By Haley Burress United States
One of the best parts of our jobs as Activity Professionals is gathering our residents together to enjoy a chat, a snack, a trip, or a concert. Sharing experiences makes us feel connected, which makes us feel loved and valued.
Current social distancing guidelines, while certainly important, are definitely throwing a wrench into our usual social events. Here’s how to create that same feeling of a shared event, without the close proximity.
Seniors are especially vulnerable to feelings of isolation and loneliness. Typically, we see isolated seniors at home alone. Older adults who live in senior living communities are generally more active and more social because of the opportunities they have throughout the day to connect with neighbors and staff members.
Socialization is important for everyone, but especially for older adults. Benefits include:
Social distancing within each senior living community is looking a bit different depending on where you are in the world right now. In all cases, though, your activity program is not the same as it was this time last year. It’s okay; we will all get through it together with some creativity and some idea-sharing. Our residents depend on it.
Now is the perfect time to start some new daily and weekly traditions in your community! Traditions are important because they are not only shared between a group of people (your residents and staff), but also because they give us something to look forward to.
Start daily and weekly traditions within your community like:
You can also work with dining to create a new tradition around a weekly meal:
Part of socialization is the support residents feel from their neighbors. You can recreate this by offering activities that encourage collaboration while keeping socially distant by:
1. Partner Residents
Have residents partner up with other residents to call one another or send cards to one another.
2. Happy Mail Station
Set up a Happy Mail Station in your community where you provide blank stationery and envelopes for residents to take, write a note, and return to the Happy Mail Station Mailbox for delivery to other residents in the community.
3. Support Chain
Start a Support Chain out of construction paper links that residents can cut and write encouraging words on while in their rooms. Then, connect the links from residents to create a literal support chain you can hang throughout your hallways. You can also ask family members to mail you links to add as well.
4. Notes of Encouragement
Ask a resident to write a note of encouragementthat you will include in your daily or weekly newsletter that you drop off to resident rooms.
5. When We’re Through This List
Make a When We’re Through This List of things your residents want to do when we successfully make it through social distancing guidelines. Post ideas on a giant piece of paper outside your office door and look forward to checking off the items (hopefully sooner than later!).
6. Group Craft Project
Work on a group craft project like creating a vase of sunflowers.
7. Hallway Games
Play games in the hallway that keep residents safe at their room doors and that do not include shared items. Try hallway poker or bingo, as cards can be easily wiped down before their next use.
You can also use technology to connect residents and encourage collaboration:
2. TV Binge Clubs
Set up “Binge Clubs” where small groups of residents watch the same show or series and then chat about it via video calls or hallway conversations.
3. Collaborative Writing
Have residents write poems or stories together while apart. You or your staff can start the story or poem with one resident, typing it on your device. Then, wipe down the device before heading to the next resident. Read what you have so far and have the new resident add to it. Continue until you have a full story or poem to share. You can also do this with Google Docs if you have independent residents who are familiar with it.
4. Virtual Concerts
Ask your favorite entertainers to put on a virtual concert for your residents to enjoy
Social activities don’t have to be in large groups for residents to get the benefits of being together. During this time, create new activity opportunities that focus on shared events or traditions, as well as collaboration and connection.
What is working (and not working) in your community right now?