Give it a go: Out of the box thinking for elderly care.

I spend a lot of my time with the elderly now that I’m an activities coordinator, and I love it! The stories they tell, the history they share, the experiences they’ve had. There’s definitely something valuable and unique to be gained from them. 

One thing I struggled with when I began my job, however, was what to do with them. I googled and googled for days on end, and even to this day find it hard to get ideas from the internet.
You see, there is a lot of advice out there for activities to do with the elderly. They recommend reading stories to them, playing board games, watching films, listening to music, BINGO, going for walks, there are recommendations for so many things. But to me and my residents, they all just seemed a little boring. For these types of activities I would only get about 3 residents maximum in attendance (and there are 49 of them, so that puts it into perspective). As my residents are all still in independent living, they want something more fun and interesting.
elderly care


Now I am sure there must be other elderly care workers out there desperately scrambling for things to do with them, so here are some of the things I came up with:

Nostalgia Nights:


My residents LOVE to talk about the past, and remember the things they did and saw when they were younger. A nostalgia night just felt like a no-brainer!

I set the theme to a certain decade (50’s, 60’s etc), and put together a bunch of activities to do throughout the evening. We started with a video of some of the highlights of that decade to set the mood, and continued by watching famous music videos from that era, completing quizzes about celebrities, watching movie trailers, learning (or remembering in their case) facts about that time. They really enjoyed it.
I even printed out pictures from the news and hung them around the room, a detail they loved so much they requested them to be left up.
We finished by listening to music on an old fashioned record player (I definitely recommend getting one of these, there are some affordable ones on Amazon now), and used talking-points cards to ask each other questions about our lives at that time; what job they had, or if they were in school, what they like to do. It was a huge hit.

Chair Zumba:


Getting my residents to exercise is no mean feat. They love to sit down and are averse to anything that involves them moving from their chairs. I also have a few residents who use wheelchairs, so getting them moving is a priority of mine.

Zumba is a love of mine. As a form of exercise it is fun, can be tailored to your ability, and it’s very lighthearted – it doesn’t matter if you get the steps wrong. Chair zumba is much the same. You use your arms and legs in a very low intensity work out. It’s easy to learn, easy to do, and as the elderly gain a positive impact from music it kills two birds with one stone.
I follow the lovely Kay B on Youtube, which is where I get all my routines. Her dances are amazing, and in many of them she uses music the residents know, such as ‘That’s Amore’ and ‘New York’. The residents dance and sing a long to the music – they really get into it. So much so that they’ve requested more frequent sessions!
Plus, this gives me a bit of a work out as well.

Virtual Tours:


There’s many ways virtual tours can be done. There are DVD’s you can buy, videos you can stream, you could probably even make one yourself if you wanted!

What I use is called Passport to Wellness. It’s an American site providing free video tours of famous places around the world. Participants complete exercises like walking on the spot, jumping, stretching, rowing, cycling (and so much more) while learning about tourist destinations around the world. The videos are roughly 24 minutes long, and include a warm up and cool down exercise. There are quizzes throughout, as well as resources on the website for activities to complete alongside the exercise.
The best part is, it can be done sitting down! All the moves are adapted for people to complete either stood up or sat down, so everyone can take part!
So far we have completed Paris, Italy, Sydney and Germany, and they can’t wait to see where we go next!

Memory Cafe:


Memory cafe’s are generally used by health professionals to help those with dementia. Each session has a different theme and the participants work together to create and reminisce about things related to those themes.

I’m not a health professional, so my memory cafe’s are by no means perfect. But the residents enjoy the social side of them; having a hot drink, completing activities in groups and talking about their favourite memories.
My most popular themes have been the music and movie themes, but I have also done a session called ‘This is me’ where residents completed exercises about themselves. Unfortunately my residents aren’t too fond of arts and crafts, so this one was a bit too arty for them. I still had a great turn out though!
If you search for ‘memory cafe’ online you will discover a lot of useful information. So far I have been using this site to get ideas – however I’ve basically used them all up now and am searching for new sources.

These are just a few of the many activities I have run for my lovely residents.

I do also provide some of the more typical ones, such as BINGO and quizzes as they are a lot easier to put together, however I try to mix it up wherever I can.

It is also important to note that it is possible to provide these activities ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGE. I have no budget so I use a lot of free online printables, and utilise our on-site restaurant where I can.
I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to add any of your out of the box activities in the comments!