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Showing posts from 2011

New Year's Eve Games

Here are a few game ideas for New Year's Eve that after looking on-line, I feel will work for the seniors in my retirement community.  They are pretty easy to get done at the last minute...... pick one, shake up the normal routine for the evening and make your party special!

I Resolve …Write as many New Year resolutions as you can think of on slips of paper. Make them as serious and silly as you like. Fold them and put them in a basket. Ask your guests to take one. If they don't think the resolution is for them, they have to try to give it away to someone else. Have them read their resolution out to the others beginning with "I resolve…" Some New Year game suggestions are:
• Save money. • Eat more chocolate. • Lose weight.
• Exercise less. • Spend more time with friends.
• Spend more money on a loved one. • Play more with your children. • Quit smoking. • Quit drinking. • Read more.
• Talk less. • Make more money. • Give more money to charity.
• Eat honey instead…

Poker Walk

Fitness is a big part of any activities calendar in a retirement community. Fitness programs can, and should, appear with many different titles and be held in many different locations, but the main element is that residents get moving!
One of the activities that we have done on an annual basis for the past eight years is called a Poker Walk. It was derived from an annual motorcycle fund raiser event that takes place in our area's greater community. It is a program that is simple to put together and fun for the residents.
First, plan your route for your walkers. Ours is just about a mile long and circles our campus. Then plan where your five stations will be and place a table and chair or two at each location, along with a deck of playing cards and a cooler with small individual bottles of water in in. Large print cards work better if you have them, but it is not necessary.
You will need to create a grid that has a five rows (one for each station) and four columns, one for each typ…

Holiday Decorations

Have you eaten your Wheaties? Are you ready for the holiday season? I've been out shopping and getting ready to decorate our community for Christmas and Hanukkah. I will have the day off after Thanksgiving, so I will start on Monday.
I was wondering if you, as the activities director of your community, are the responsible person for the decorations. Do you have volunteers, staff members, residents, or an outside company help you?  In my retirement community, the maintenance department does all of our outside lights and they help me get the artificial trees up. This year we will be buying a live tree for our lobby, since it is newly renovated and we thought that it would be a nice change.
I do have managers that like to help also, so they help me decorate the trees. We have a tree in the lobby, as I mentioned, plus one in our casual dining area, one in the auditorium, and one in the main dining room. We also have a card tree where residents tie on their greeting card for the comm…

Simple Social Suggestion

Ralph Waldo Emersonsaid "It is not length of life,
but depth of life." As activities directors for independent living senior adults, this is a quote that I feel could be painted on our office walls! It reminds us of the importance of having a meaningful program for our residents. It would also serve the residents well to see this quote to remind them to live each day to its fullest and with meaning!
I have shared some ideas with you on this blog that are fun, but this time, I want to speak about something that may or may not be considered an "activity" that you can list on your calendar. It may even fall under the culinary department in your community, instead of the activities department, but I'm still going to share it with you because I've seen the success of it at my community. It is simply a time and a place in your community where coffee is available to residents and their guests to have for free. And yes, you as the activities director can and should…

Activity Sign-up Sheets

So you have created a terrific program idea for your independent living retirement community residents. You have advertised it well, and people are interested. How do you assure that those who want to attend go on the program and, if there is a charge for it, charge them?
At my retirement community, I have a space in the main lobby (also know as the club house by our marketing people), where I have a bulletin board and a place for sign up sheets. On the bulletin board are the posters for the on-going events and special programs that are taking place. On-going activities are to shopping trips, doctors offices, and religious services. I have them broken down into different binders: one for shopping (groceries and malls), one for doctors, sectioned in its own book by the direction the bus will travel (north, south, east or west). Each direction goes on specific days of the week and they are noted on the main calendar. And the last book for on-going activities is for religious services. Th…

