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Showing posts from 2013

No Wine-ing – It’s a new year!

As I sit here to do what I enjoy – write about being an Activities Director, I find myself whining that I’m too busy. I’ve worked Monday through Saturday so far, and will be going in today for a few hours. I am looking forward to presenting a community favorite again this holiday season, a student harp recital, but, the truth is I have house work to do, shopping to get done, and this article. It’s whining, and I know it! Then it dawned on me that I had my subject for this article….. Wine-ing!
The community where I work has had a “no alcohol in the common areas” policy since the doors opened. Just recently, we’ve opened a wine section in our main dining room and have allowed residents to bring their beverage of choice into the private dining room, which is assigned to private parties.A staff representative however, cannot provide alcohol to a community event still. For example, for themed activities such as an Evening in Paris or Oktoberfest, I have provided non-alcoholic beer and wines…

Happy Holidays? YES!

Happy Holidays? Yes! Here are some quick pointers for inspiration during this hectic month:
Have a plan, but be willing to stray from it
Adjust your attitude. Take a deep breath, put on your best face and enjoy every day – even in December
Personify your best Elf! Work efficiently, and ask for help when you need it
Put something new on your calendar this month…. And each month after that
You can get it all done and if you don’t, most of the time, no one but you knows the difference, so relax
Honor your community’s traditions, but throw in a twist with either a new activity or decoration
Organize this year! When you pack away the decorations, toss what you can, label what you keep
Look for free special events to add to your calendar this season…. And each month after that
Identify local programs that residents enjoy attending and take them there
Dare to push the limit this year……for the holiday season and each month after that
Adventure outside your comfort zone. Use the internet to find inspir…

Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is a game of comparisons and lots of laughs! In my retirement community, there has been a consistent group that has played Scattergories for the past few years, and they were starting to get a bit bored. As I mentioned in anearlier article about Scattergories,they went from playing once a week to every other week. This past year, they decided to take a break over the summer. When the volunteer leader came to me we spoke and decided to try to introduce another game.
I brought inApples to Applesand we played for the first time this week. It was such a fun night. For those who've played before, you will see that I took the basics and added another step to the game in order to bring the group of 20 together. This is what I did:
Set-up card tables with 4 chairs per tableThe RED cards were divided by the number of tables that we had full and each portion was placed onto the center of each card tableInvited the group to come in and be seated at the tabl…

Cruise Around the World

You probably have held a Cruise Night, a Cinco de Mayo, an Evening in Paris, Luau, Oktoberfest and other theme parties which were destination based. Those types of parties are all lots of fun and you might have done them time after time, with a twist, I 'm sure, with much success. The next time you sit down to plan such a theme party, stop thinking about them as separate events!
Recently, I started out planning a Cruise Night and then I switched it up to be Cruise Around the World Night. I used the basis of the cruise night theme for my decorations and then enhanced the decorations with items from different world-cruise ports of call. My favorite decoration out of my cruise box are peel an stick port holes that show the ocean outside. I put them around the walls of the lobby so that it looked like we were on-board the ship. I invited the residents to participate in the evening by dressing as if they were tourists, or locals from their favorite port of call. I had a few men dress …

Invest in Your Volunteers for Big Dividends

I love it when a resident is enthusiastic about providing an activity for the community! I will do just about anything that I can to support him or her, so that they can succeed. I am sure, that as the director of activities in your retirement community, you would too. I have residents running many different programs and have written about this in a past blog called Resident Run Programs for Success
This post is about one of the programs I started a few years ago with an introductory program one evening. The game is called Scattergories, and it is played in teams. When I introduced the game to the community, my goal was two parted. The first part was to show those in attendance how easy and fun it was to play the game. I explained to them that sometimes the people on your team will be able to offer something to the question being asked, and other times they will not. This was to encourage all participants involved by allowing them to be passive if they wanted to be and that it was a…

Cat Gallery Brings Community Together

For years now, we honor the dogs in our retirement community with a dog show during the Dog Days of Summer. This annual event is a big hit and draws a large audience. But with every activity that I do, I ask myself how I can make it better. In the past, I wanted to showcase that we have just as many cat owners and allow them a chance to show their pride for their pet too but knew that a cat show would not really work well. This year, I learned that "Hug your Cat" day is June 4 this year so, I made that day the cat owner's special day in our community and though it is not as big as a show, it is something special for the cat lovers.
I've asked the residents to bring a picture of themselves with their cat to me. I will be making a display area to feature their photos and place it in our main lobby for a few key hours on "Hug Your Cat" day. I will decorate the table with their photos with cat items that I have and that residents have shared with me. I have on…

Rainbow Theme Party

In our retirement community we have 5 different buildings and people get to know those who live in their building pretty well. I'm always trying to find an idea that gives the residents in one building a reason to talk with a resident from another building. In the past I have held pizza socials and invited different buildings to come together and they were successful, and I have created special events for the same purpose. The Rainbow Theme Party is a new special event that I introduced to the community this summer. Here are the details, so that you can plan it for yourself.

