How to Plan for the Festive Season in the Midst of the Pandemic

How to Plan for the Festive Season in the Midst of the Pandemic

User Profile By Haley Burress   United States

Found In: Activities Articles

The coronavirus pandemic has made senior living activity planning extra difficult. Between visitor limits, social distancing, and other precautions, the holidays are sure to look different this year.
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The coronavirus pandemic has made senior living activity planning extra difficult. Between visitor limits, social distancing, and other precautions, the holidays are sure to look different this year. Here are the ideas and inspiration to get you through it.

Challenges of Holiday Planning During the Pandemic

If you are struggling while holiday planning this year, you aren’t alone. Activity professionals across the globe are trying to figure out how to make the season bright while contending with precautions and limitations like:

  • Social distancing guidelines
  • Family visitation uncertainty
  • Inability to book in-person entertainment (or Santa)

Your residents are coming off a difficult year and they are looking to you to make a way for favorite traditions to happen at your community. Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on huge group activities to make the season feel jolly. It’s more about finding new ways to give residents, staff, and family the cozy and festive feelings of the holiday season.

Adjusting Your Planning

As Activity Professionals, we are already organized and planners by nature. Attempting to plan holiday events is difficult this year, as we aren’t quite sure what December will bring in terms of regulations or precautions. To make things even more frustrating, our individual communities might be experiencing different mitigation techniques from our colleagues cities or states away, which can make sharing ideas more difficult. 

Here are a few ways to make planning less frustrating for you:

  • Add a sign to your computer that says “Flexibility”. This will remind you that you have to roll with changes as they pop up during this busy season.
  • Schedule a weekly meeting with your Administrator to review how planning is going as well as reviewing mitigation plans for the upcoming weeks.
  • Be transparent with family members and residents. Let them know that you are planning for the holidays but that you will need to put safety at the top of your priority list.
  • Even if you are planning in-person events, you should also plan virtual events for your holiday activity calendar. This way, you have multiple options to meet the needs of your residents, families, and community.
  • Plan only large virtual anchor events for your main calendar a month or so in advance. Then, add in smaller events weekly as you know how mitigation measures are going.
  • Keep a stash of activities and supplies at the ready to use in case you need to cancel an in-person event.
  • Ask residents what feelings they think of when they think of the holiday season. Write down the words that keep coming up and strive to find ways to invoke those feelings.

14 Holiday Activity Ideas During the Pandemic

It can seem impossible to plan a busy holiday season when visitors are limited or when residents have to stay inside their apartments. However, if you can remind yourself that it is about the festive feelings, and not necessarily the huge events, you can adjust your expectations while you plan activities that make those feelings happen.

Here are a few ideas that might work for you:


1. Special Drinks of the Week
Create a festive hot drink of the week and name it something fun. Add over-the-top garnishes, like Santa cupcakes, and pass them out on your beverage cart. Don’t forget to blast holiday tunes!


2. Read Aloud
Start a holiday read aloud group where you read holiday classics out loud to participants in person or via technology. 


3. Movies & Popcorn
Pass out cozy blankets and bags of popcorn before showing a favorite holiday movie on your community television; residents can watch in their apartments while still feeling a part of the larger group. 100 Movie Recommendations for Seniors


4.Christmas Trees for Everyone
Invest in small pre-lit trees to give every resident so they can enjoy the twinkle of the season all season long. You can pass out ornaments weekly as well as inviting family members to send in an ornament for their loved one’s tree as well.


5. Special Holiday Treats
Plan a Treats of the Season, where you pass out a beautifully presented holiday treat to residents in their apartments. This can be easily adapted to a social if you are allowed to gather in socially distanced groups.


6. Virtual Baking with Family Members
Invite your dining team to host a cooking or baking demonstration virtually for family members to attend while they are at their own home. Residents can participate in person. If you need to have small groups, have a sign-up and invite family members to attend during the time their loved one is attending.


7. Christmas Lights Outing
Plan a Christmas light drive outing where you drive by the homes of resident family members.


8. Make Your Own Light Display
Work with your maintenance team to make a drive-through holiday light display for family members to enjoy. Have residents waving at the end of the display. If you are able to have family visits outside, have family members have a s’more or other snack with their loved one before leaving.


9. Organise a Carols Performance
Have your favorite caroling group perform while strolling along the outside of your community. Residents can watch from outside or from their apartment windows.


10. Watch Christmas Events Online
Take advantage of watching holiday traditions online, such as a performance of The Nutcracker or the tree lighting in your town.


11. Secret Santa
Have family members sign up to be a Secret Santa for a resident that isn’t their loved one. It’s a fun way to practice the art of giving and residents will love the small surprises that come in weekly from their Secret Santa.


12. Twinkle Lights Everywhere
Add more twinkle lights. It’s easier to feel cozy and comfortable when there are twinkle lights.


13. Nightly Traditions
Plan weekly or nightly traditions so that residents have something to look forward to. Watch holiday music, sing holiday songs, etc.


14. Scavenger Hunt
Plan a holiday scavenger hunt for staff, families, and residents.


Most importantly, take care of yourself and your staff this season. You cannot give residents and family members a festive season if you are feeling burnt out and frustrated. Be kind to yourself as you navigate these difficult times and remember that you don’t need to throw showstopping events to bring cheer to your community.

Tell me - how are you celebrating the holidays this year? What are you struggling with and what are you proud of on your calendar?

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Comments   Post a Comment

Sandra 24th Nov 2020 Activity Director
We always had a Christmas choir, however this year we can't have groups unless things change with Covid. Our residents are still in their rooms. We are trying to figure out how we can have a great event at this time.
Susan 24th Nov 2020 Activity Director
Hi Sandra
Here are some ideas
Ask some of the highest functioning and musically oriented residents for ideas for songs to sing
Then give everyone who usually participate in the choir a list of songs
Ask them to vote for their favorite
Then you can make a song list from the favorites
Give all who. are interested a copy of the words to the songs
You could even leave some words out and have them fill in the blanks
Then have them practice singing the songs individually
When it’s time for the performance perhaps you can have them standing at the doors to their rooms and you walk through the halls and help them start singing
You could also have a video call or audio call to let everyone share in the festivities
You could hand out holiday treats the day of the performance
You could also have a Zoom or similar type call to share the experience
If all that is not possible then have the resident call his family and sing the songs or have a family call the persons so they can sing the songs together
You could have the residents make invitations to send to their family
Let us know what you finally decide to do
Thank you
Susan 22nd Nov 2020 Activity Director
Hi Jill
We always had a resident choir
They performed four times a year
They did perform around Christmas time
Then we had a performance for international iWe are family day
After that we had a performance and celebrated Mother’s Day
Then we celebrated grandparents day
The residents performed a variety of songs for each holiday we also had a party to honor the staff residents and their families
Jill 22nd Nov 2020 Activities Coordinator
For our Christmas activities the staff and residents are setting up a choir. We have CDs and sheet music to help us.
Some of our residents will be performing a selection of Christmas poetry at our events.
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