Veterans Day Service

In our retirement community, Veterans Day is a very special event. This holiday honors the living veterans who served and are serving our great country. In our independent living community, we have Veterans from WWII, the Koren War and Vietnam War. Veterans Day is always celebrated on November 11 at 11:00 a.m.  (I think really it is suppose to be 11:11 am, but that might look funny on your calendar.)
Our program usually involves a few key elements. The first is that we ask the men in the community to make sure that we have the service stats so that we can announce their branch and length of service. This information may be printed on the day's program, used as part of a slide show or shared by the speaker leading the program.  We like to give our veterans a chance to stand out on this day. We ask them to gather together and proceed into the auditorium to sit in a reserved section for them. Sometimes I order a boutonniere or corsage for them to wear into the service, or give them a…


It's almost that time of year when you can get dressed up in a costume at work. Oh, wait, you are an activities director in a retirement community..... you do that on a regular basis. If you are like me, you have a "costume closet" somewhere at work or in your house so that you are ready for any theme party that comes your way. It is one of the fun parts about being an activities director.
If you are like me, what you want to wear and what is okay to wear to work are usually different. Halloween is no exception! In my community, residents pay close attention to my wardrobe and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. Because of that, I do tend to dress a bit conservatively. For Halloween, I don't wear, or display, anything that is related to death or anything that is evil.
I've taken time, so that you don't have to, and found costumes that I feel I could wear (some with modifications -  like adding tights, etc) to work. I've eliminated anything that w…

Fancy China Party

Break out the good china! At my retirement community there are homes that are beautifully decorated by residents who have a great deal of class and style. As a home owner, I know the pride a person feels about their home and the items in it, and as the activities director, I try to find ways for residents to share their interests with the community.
I've had a few different programs that offer this experience. One of my favorites to host is a Fancy China Party. You can call it by another name, but here is what it is all about. I put out an invitation to the community inviting the residents to attend a tea party style lunch in our private dining room. I asked the residents to bring a set of their fancy china to set on the table in advance. Each person is given time in advance to set their place at the table. The culinary department completes the tables with the standard items that each table will need.

At the lunch, each person takes time to explain the history of their place setti…

Gift Cards as Prizes

What do you get for residents living in independent living retirement communities as a prize when they have everything that they need already? Gift cards! How many times have you heard that the residents are trying to get rid of stuff in their homes at this stage in their lives? I hear it a lot, and I hate to wast money on silly stuff, so I find that gift cards have been a great prize to award when I need a prize. Yes, I could give (and do sometimes) food items, but that is tricky with special diets.
I like to give away a few different kinds of gift cards. The first is more like a gift certificate instead of a card. This is a personalized certificate that I make in my office and can be applied towards the price of a fee for service activity in our community. I've made them for my activities department as well as the housekeeping and culinary departments. They are redeemable with the department heads of the various departments.

The other type of gift card is the store bought vari…

Webcam 101 for Seniors....

Teacher's Luncheon

Hosting a Teacher's appreciation luncheon for retired educators in your retirement community at the beginning of the school year is a great activity to offer which brings together residents with similar backgrounds. I host this particular luncheon every couple of years, and it is always a success. I invite the retired educators from my community to bring along a memento from their days at work and share it with the group. I hold this lunch in our private dining room because it fits about 40 people nicely, and due to time constraints, I find this is as big of a groups as I’d like to have.
I used apples as my theme for the afternoon. For decorations, I use a few paper products that can be found at most party supply stores and then made my own center pieces. For the center pieces, I kept it simple. I used glass vases and added an assortment of apples, a wooden ruler and some pencils to it. I also made name tags with a themed border around the edge for all those who attended. The menu…

Cancer Walk with Residents

Last year a few employees from the communities that I work with decided to walk in the local breast cancer walk. It was a terrific experience and though I walked in walks before, I found myself feeling closer to the women I've worked with because of the time we spent on the walk away from work, getting to know one another, and the reason why we walked! I realized that this was a community event that some of the residents in our CCRC communities would like to be involved with also. I encouraged our Fitness Director to take the lead in this year's event and she did. We are now a team and will be walking again this year with employees and residents. We will even have the company bus for our group to arrive in style! I am really looking forward to this year's event!
Here is the link for our team. We are the ACTS Pacesetters. If you are interested in joining us great! If you can donate to the team, wonderful. If this gives you an idea to get your residents involved in a commun…

