Tips for Writing Successful Activity Programs for Senior Care

Tips for Writing Successful Activity Programs for Senior Care

Found In: Activities Articles Alzheimer's & Dementia

Designing activity programs for residents in nursing homes and long term care requires creative thinking and enthusiasm. Your main point of reference will be the assessment of your clients.
This is one of many free activities.
Golden Carers has 1000s of activities and resources for senior care.

Designing activity programs requires creative thinking and enthusiasm. Your main point of reference will be the assessment of your clients.

What Makes a Good Activity Program?

The key to planning effective activities is to remember that every activity you do has the potential to be meaningful. Your attitude and engagement with the client in a caring and considerate manner can make it so.

A Good Activity Program should include:

  • physical exercise
  • sensory experiences
  • emotional and spiritual outlets

Related: How to Motivate Residents in Long Term Care

Focus on:

  • what they like
  • what makes them happy
  • what sort of activities would make them feel included
  • what activities could potentially improve their self-esteem etc

Related: Getting to know your Client

Learn about:

  • their social past
  • their religious beliefs
  • their role in the family
  • If living with dementia, find out which stage they are at

Related: Identifying Needs of Clients Entering Long Term Care

Use person-centered care where possible

These days, the level of client functioning is so varied in most assisted living facilities that despite all that is said about ‘Person-centered care’ and ‘Holistic care’ it is almost impossible to cater for each and every specific need.

Most people living with dementia would benefit enormously from having one-on-one attention from staff on a regular basis. However that is not always possible due to work related constrains. Still, you should always strive to provide the very best lifestyle program that you are able to.

Related: Person Centered Care

Activities should ideally:

  • Be meaningful, entertaining and inspiring
  • Compensate for lost abilities
  • Increase life satisfaction
  • Help maintain current skills
  • Be culturally sensitive

Activities worth including in your Program:

As a starting point, there are a range of activities which have been tried and tested time and time again by other Activity Professionals with very successful outcomes.

Start with a preliminary program for group leisure therapy and then incorporate personalized activities to meet the needs of individuals.

Here is a list of proven activities you could get started with:

Group activities:

chair exercises, balloon games hoy quizzes
cooking craft painting dominoes
bus trips sing-along happy hour concerts
reminiscing sessions skittles carpet bowls BBQs
videos visits from children gardening church services

Related: 10 ways to Increase Participation of Programmed Activities

Individual Activities:

beauty therapy walking grooming household chores
puzzles listening to music special attention letter writing
conversation assistance with meals one-on-one visits massage

Tips for One-on-One Visits with Seniors

Other Activity Resources

For ideas and inspiration check regularly on Golden carers for video demonstrations, art projects, quizzes, jokes, table and floor games, craft and especially calendar events and celebrations.

You may also check with your own colleagues. Drop in at another facility and ask to speak with the Recreation Therapist. Ask him/her what activities work best and then try them yourself.

Don't be afraid to try

Remember that only you, through trial and error, can find appropriate activities for your clients and determine realistic expectations for these activities.

Use the weekly or monthly program templates available on our website and make sure to request a monthly budget from management for you to purchase the necessary materials on an ongoing basis.

Good Luck!

We'd love to hear your feedback. What has worked for you?

Save time with 1000's of meaningful
activity ideas for every occasion.

Enter your email address to collect your free activities.

✓ 100% Privacy ✓ No Spam

Fast & Easy Reporting Tools for Activity Professionals working in Senior Care

Free Trial

Comments   Post a Comment

Senior Healthcare Missouri City TX 3rd Oct 2023
Planning out activities for a group can take time, research, and creativity. This article has great tips for writing successful activity programs for senior care. Thanks for sharing!
Sol Pereira 5th Sep 2022
Am a new lifestyle coordinator just need to gather activities as I have been nursing for 20 years. Especially people with dementia. Please help
Susan 6th Sep 2022 Activity Director
Hi Sol
Be sure to follow the advice in this article
Especially important is doing things that the residents like and their abilities
Here are some sample calendars that will help you

I especially like to do music activities because they tap into many parts of the brain
Let me know if you need more help
Renee Johnson 14th Jan 2022
Hi. I just landed a job as a Activity Coordinator. First time in the field. I was searching and looking for ways to engage the residents with different activities. I'm so happy I found this site. You ladies are very helpful. I also use to work at a assisted living facility as a house keeper and I saw all the things the residents would do. I wanted to put out there, there's a game called music bingo as well. The residents really love that game. They win prizes of course. Nothing to big. Lotion, chocolate,soap ect, I thought this would be helpful as well. For those of you whose looking for other games they can play. I would most definitely be using this site a lot. Again thank you ladies for the information
Claire Rimmer 26th Apr 2021
Hello hoping you can help I am completing a business course for uni, I have chosen to create a activity Co. Ordinator position in my make believe rest home. Could you please advise me on costing? For up to around fifty residents please

