We know it’s challenging right now. Your residents are cut off from their friends, families and most of the familiar faces they see on a daily basis. But there are still many, many different activities you can put in place, that still engage your older adults on a daily basis. We are compiling a large resource of ideas coming out of communities across North America. We will keep updating the list as new ideas appear.
And please remember, before you engage new activities, ensure you are following proper hygiene, safety protocols and social distancing.
Museums across the world are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus. But thanks to Google Arts & Culture, you can still explore hundreds of them online. From Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum to Seoul’s National Museum of Modern more than 500 museums and galleries offer up a peek inside their doors. Google has put together a top 10 list. If you are not sure where to start.
If you live in a comfortable climate and residents can still go outside, it’s a great way to visit while still maintaining social distance. You can also follow the lead of this Father and Son, who talked on the phone, while sitting on opposite sides of a window. Even visual connection can mean so much during these times.
Another way to leverage the outdoors is with your roster of entertainers. If they are not self-isolating, then have them perform outside for residents. In Italy an opera singer has been serenading people from his balcony and in Spain, they are holding outdoor exercise routines, where people follow along from their windows.
If they can’t appear in person, have them perform remotely! Using Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts or some other type of online software to have them put on a show for residents. This also helps them keep getting paid!
This can be with another resident or a family member. It’s a great way to learn about others, share a story and remind them of a time before email took over.
Schools and daycares are closing, so put the kids to work. Have them draw their favourite animals, superheros or anything else that comes to mind. And make sure the kids write the residents name or include them in the picture to make it personal.
This is a big ask but has a big payoff. Many communities will have to share devices such as ipads and dvd players. The ability to communicate with the outside world or escape into a favourite movie, whenever they want, is a tremendous benefit for isolated residents.
David Prater, Activity Director at Cedarview Rehabilitation and Nursing in Ohio, put a call out to the community for DVD players and this is what he got back.
If you try this and end up getting items, you will want to make sure though that everything is cleaned and sanitized before handing them out.
If there aren’t enough devices to go around, take a photo of a resident which can be shared with family and friends. Better yet, have them write and message on a white board or piece of paper, which they can hold up in the photo.
If you have no team or additional support, many hospitality and service staff are now out of work. Hire them or ask them to volunteer. They will need to follow any new screening or hygiene protocols but it may be worth exploring this option to help shoulder the load, if group activities are no longer permitted.
Spotify has an endless amount of options. It may be fun to craft a list together of their favourite songs and talk about their choices. You could even combine everyone's choices, so the entire community has music to share and feel connected.
An oldie but goodie! Radio is great because of its diversity, it keeps you updated with current events and allows for more conversation than staring at the TV. You can also stream any radio station in the world via the internet or with an app like Tune-In. You can even search YouTube for classic and old-time radio shows from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Classic Radio is a popular one.
It is standard but important. And this is a time when people's concerns about the well-being of older adults is heightened. There are dozens of ways people can communicate now and see each other. Facebook allows for video calls, Google has Duo, Apple has FaceTime and there are dozens of others.
Billboard is keeping an ongoing list of artists who have or will be livestreaming performances during the covid-19 outbreak. You can also go on youtube and find thousands and thousands of past concerts from the past 50 years.
Keep story time going by having people read books together remotely. Here is a list of ten websites where people can access online libraries. Families can read them together with a phone line and internet connection.
A very simple thing that keeps giving back. It gives seniors something to take care of and be responsible for. And it shouldn’t eat up your budgets.
Remember these! Seniors likely have a few dozen pictures that could be organized and put into a collection. It gives them a chance to talk about themselves, share stories and reminisce about positive times.
Audio books and podcasts are great for older adults who have challenged vision. There are now thousands of audiobooks and podcasts online. Audible is the most popular site for audiobooks but again you could also search YouTube.
Painting, drawing or any other form of creative expression which gets the brain working and focused on a task will be a good thing. What’s great about painting, is that you can paint almost anything! Paper, plates, rocks, wood...the options are endless and inexpensive.
Again, we can look to YouTube to help us out. There are many low-impact workout videos tailored to seniors. Here is one from the National Institute on Aging.
Your residents may be feeling a whole range of emotions during the covid-19 pandemic. It can be healthy to have a place to channel these feelings. A journal or diary, whether it’s written, spoken or in front of a camera can be a therapeutic and safe place for them to externalize their thoughts.
That shelf in your community which is full of options but often neglected - now is the time to lean on it. Puzzles are great as a solo activity, keeping both the mind and body busy.
Either on paper or online. It’s a great exercise for the mind and residents could even do them together with the right technology or setup.
Knitting, Light Cooking, Sculpting there are many ways you can get them started on making something. Knitting is a great one, where residents can make hats, mitts or scarfs which can then be donated.
Find out what they would like to do in their rooms? They may have ideas you haven’t thought of. Kristina Karjala at Chris Jensen Health & Rehabilitation Center in Minnesota made door hangers which allowed her to collect feedback from staff:
We hope you found some inspiring activity ideas to try out with residents in your senior living community! If this list sparked your creativity, sign up for our newsletter to get even more fun activity ideas sent to your inbox. Every resident’s well-being is at the heart of what we do.
Wendy studies English Language and Literature at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.
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