Brain Fitness Training for Seniors

Here is an interesting article about a study that was done at UCLA about brain fitness training for seniors. It is very interesting. The program ran for 6 weeks (2x/wk)  and included one-hour education sessions included content on how memory works; quick strategies for remembering names, faces and numbers; and training on basic memory tools such as linking ideas and creating visual images. They found that it helped improve the resident's ability to recognize and recall words, benefiting their verbal learning and retention.  Check it out at the link above and then see if you can work in any programs that could provide such an opportunity for your residents! I also found a memory fitness book that might be helpful. Also, please check out my store's memory enhancement section for more items that would be beneficial to the resident's mind.

Tablet using Seniors

Check out this article about seniors using iPads and other tablets.

Also take a look at an early posting about the subject on my blog called iPads and Seniors

And, if you are not sure what a tablet is, where to look to find one to buy, etc, click here for a link for iPads.

Gold Prices Entice Seniors

Cha cha ching! Can you hear the sound of cash in your resident's pockets? At my "sister-community" they held a Gold Rush Party, and residents brought their unwanted gold in and walked away with money. They will be hosting another party in October and those interested from my community will attend. The portion of revenue that goes to the community has been earmarked for a tree project that will impact both communities. Read all about it in the Sun Sentinel newspaper article "High gold prices tempt selling."
Update: we have had the event with a local gold buying company at our community twice now. It is worth doing in your community as a fund raiser. Find the right person to come to your community and it will feel good to the residents who are interested in selling their gold and silver.

Movie Scheduling

In my original article about showing movies in your retirement community, I spoke about the basics of planning your movie schedule and offered movie suggestions to show in your retirement community. In this article, I will address the rest of the movie story.

As the activities director my goal is to get the residents OUT of their apartment! I don't remember who it was that talked me into showing the movies in their apartments to start with.... but I wish that I never started it. It has been years now since Fridays have been movie nights and residents have the choice of watching from their home or from their apartment. But, after Labor Day, that is about to change! Yeah!!

I started a Monday Movie Matinee feature on my calendar during the summer months last year. This year, it really caught on in the community and they were well attended. I offered free popcorn and punch to those who came to the show. I also showed movies that I felt were the "cream of the crop" for the se…

Coney Island Theme Party

As we say goodbye to summer we will be having a Coney Island Theme Party in my retirement community. My thoughts about this have been buzzing around for a few months now, but in the end I've decided to go with the KISS method. Keep It Simple Stupid, or Silly as I like to say, since I don't think simplicity is stupid or anyone who chooses to do things simply is stupid.

That being said, let me share with you what I'll be doing in the community for our Coney Island night. First, of course is that I went on-line to see what the place is all about since I've never been there. I did find a few websites that were helpful. I believe that what the residents would remember about Coney Island and what it is now are different. So I read about the history of the theme park also. From the websites, I was able to "grab" a few pictures that I will enlarge and post around at the event.

In my community, we have booths that are three sided that our maintenance department made …

New Year's Eve Again!?!

This week, I started making the final plans for my New Year's Eve party for the independent living residents in my CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community). The residents like to have a dance, so that is what I do each year. The trick is to make it a bit different each year.

Depending on the residents in the community, sometimes our dance is right after dinner, from 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. and sometimes it is 9:30 p.m. until 12:30 p.m. Check out one of my first blog postings ever when I talked about New Year's Eve last year.

This week I spoke with a talent agent that I use from time to time to arrange my musical entertainment. I like to use an agent for New Year's Eve because I want to be assured that I will have someone there that night. It has happened before that I book a performer and he or she finds a better paying job and comes up with an excuse to cancel our arrangement (even with a contract in hand!).  I know that with the agent that I pay a bit more, but the pie…

Dog show and Technology

It is August and in my retirement community, that means a dog show. (See the article on Dog Days of Summer on this blog for the details.) I was trying to figure out how I could involve the audience that will be at the dog show in the voting process, when it dawned on me... technology!