Many hopes Claire Rimmer
Susan 26th Apr 2021 Activity Director
Hi Claire
Cost is variable
I do not know where you are from because that makes a big difference
Some homes are private pay which means the residencs pay for all their care
Most homes however have a mixture some residents are on Medicare or some thing similar some are on Medicaid or something similar and there are probably a few private pay
The daily cost varies pending on where are you are from
Sam have private rooms which of course changes the cost
If you are from the US I can probably help with best but other countries have similar costs
It also depends on if a home is for profit or nonprofit
Depends on how many staff members the home has and the needs of the residents
Steven Czyrny 28th Jan 2021
Extremely a very nice information about writing successful activity programs for seniors. Thanks for sharing...
Caron Eccles 6th Oct 2019
Some good ideas the simpler the better
Talita 7th Oct 2019
Thanks for your feedback Caron!
Tracy 21st Feb 2019
I wonder where I can get face to face training for my Leisure and lifestyle staff and recreation activity officers please.
Terri 2nd Jul 2018
Great idea's!!! So glad that iv'e found this site, i love it,also the idea from Anne B is great
Talita 7th Jul 2018
Thanks so much for your feedback Terri!
Anne B 27th Feb 2016 activity co ordinator
Bingo suitable for Alzheimers
I made up a bingo that goes up to the number 40. I printed A5 size bingo cards and laminated them so clients can mark them with markers and they are easily wiped clean. the bingo balls are from a children's plastic ball pool large and colourful. I wrote the number on each ball with permanent marker. some times each client picks out a ball and sometimes if we have a client who can't play the bingo they will pick out the balls. we say rhymes/ songs associated with each number, ie 3 three blind mice....., 16 one client sings "sweet sixteen and never been kissed" and so on. everyone helps wipe the cards afterwards. The game is short and the clients don't lose interest so we often play two or three games.
Talita 20th Mar 2016
Love your DIY bingo game Anne, thanks for sharing. This sounds wonderful!
Bronwyn 6th Aug 2017 Support Worker/RAO
I love this idea but can you explain how many numbers on each A5 card? Also with the children's colourful balls what size, do you have 40 of them & what do you place them in? With the markers do you use whiteboard markers? Sorry for the questions I want to do it right
Tonianne 6th May 2014 Lifestyle Manager
We have a male resident who was a very keen gardener, so we have planted tomatoes, and he has taken over collecting them every day, plus watering them.

he and another resident, were given the task of potting up the tomato plants for our market day, and working on the stall selling them! was a real win win!!
Taryn 12th Jan 2014 Activities coordinator
I'm so glad I found this site! It's great to be able to share all our ideas around with others that work in the same industry and how wonderful, that our clients benefit from it!
rebecca harris 25th Nov 2013
thank you for your heip
Solange 11th Jul 2013 Diversional Therapist
Hi Norene, one good card game is the 'Memory Game". Start with only two suits, say Hearts and Spades. Choose 40 cards; 20 of each suit, give to one participant to shuffle and then to another to cut. Give the cut parts to two participants to place on the table upside down. Each participant has a go at turning 2 cards up; if they match he keeps them; if not cards are returned to upside down place. The next player does the same and tries to remember where the previous cards were. Play until all cards are gone. The winner is the player with the most cards. I hope your clients like this. It is a very popular game. Good luck!
Jane 11th Jul 2013 Clinical Behaviour Consultant (RN)
Card bingo......have 2 packs, one (large size to enhance positive outcomes) for caller and the second pack divided between players. Modify depending on level of cognition/dementia but even those quite impaired can manage 8-10.
Staff assist with residents to sort their own (each will have a natural preference)
Caller starts with cards face down and calls what it is...eight of hearts whilst allowing residents to see the card and compare/pick out their card.
All cards turned over (face down or put aside) is the winner; however to promote success call out until last card is turned over.
Great game, no cost. Residents often help each other so good social interaction as well as coordination
, thinking, strategy etc
norene 9th Jul 2013 lifestyle worker
Hi everyone you all have great ideas.
Anyone got any new simple card games for low care residents.
denise doree 5th Aug 2012
thank you for this informative information, I am a trained art therapist working within aged care. My vision is to bring sensory programs and well-being prohrams, to people living with dimentia and pyscical disabilities using 'person centred approach'.
janet ross 1st Feb 2012
thanks this has given me same help as im still studying leisure and lifestyle its so hard to get them motivated thanks again janet
No Avatar