, and other animals from local famers.
Community Parade: Jenifer Stinson, Activity Director at Riverside Health & Rehabilitation Center in Danville, VA, shared a video of a community parade her facility had. The Danville Police Department, Danville Fire Department, Danville Utilities, community organizations, and city residents joined together and drove in a parade around the facility as residents watched from the sidewalk. Many of the parade members had signs on their vehicles with messages for residents (particular ones and in general), and many residents held signs with messages for their friends and family in the parade.
Antique Car Parade: Reach out to your community in general or to local car clubs and organize an antique car parade to drive by your facility. (suggested by Kara Reiser, Activity Director at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, MN)
Traveling Circus Parade: Debbie Hommel, founder of DH Special Services, shared a video from Princeton Health Care Center in Princeton, WV. They had a “traveling circus” parade up and down each hallway in their facility. Included in the circus procession were staff members dressed in theme (clown outfits, a ringmaster vest, animal print); “circus wagons” containing stuffed animals like elephants, tigers, and bears; a cart with (caged) live ducks; a cart with a (caged) live chicken; and a lady carrying a live parrot.
Flickin’ Chicken: Cindy Imhoff, Activity Coordinator at Compass Memorial Healthcare in Marengo, IA, commented that she plays a game called “Flickin’ Chicken” with her residents. It’s an actual game you can buy apparently, but you could just as easily go buy some rubber chickens and small hula hoops (which is what Cindy uses for targets anyway instead of the bullseyes that come with the game) and play using those. The object of the game is to toss the rubber chickens into the hula hoops (probably there are a few hula hoops of varying difficulty and point values).
Hallway Pictionary: Get a dry erase board, markers, and an eraser and play Pictionary in the hallway. If residents are taking turns being the drawer, the markers can easily be sanitized in between uses. On the other hand, you or another staff member could be the permanent artist, and the residents could just guess every time. (suggested by Cindy Hooley of Friona Heritage Estates in Friona, TX)
What’s in the Bag?: Khristie Marie Josephine of Forest View Manor in Jackson, WI, commented that she plays “What’s in the Bag?” with her residents (with a bag that is easy to sanitize). Get an opaque drawstring bag and an assortment of items which will individually fit in the bag. Keep these items out of sight (in a box or something). Put one item in the bag, close it up, and ask the resident to feel the bag and guess what the item is. Give them some clues about the item. They get 3 chances to guess correctly. After their 3 guesses are up—or they guess correctly—take the item out of the bag and show it to them. Khristie sometimes leaves the bag empty so that air is the “item” in the bag, which she said some residents get a big kick out of. For some item suggestions, she said, “Our best items are paperclips, a notebook, clothespins, and a plastic horse.”
Archive.org: Bethenie Lukl of The Evergreen Inn in Vancouver, WA, recommendedhttps://archive.org/ as a great free resource for books, documentaries, music, TV shows, concerts, and much more.
Sunshine and Rainbow Craft: Melinda Alison (unknown position/facility) of New York posted a fun and easy craft she did with her residents—a sunshine and rainbow. Take a paper plate, cut it in half, and paint it yellow. Then draw smiley face on it—this is the sun. Cut out little triangles from orange and yellow construction paper for the sun’s rays and glue or tape them around the outside of the plate. Then hang streamers in every color of the rainbow from the bottom of the plate (glue or tape them to the backside of the plate) to make the rainbow.