One of the cool things about the company that I work for is that I have other communities, a regional office, and a corporate office to get resources from for my programs. I saw that our corporate culinary department purchased a voting system. It is called Turning Point System. The system provides each resident with a hand held device that responds to a laptop that is loaded with the proper software.

For the dog show, I will give each audience member a list of possible awards to be given out at the end of the show. (I will have more titles to win then there will be dogs in the show so that the dogs have a chance of fitting into an appropriate category.)  Using the system, the residents in the audience wi…

Men's Connection with Activities

Yes, males are the minority in my retirement community and they probably are in yours too. Let's face it, as Activity Directors, they are a segment of the population that is easy to ignore when planning your monthly calendar each month. I find that the men who are part of a couple, usually are active with their spouse but I don't see them really get involved independently. And then the men who are single, be them widowers, forever bachelors, straight or guy, seldom want to participate in an activity that is marketed to men only.

I feel like there are men in my community that I really never have gotten to know very well because they are not involved in activities. This article says that men are happy when they go to programs that are cultural in nature, if they feel there is a health benefit for themselves and when they can volunteer to help others.  I don't know about you, but I do not see the men in our community signing up to go to the museum, or other programs that I t…

Game Night

Every so often I put on my calendar a program that I simply call Game Night. I advertise it as a night that the residents can come to the auditorium and play whatever game they want to. It is a place where they can find people who might be interested in learning their favorite game, so that in the future they can get together and play.

I ask the residents to sign up for the evening and list what game(s) they are interested in playing. This helps me because I know how many tables to set up and also which games I need to bring to the event. I invite the residents to bring their game and supplies also. I also made name tags for everyone on my list, and had blanks for those "last minute Marys" that like to show up.

I had about 30 people sign up and about 30 people attend..... but not the same people that signed up showed up.... but that is typical in my community. I provide a 6ft table full of games - some that the community owns and some that I personally own.  The games include…

In-House TV Channel

At my retirement community we went from having a daily flip-chart pad in the lobby to an in-house TV channel about 14 years ago. We have updated twice and we are getting ready to update it again in the next month.
Currently we use a system called DSI. It works very well for our community and I would encourage you to look into it as an option if you are looking for a system.  Click on the link to go to Display System Internationals website.
On the current channel, we run pages that show the daily activities, the menu in our casual dining area for breakfast, lunch and dinner, special activities, reoccurring activities such as monthly lectures or services, etc. We also live broadcast of our Town Hall and Ask the Director meetings when they take place.

I have two wonderful volunteers who work on this project with me. One lady only wants to add the calendar to the system. That means that she types a page per square of the calendar onto the system. Most of the time, as you can imagine, tha…

Dog Days of Summer

One of our most popular events is our annual dog show! I schedule it in August because it is the "Dog Days of Summer." I tried to find pictures of the event to show you, but I can't find them. I promise to take them and post them after this year's program. (Funny how having this blog makes me more responsible for my pictures these days.) I did however, find the newspaper article that was written about it. Feel free to check out this link for the Sun Sentinel article.

This activity is simple and brings so much fun to everyone! First, I promote the day and time of the show and ask anyone interested in participating to sign up. Once they've signed up, I send them a bio sheet for their dog. It asks the pet's name, age, breed, length of time owned, how long they've been residents at the community, their favorite trick, a cute story about them, and anything else that I can think of.  The more you know, the better it is while you are on stage with them!

After I…

Laughing Yoga

Next month we will be introducing a new class called Laughing Yoga to the community. We found a nice woman who is offering a free introductory class to us. She came and discussed it with our Fitness Director and me, and it sounds very interesting. I thought that I'd share it with you now and share a few links to sites on the Internet that tell you about it. I also included one that is an article about seniors using laughing yoga. I'd love to hear from you if you have had such a class in your community and if the residents like it or not. I will post more after we've had the class.