19 Ways for Residents to Socialize in Isolation

19 Ways for Residents to Socialize in Isolation

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Coronavirus: Covid-19 Articles

Social events don’t exactly meet social distancing guidelines, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still create a feeling of community with your residents. Here are ideas on how to share events without sharing contact.
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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.

Why Socialization is Important

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:

  • Decreased feelings of depression and anxiety
  • Decreased health complications from obesity to heart disease
  • Decreased cognitive loss
  • Increased immune system response (we can all use this right now!)
  • Feeling connected and supported by peers

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.

Daily and Weekly Traditions

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:

  • Friday Happy Hour Carts, complete with fun giveaways that match the theme (leis for a Hawaiian Happy Hour, Flowers for a spring theme, etc.) Don’t forget to include music that matches your theme too!
  • Movement Mondays, where you and your activity staff “perform” a dance number in the halls of your community that residents can join in on to brush away any Monday blues. Start simple with things like the twist or macarena.
  • Strolling Sing-A-Long Afternoons, where you play and sing some old favorites throughout the halls so residents can join in.
  • Trivia Tuesdays, where you give every interested resident a trivia sheet at the beginning of the morning and pick them up at the end of the day to see who got the most correct.
  • Good Night routine, as you and your activity staff leave for the day, you can do a little Good Night routine like the Walton’s.

You can also work with dining to create a new tradition around a weekly meal:

  • Sunday comfort foods
  • Saturday fine dining
  • Wednesday resident favorites

7 Ways to Encourage Support and Collaboration

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.


4 Ways to Use Technology to Connect Residents

You can also use technology to connect residents and encourage collaboration:


1. Online Games
Play games together like Words with Friends or online cards.


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?

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Haley Burress

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Comments   Post a Comment

Haley Burress 29th Apr 2020
Hi Sone -
I am IN LOVE with your cup group art project! Well done!
Haley Burress 29th Apr 2020
Hi Karen - I love that you are actively working with your Memory Cafe folks! I helped run our Memory Cafe here in my town for a few years, so I can understand how they could definitely benefit from some connection right now.
If a Zoom or Google Meet meeting doesn't quite go well, I wonder if you could start a private Facebook group that is invitation only. You could post videos of yourself with a fun joke of the day or trivia question of the day and encourage them to comment and say hello to their friends. You could utilize Facebook Live within that group as well. You can also post resources for caregivers and activity sheets.
I know not everyone has access to social media, but it seems to be more and more common. Could be worth a try? Let me know how it goes!
Susan 29th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Wow Haley thank you for your great thoughts on the subject
Susan 28th Apr 2020 Activity Director
I think a zoom meet is a great idea Karen
Initially you may have to help them set it up but it should work well
Another thing is to have one resident call another resident
You might want to consider a teleconference which is fairly easy to set up but it depends on what kind of phones and service your residents have
Good luck I know it’s hard but you can do it just keep a positive attitude
Karen 27th Apr 2020 COA Director
Those are all great ideas! Thanks Haley! I am trying to think of ways to keep my Memory Café folks connected - as they are at their homes during this time - but I still check on them and call them - but what else can I do to keep us all connected. I am in the process of trying to do a zoom meet! Thank you for any suggestions!
Solange 28th Apr 2020 Diversional Therapist
Hi Karen. Its such challenging times, remember you are not alone. We will see the end of it soon. Have you thought about having ‘Hallway’ activities? Have residents sitting at the door entrance of their rooms so they can see each other at a distance. Present activities like a sing-along, poetry reading, read aloud short stories and jokes, chair exercises, Roll a Ball game (give each resident a pool noodle and throw a small beach ball in the hallway for them to pass around), themed quizzes, Finish the Proverbs, True or False, quizzes: Threesome, True or False, themed quizzes, High Tea. You can also spice things up with a competition: enlarge one ‘Spot the Differences’ and give each resident a copy; whoever finds the most gets a token reward. Take care, thinking of you.
Alison 27th Apr 2020 Activitycoordinator
what a great idea
Soné 22nd Apr 2020 Lifestyle Team Leader
Here is our current Group Art Project in progress. Each person is colouring in one or two tea cups, then I bring them back to stick on the background. _ Dani
Susan 23rd Apr 2020 Activity Director
Great Sone
Thanks for sharing this I would love to see the finished project when it is done
Armi 26th Apr 2020 Activity Director
Beautiful!!!
Linda 21st Apr 2020 Activity Organiser
Thanks for the ideas, we just started putting our residents into isolation in bedrooms so was looking for stuff to do
Judy 21st Apr 2020 Diversional Therapist
Enjoying reading great activity ideas, especially in this time of lockdown. Some very good suggestions in the article 19 ways for residents to socialize in isolation. A big thankyou to Haley Burress for that. Stay strong you are all doing a fantastic job in this challenging time. - Judy Dwyer - NewZealand.
Susan 21st Apr 2020 Activity Director
Another great article Haley
You can use the many of these ideas and adapt them as necessary for special days coming up like nursing home week
Haley 20th Apr 2020 Recreation Therapist And Writer
Haley has submitted a new article: 19 Ways For Residents To Socialize In Isolation
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