From shared Thanksgiving feasts that nourish both body and soul to heartfelt moments of deep gratitude, this time of year holds special significance in senior living communities. It's a time to cultivate spiritual well-being and foster profound connections. In this blog, we're unveiling 10 activity ideas that will not only infuse your community with a sense of spiritual abundance but also guide our residents on a journey of meaning and joy in these cherished moments. So, grab a cup of hot cocoa, cozy up, and let's dive into some activity ideas! 🦃🙏
Loving-Kindness Meditation, often referred to as Metta Meditation, offers an opportunity to promote inner peace, compassion, and emotional well-being, and it's backed by scientific research. One 7-week study demonstrated it can increase positive feelings such as love, joy, cheerfulness, appreciation, fulfillment, amusement, and even awe. This technique is especially beneficial to practice before the holiday season, a time when we often spend more time with family, which can bring both joy and stress to our lives. Loving-Kindness Meditations can equip residents with tools to stay calm and centered during family gatherings.
Here’s how to guide residents through a Loving-Kindness Meditation:
Encourage your residents to express their gratitude by playing a unique twist on the classic game of pick-up sticks. Paint chopsticks in five colors, each representing something to be thankful for (e.g., red for people, orange for places). Players take turns picking sticks without disturbing any other sticks; otherwise, they lose that turn. Once they've successfully picked up a stick, they share gratitude based on the stick's color. The one with the most sticks at the end wins. This game, ideal to be played around American Thanksgiving, can also help residents spiritually reflect on the things they are grateful for as the holiday season approaches.
A great way to help residents prepare for the holidays is to begin early by hosting a holiday card-making session in November. You can add an element of mindfulness by introducing residents to Zentangles, an easy-to-learn, relaxing, and enjoyable technique for creating beautiful images through structured patterns. Zentangles, a meditative art form, involve crafting intricate designs using simple shapes, lines, and dots. The Zentangle Method is known to increase focus, creativity, self-confidence, and overall well-being. Provide your residents with cards featuring simple holiday shapes, such as ornaments or Christmas trees. Residents can then apply Zentangle techniques to fill in these shapes, resulting in beautiful handmade cards, even for those who may doubt their artistic abilities.
Transforming old glass jars into beautiful winter-themed candle holders is a fantastic craft activity to prepare for the holidays. Residents can get creative by decorating old jars with items like cranberries, cinnamon, pine sprigs, burlap, and ribbons. Just pop in an artificial tea light, and you've got candle holders that bring warmth and coziness to any room. These DIY creations can help to set a serene mood. Encourage residents to enjoy the candle's soft glow and take a moment to relax with some deep breaths, especially when the holiday season gets a bit overwhelming.
During the holiday season, there's often an abundance of delicious foods to enjoy. November is an ideal time to organize a mindful eating workshop that helps residents fully savor the tasty treats that come with this time of year. One engaging approach is to introduce the concept of the raisin meditation, a unique practice developed by mindfulness teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn. This practice encourages residents to mindfully explore and savor a single raisin, or perhaps a craisin for a more festive take. Residents are invited to carefully observe the raisin's appearance, texture, and scent before finally eating the raisin while mindfully appreciating its taste. This meditation also prompts reflection on the entire process and the people involved in bringing that raisin to their plate, nurturing a sense of unity and gratitude for things that might otherwise be taken for granted. Extend this practice to other treats like a piece of chocolate or a slice of fruit, providing residents with an opportunity to relish the moment and cultivate gratitude for life's simple pleasures.
Celebrate the vibrant diversity in your community! Invite residents to share their holiday traditions from various faith backgrounds. November is an ideal time for this activity as it allows you to incorporate some of the shared traditions into your December calendar. This activity promotes understanding, unity, and appreciation of different cultures as you gear up for the holiday season.
Create a calming and spiritual experience with a DIY indoor labyrinth. A labyrinth is a pattern of pathways that weave in a circle around a central point, inviting individuals to embark on a journey, both inward and outward. Labyrinth walking is an ancient practice used by various faiths for spiritual centering, contemplation, and prayer. This simple, age-old practice can be traced back through history, from Greek pottery to Spanish petroglyphs, and even walkable versions on the floors of medieval cathedrals in Europe.
As residents enter the labyrinth's path, encourage them to walk slowly, quieting their minds and focusing on a spiritual question or prayer. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth has only one way in and one way out, eliminating the need to navigate complex choices. To create your labyrinth, you can use painter's tape to mark the path on the floor or purchase a large canvas, allowing it to be folded away and reused for future sessions. Enhance the ambiance by adding tea lights, which can guide residents to walk the labyrinth mindfully, paying attention to their breath and inner thoughts. While this spiritual activity can be done at any time of year, it offers a unique way to prepare residents' minds and spirits for the upcoming holiday season.
Create an Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar together in November, so it's ready to go on December 1st. Fill it with daily acts of kindness that seniors can do in the run-up to the holidays. These acts can draw from the shared values of various faiths where kindness holds a central place.
Gather your residents to brainstorm 24 acts of kindness that can be written on strips of paper. Then, collect 12 paper towel rolls, cut them in half, and insert the strips of paper inside. Residents can wrap these rolls in festive paper to create the calendar. Place it in your home, and each day of December, residents can open a roll to discover the act of kindness they'll perform. This project spreads cheer and fosters a sense of unity, compassion, and shared purpose within your community.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is time to consider all the good in our lives and community and show it! Building a gratitude tree is one way to visualize our blessings. The medium can change depending on the materials you have on hand. Construction paper, tissue, and craft paper are all useable here. Depending on your community, residents can work together to cut out leaves or the team can purchase artificial leaves at the local dollar store or hobby store. Here is the real challenge: get your residents to think of different personal things they appreciate. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can really change the mood of a room for the better. Once you have enough leaves, assemble and display your work!
Thanksgiving brings the family together. For residents unable to go visit their families, it is especially important to prepare a Thanksgiving meal that shows them they are seen and loved. Why not decorate? These centerpieces will remind people of great times. Wicker cornucopias are available year-round in most craft and hobby stores. To save money, you can also use construction paper and tissue! You can fill them in with craft foam to add extra stability to your decorations. Now the fun part - add corn, pumpkins, candy corn, twigs, or dried leaves... There are so many options to add to these to make them stand out! You can even have residents collect materials on a fall walk as well!
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.
Holly is a member of Welbi’s Marketing team! She has a background in communications and marketing, and is a compassionate individual who loves team work, story telling, and wellness.
Wendy is a student in the Honours BA in English program at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
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