What activities would you want that currently are not offered?

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I am a Resident Services Assistant at an Assisted Living Community. What activities would you suggest be offered that are not typically on the schedule. If you work at an Assisted Living Community, what are your most unusual events? If you are a resident or family member of a resident in an AL community, please list any activities/outings that you would like to see added to the Activity Calendar that are currently not offered at your community.


I am very glad to see somebody with your role asking this question.It opens the door to genuine enrichment of your residents' lives.

I worked for two clients, linked but different companies, one that built and ran retirement communities with continuing care, and another that specialised in community and residential services for people living with dementia and their families.

What made these organisations among my favourite-ever clients was their attitude to older people's quality of life. The first did something similar to what you're doing: when it came to thinking about enrichment activities, they asked their residents. At one village, the residents said they enjoyed singing - but proper, real singing, not just la-la-ing along to old records - and I was told to work on recruiting a choir master to come and teach them on a regular schedule. They also organised adventure holidays (you can abseil in a wheelchair, did you know that?); and devised paid jobs within the villages so that able residents who missed the satisfaction of working could be part of the staff team.

Focusing on residents with memory loss and/or dementia, the second organisation had specialists called Locksmiths who worked with people to 'unlock' their recollections of their lives. Not just events, but their preferences and feelings, to build up a resource that everyone working with them could use to connect with the whole person rather than the frail elder sitting in a wheelchair.

The lesson I learned from both companies is to focus on what people can do, and never to assume that older people can't or don't want to learn. Who knows who's still got a novel in him? Or which lady might prove brilliant at Angry Birds, or learn to email her young descendants in another continent?

But to repeat: the most important thing you can do is ask the question, then follow up imaginatively. Well done to you, your residents are lucky to have you on the team.
Thanks for your response. I am fortunate to work with wonderful residents and a caring boss and Executive Team. We regularly ask our residents for their input and ideas but rarely hear any ideas that are truly new/unique. We try to rotate activities/games/outing, but it is hard to take popular activities off the schedule.

I appreciate your comments/ideas and I will try to follow your advice of thinking imaginatively.
If the activities are popular, why would you want to take them off the schedule?!

Don't get lured away by buzzwords like 'innovative' and - mea culpa - 'imaginative' when what really matters is whether or not people are enjoying themselves and socialising. If bingo's what they prefer, and they reliably turn up to do it, then let the inspectors be as sniffy as they like about 'we're not really seeing any new ideas here...' You only want to fix the things that aren't working! - and, of course, try to engage those residents who seem to be withdrawing: that's where a bit more digging might pay off.

Depending on your schedule, you can think about integrating activities within the home routine rather than as a sealed-off session. Example: daily newspaper group, taking over a table or two in the dining room for residents to discuss the headlines at or after breakfast - preferably focused on sports and human interest stories - you don't want to start a political punch-up!
At my mom' s Independent Living facility, they had a stock market club. Working in teams of two, they'd pick a small portfolio of stocks. The team that had the most "gains" at the end of each month got a small prize. My mom, who had NEVER invested in the market ( my dad said it was gambling) was fascinated and became quite a "picker"!
BarbBrooklyn, I love your idea and think that some of our residents may enjoy the stock market club idea. Just earlier today I heard one of the residents talking about her stock broker being conservative and not making many changes in her portfolio this year. I will ask around tomorrow and see what kind of response I get from residents Thanks!
My observation is that you need different activities for different interests and level of ability. One assisted living (AL) place I was involved with had a speaker on art. She had a slide show of master paintings and did a brief background on the artist, etc. It may sound interesting BUT most of the residents were dozing through the entire presentation. I spoke with her afterwards and mentioned that it was hard to hear her. (She was really speaking much too softly for the audience.) She didn't take it well and said if everyone would be quiet they could hear her!
At a memory care facility, girl scouts came with a craft project. The residents who could followed their instructions. Those that couldn't had a scout helping them. I asked the leader how the project was selected. She said she chose something in a book for 8 year olds. Skill wise I think most of the residents were capable of the project BUT they had to crumble newspaper and I think that threw some of them off.
In rehab, I saw them put a group of patients in a seated circle and they had a large (lightweight) ball that they tossed back and forth. The patients LOVED it. It helped eye hand coordination and arm flexibility. The staff knew what to do and called the person's name as they tossed the ball to them.
Tried and true and ever popular in all places ---MUSIC programs. But music appropriate to the audience. When I visited during these programs I always got a kick out of Margaritaville but the residents liked 'bicycle built for two' and 'you are my sunshine'.
About live music -- always a winner! Mom loved it when professionals were brought in to entertain. She even liked hymn sing-alongs, though she didn't know many of them and hadn't been to church since childhood. It was the music she liked, rather than any message.

The music presented was of the "you are my sunshine" variety. The audience seemed to relate to that. But I thought that if/when I am part of the audience this wouldn't be of great interest to me. The facility where a friend lived periodically had live classical music presentations -- much more to her taste than "a bicycle built for two." The next generation to populate care centers will probably want classic rock!

If your facility has no residents who for years had subscription tickets to the local symphony orchestra, stick to an accordion player doing the oldies. But try to learn and accommodate the range of tastes and interests among your residents. Music is great, but all music isn't necessarily equal.
Something to keep in mind: there are increasingly people in AL who may have once been considered more appropriate for a higher level of care. In my experience those with any physical disability or who have difficulty cognitively are often left out of facility activities because no one is available to sign them up, remind them to participate or help them get there.
My Mom has since passed but I recall her first day at the nursing home another resident (the designated welcome wagon, I'm assuming) took Mom down for Irish day since it was St. Patrick's day and my Mom was a proud Irish woman. They had a quiz. Mom told me that she got most of the answers and all the other residents peered at her like she was from another planet. She never participated in anything after that. Sadly, her cognitive abilities were a little more far reaching than most of the people there, so she really didn't have any peers that she could relate to. Here in Canada, when a bed opens up somewhere you jump for it. I wish we could have been more selective and found her a place where she could have had more intellectual stimulation. She declined quite rapidly after that. I often wonder what if.................

So, when speculating on activities that residents wouId enjoy I think you first have to establish the resident's level of understanding before involving them in any group activity. I found most of what was "entertainment" at my Mom's care facility was degrading and embarrassing, to say the least. I can't say that I blame her for not participating.
Jeanne, your comment tickled me. I just had a vision of me one day sitting in my wheelchair grooving to Def Leppard or Foreigner.............Lol! Rod Stewart's "If you Think I'm Sexy" tee hee!

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