Activities for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living

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Activities for Nursing Homes and Assisted Living

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An individualized, well thought out activities program is at the heart of a quality life for residents in nursing homes or assisted living residences. Activities are not just about bingo and watching television.

In fact, activity programs can be quite creative and stimulating for the mind. And the health and well-being benefits of a good program are becoming more and more documented. In short, this stuff works.

Activities are an integral part of the cultural change movement and central to person-centered care. It is essential for resident quality of life. Nursing Home activities are governed by federal regulations called F-Tags.

While Assisted Living activities are not as highly regulated, many facilities emulate the standards set for nursing homes.

F-Tag 248 states that “the facility must provide for an ongoing program of activities designed to meet, in accordance with the comprehensive assessment, the interests and the physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident.”1

The intent is that the facility identifies each resident’s interests and needs and involves the resident in an ongoing program of activities that is designed to appeal to his or her interests and to enhance the resident’s highest practicable level of physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.

Activity Professional Careers

Caregiver talking with older woman
Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Do you enjoy working with the elderly? Do you like a job that requires flexibility, ongoing learning, organization, communication skills, and openness to new experiences? Then a career as an activity professional may be for you! And if you are in the profession already, these articles can help you navigate your career successfully.What Do Different Types of Physicians Do?

Incorporating Music Into Activities

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Portrait of man playing trumpet
Daniel Grill / Getty Images

The power of music and what it does to bring back memories is undeniable. This hub of articles will show you innovative programs that you may want to emulate.Music Programs for Seniors

Using Technology in Your Activity Programs

Getting some help from her granddaughter to speed things along
PeopleImages / Getty Images

Electronics have revolutionized the world of activity programming for independent, assisted living and long-term care facilities. Bring seniors along with the technology while uncovering some cool tools for your activity programs.5

Capturing Life Stories

Senior women laughing in sportswear
Sam Edwards / Getty Images

There’s an old saying in journalism, “Everyone has a story.” Activity directors know this is true. But how do you draw out the fascinating tales of your residents’ lives in a way which preserves and shares this unique view of history? How do you help them to tell their life story?Sharing the Life Story of a Loved One With Dementia6

Art Projects for Residents

Man painting in art class
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Art projects for seniors can enhance their quality of life while helping them learn a new skill.2 Art appreciation also helps foster lifelong learning and mind stimulation.7

One-on-One Activities

Friends playing cards together
JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

Learn how to engage people who cannot or will not leave their room.8

Use Science to Engage Residents in Current Events

Senior man using telescope at home
Roger Weber / Getty Images

Fifteen percent of newspaper readers are aged 70 or older.3 While much of the news is bad, there is an area of good news that can be used to engage residents in current events. That is science! And using science for seniors as part of your activities program can help stimulate the brain and contribute to the resident’s quality of life.9


Mature female potter giving presentation during meeting against window at workshop
Maskot / Getty Images

The activity director of an assisted living home serving long and short term care residents can often feel pulled in two directions. How do you provide regular activities residents look forward to while creating programs that entice rehab patients?

Ceramics can be a fun activity for all ages. These classes give temporary residents a chance to come and participate for an hour or so, and can also be a starting point for an ongoing activity for long-term residents. And there you have a way to serve two populations in one program. To this end, ceramics is an ideal fit!10

Memory Care

African American grandmother showing book to grandson, smiling
Johnny Greig / Getty Images

Sight, smell, sounds, touch all invoke memories. An effective activities program that incorporates memory care can really add to the quality of life of elders and others who we encounter in aging services across the continuum of care.11

Memory Mats

Older Black woman looking at photographs
Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

Memory Mats are table-mats that use personalized photos and words to evoke memories and start conversations.12

Staging a Carnival in Your Facility

Senior Woman Holding a Ball By a Hole in a Clown's Head With a Senior Man With His Arms Around Her
Rob Melnychuk / Getty Images

The smell of funnel cakes in the hallway, the sound of carousel music coming from the dining room and the unusual sight of a clown walking in the front door means one thing at Sterling Healthcare & Rehabilitation in Media, Pennsylvania—it’s carnival time!

Proving that if residents are not able to get to the carnival you can bring the carnival to them.13

Chair Chi

Senior Citizens Taking Exercise Class
James Leynse / Getty Images

Chair Chi is an exercise program based on the principles of Tai Chi Chuan but designed for the elderly in retirement communities, assisted living, personal care homes, nursing homes and adult day centers.How Can Tai Chi Help With Parkinson’s Disease?14

Activities for Short-Term Rehab

Senior Excercise Class
FatCamera / Getty Images

The statistics tell the story. At the beginning of the 21st century, The number of Americans ages 65 and older currently stands at about 52 million and is expected to nearly double by 2060.4

The reality is a majority of older Americans will spend at least a short term stay recovering and rehabbing from medical miracles such as hip, knee, and other joint replacements as well as serious medical conditions, ranging from a broken bone to a stroke.

The challenge for activity directors: what do to with short term rehab residents? Here are some ideas.15

Activities for Men

Three multi-ethnic senior men on bench talking
kali9/Getty Images

In most retirement communities women residents outnumber the men, with facilities that are exclusively for veterans being the exception. It’s a fact of life for most activity directors but planning for men’s activities is also a must.

In this article, we look at some ideas for successful men’s programming.16

Using Food to Evoke Memories

Mature couple eating in a restaurant
Bloom Productions / Getty Images

Nothing says home like the smell, sight, and taste of a familiar recipe. A report on National Public Radio found that Mom’s comfort food evoked more of childhood than photos or favorite toys.5

Atria Senior Living has found a way to bring favorite memories to a wider audience through “A Dash and a Dollop,” a cookbook of favorite recipes.17

Summer School for Seniors

Two senior women having fun painting in art class
kali9/Getty Images

Pine Run University is a summer school-like program that takes place during a down time in the regularly scheduled activities offering 30 classes in the summer including gardening, belly dancing, Italian, flower pressing, photography, art techniques, and ethics.

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