Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt at your community? These events take a lot of planning, but provide a perfect sense of mystery and adventure that will surely get your residents up and moving throughout the community! Here’s how to make it happen.
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Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt at your community? These events take a lot of planning, but provide a perfect sense of mystery and adventure that will surely get your residents up and moving throughout the community! Here’s how to make it happen.

Benefits of Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts feel like an extra special event because of that sense of mystery and adventure. It’s something different that residents might not have done since childhood, so there is a sense of wonder and plenty of opportunities for reminiscing as well. But it doesn’t stop there. Other benefits of a scavenger hunt program can include:

  • An opportunity to get up and moving throughout the community, increasing fitness
  • A sense of welcoming, especially for new residents as they navigate through areas of the community they may not be familiar with yet
  • The opportunity to get to know new neighbors or to happily work independently, making this activity perfect for the social butterflies and the introverts
  • It’s flexible and customized to the needs of your residents and community

Types of Scavenger Hunts

There are a few types of scavenger hunts you can plan and the first step of planning yours is to nail down what type you want to try. Remember, you can always try another type the next time you want to add the activity to your calendar.

Clue-Based Scavenger Hunt
In this scavenger hunt, you would create specific clues that lead the participants around the community. Each clue leads to a place where they get their next clue and on and on until the end.

List-Based Scavenger Hunt
In this type of scavenger hunt, participants are looking for specific items in your community. When they find the item, they mark it off a checklist, take a photo with it, or answer a trivia question about it. The group or person who finds every item first could be the winner.

Who Will Participate?

Once you know what type of scavenger hunt you want to try at your community, it’s time to decide who will participate. You have options here too so that you can customize it to work for your residents.

Groups of Residents
You can split up the participants into small groups to complete the scavenger hunt together, or you can work together as a large group.

Try inviting individuals to complete the scavenger hunt on their own. This is a wonderful option if your community is full of independent residents who like a challenge. If you have a resident under isolation precautions, here is a great hunt for them to complete.

Staff and Residents
Pair off residents with staff members as a team-building and fun activity during National Nursing Home Week or Caregiver Appreciation Week.

Family and Residents
Make your scavenger hunt activity the star of your next family night event! Family members and residents can work together to complete the hunt and create new memories.

When Will the Hunt Be?

Next, you need to determine the time frame surrounding your scavenger hunt. You have options, of course!

One Big Event
You can choose to have your scavenger hunt happen once, like a social or happy hour. In this case, participants will come to a designated area to get their list or first clue and work through the list or clues from there, all at once.

A Set Time Frame
You might choose to have your clues or items hidden for a full week or month. This way, individuals or groups can work through their list of items or clues over time and not worry about having to complete it all at once.

Where Will You Pass Out Clues or Lists?

Your participants need their first clue or their list of items. Here are a few ways you can get it to them.

At a Designated Spot
You can pass out the first clue or item list at a designated spot. This could be the Activity Room where the event begins, or it could be a new clue posted daily on the bulletin board or read out loud in the dining room at lunch.

In the Community Newsletter
You can also add in item lists or clues in your community newsletter. It will help reach readers who might prefer to stay in their rooms.

What About the Prizes?

Of course, your scavenger hunt doesn’t need to end in a prize, but if you are going to reward those who complete it, be sure you have communicated to the participants.

Individual Prizes
You can choose to reward the group or individual who finishes the hunt first, or you might choose to reward anyone who completes the hunt.

A Group Celebration
Perhaps my favorite option is to have the reward be a fun happy hour social so that everyone can share their hunt experience with others.

Items or Clue Suggestions

Now that you have the outline of your scavenger hunt and how it will work, you can start to prepare your list of items or clues to pass out to your participants. Here are a few suggestions that might inspire you:

  • Try to send hunters to new places in the community they may have overlooked before, like a nook in the library or a quiet bench in the garden
  • Hide items or clues well, but not so much that they are hard for residents to reach or to see
  • Remind participants they will not have to go into individual apartments or offices in order to get clues (we’ve got to respect privacy, of course!)
  • Look at this pirate themed hunt, complete with rhyming clues, or this sightseeing scavenger hunt, to get started

Have you ever tried a scavenger hunt at your community? Tell us about it in the comments.

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Wendi 28th Dec 2023 Activity Coordinator
I work in a 24 bed ALF and my residents absolutely LOVE scavenger hunts! Thank you for the additional ideas posted here. For Christmas I picked up 5 stuffed elves from the dollar store and hid them throughout the facility. I changed the locations daily for 4 days and gave them a sheet to write each day where they were located. Then they all turned in their sheets and I drew a name for a prize. They were so active and somewhat competitive and hounded me for new locations early each day!
I am planning a poker run activity this month which will be somewhat in the realm of a scavenger hunt. I hope they enjoy it!
Susan 29th Dec 2023 Activity Director
What a great idea Wendi
Thanks for sharing it. I am anxious to hear about your poker scavenger hunt.
You must be a great activity coordinator and happy new year
Scavenger Hunt Chicago 8th Jun 2023
Scavenger hunts are fun for any age, and this article serves as a thorough guide to setting up your own for friends and family. Thank you so much for sharing!
Susan 16th Feb 2022 Activity Director
Maybe you can try one of these
You will probably have to adapt and modify them so that the residents do not have to go far to participate
Also you could do this activity as a team or team one or two residents to help each other out
Let us know how it goes
Erica 19th Feb 2022 Program Coordinator
Thank you so much. I will let you all know how it goes :)
Erica 16th Feb 2022 Program Coordinator
Hello All,
These ideas are all awesome ! I was wondering if anyone had advice on how to do a scavenger hunt with persons who are less mobile. I am the activities coordinator for an adult daycare for persons with dementia. Many of my participants are less mobile and their individual cognitions level vary.
This being said they really so enjoy new and exciting things and I would love to try this in some form.
Thank you in advance for any ideas that you may have.
Kindly, Erica
Nikki 8th Feb 2022 Day Centre Coordinator
Sounds great!
I work with people who live in the community. Our activity centre has been closed for almost 6 months due to the pandemic. I found that emailing or posting a list to each person, with items they could find at home, made this a good remote activity. For example, a family photo, something in the kitchen which is blue, an item which is more than 50 years old, a hobby or sport item, something which belonged to your elders... This is really suitable for adapting to a particular group or seasonal changes if they can see outside. Reminiscence was encouraged by looking for the older items. I'm going to follow up with a Zoom gathering after the next scavenger hunt so everyone can share their finds with others.
Talita 14th Feb 2022
Love these ideas, thanks for sharing Nikki x
Susan 8th Feb 2022 Activity Director
Thank you for the information
Sounds like the residents are having a lot of fun
St 8th Feb 2022 Diversional Therapist
Thanks it sounds great, I like the sound of your questions. I am a Lifestyle Coordinator from Mount Gambier Australia.
Nikki 8th Feb 2022 Activity Director
Hello! We do Hunts on the weekends when I am not here! I make a list of things and they write in where the item is or answer a question from the list. Right now since it's cold we do Main Building Scavenger Hunts and in the warm weather we do Outside. My list may consist of, how many hearts are in the dining room? Who do you see in the living room? I may ask If I want to read a Fiction book what color dot do I look for in the library. Ha! Hope this makes sense. Have a wonderful week. Stay well!
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