First, let me tell you that my inspiration came from Pinterest. Please take a minute to see my board for Rainbows.  You will find food and decoration ideas that are very cool. (I did not get my inspiration from searching adult rainbow party on the Internet and I suggest you save the time and the embarrassment and skip that step. And no, this is not a gay theme party - but could be if you wanted it to be, I gu…

Summer Fitness for Seniors

Summer is almost here and that means it is time to bring back a summer class that our residents really enjoy. In my retirement community, I have a fitness instructor who creates the fitness elements of our monthly calendar. I am lucky in that respect, as the demands of the residents for fitness programs continues to increase all the time. It is a full time job to come up with programs that keep residents inspired and active.
The class that we revive each summer is water aerobics. The instructor teaches it from the pool deck, but it can also be taught from within the pool. Movements for students in this class are similar to those done on land, but provides a stress free environment, thanks to the water. If you don't have an instructor on staff, and are not budgeted to hire someone, you may consider teaching the class yourself. If you are like me, I love having a reason to get out of the office and interact with the residents.... and to think I would be working out also is an extra…

Staff and Resident Social

As CCRCs work towards a more social model instead of the medical model, we see the need for changing the mindset of employees and residents. The concept of a universal worker or a what ever your community might call the position, leaves those just entering this new world wondering how it will work out.
The community where I work is taking big steps towards creating neighborhoods and staff being crossed trained, especially in the medical/health center and assisted living section of our community. I work in the independent living section of the CCRC and these concepts are slowly coming to my part of town. 
One of the best things that I have done so far towards this initiative is to have a Getting to Know You Reception for staff and residents. The hardest part of the event was to encourage the staff to stay for the party. Once the executive director told the department heads that they should schedule their staff to be there and to keep them on the clock for it, it seemed to help a lot. 

Burn-out or New Beginning?

After 25 years working with seniors in CCRCs in activities, there are days when I think, "what else can I do for a job?" and then there are days where I know I am in the right place. I think, no matter what the job is, after while everyone feels a bit burned out, but it is what you do next that matters the most.
To be perfectly honest, for me there are a few things that I do when I am feeling burned out as the activities director in my independent living retirement community. Some of these ideas may work for you, and some may not. Here is what I do, in no particular order, and not necessarily each time that I feel I want to quit. Admit that I am have a feeling of burn-out. It's the way I feel. I own it and move on. I don't push it under the carpet or to the back of my mind. I try to address it and grow from it. Should I stay or should I go? If I am not sure, I start looking for another job. Somehow I feel that if the next job opportunity was out there for me, then I…

Volunteer Appreciation MINT Theme

I found an idea for my volunteer appreciation luncheon on Pinterest. When I saw this bag of mints, I knew that I could build an entire program around this theme and that the residents in my retirement community would love it. As you probably already know, Volunteer Appreciation week is April 21 - 27 this year (2013). Here are my thoughts for the celebration:.

The easiest part of the day will be the menu. There are so many different ways that you can incorporate mint into your menu without going overboard. I have a meeting next week with my culinary department to finalize our menu, but I'm sure that whatever you and your department come up will be just as good. I will post what we settle on afterwards and hope that if you use this theme that you too will return to the site and share what you did for the menu and the rest of the afternoon. For the tables, my plan is to create a over sized mint for the center of each of the tables that will be used for this annual appreciation lunch.…

Your Theme Nights

I've written about a few unique theme parties that I have hosted in my retirement community in the past on this website. I was wondering what your most unique event was. Please post it in the comments below and give a brief description of what you did that was special! Also, make sure that you type in themes in the  search box to see all the different articles.

Lifelong Learning Lessons

At the beginning of the year, I posted the question, "what contribution to your community's calendar are you the most proud of in 2012?" One of the options was "add a new educational program" and it was not selected once. I was very surprised and it made me think to share some of the ways that I have added more educational opportunities to my retirement community's activity calendar. 

First, when I think about education and what would appeal to the independent living residents in my community, the subjects are varied and endless. Some of the topics off the top of my head are Art Appreciation, Crafts, Dance, Drawing, Picture Matting and Framing, Music Appreciation, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater, Environmental, Self-Improvement, Cooking, Sports, History, Current Events, Literature, Foreign Language, Digital Photo, Social Networking, Computers, Nature, Scrapbooking, Jewelry Making, Health and Wellness and more.
The benefits of participating in educat…

Speaking? Face Your Fears!

A few years ago, my company started at Toastmasers club in our retirement community for any staff member who wanted to participate. As the activities director in the community, I am one of the people who is regularly on stage introducing programs and talking in front of groups of residents. I thought, why do I need to join this program? Well, the answer was not far from the surface, once I took a good look at myself. “Because, I can be better!”
If you are like me, it is not a problem to introduce a speaker, entertainer, or to speak to “my” residents… or even to a group of fellow staff members. I use to be fearful when my boss was in the audience, but that is not the case anymore. When I asked myself the question, “Why join Toastmasters?” I realized that I am not be comfortable in other settings except the one inside my community’s four walls. I also felt that I had another weakness that could be reduced from joining the group, and that was to be sociable in situations where I was not …

Fun Extras

It is the first day of the year and I am thinking about work on my day off. Shows you how much I love my job as activities director.... or some would say, how I "need to get out more!".... anyway, I am always looking for new inspiration for an activity and I found, again, a few websites that show us unique days  or themes for the month.

I like Holiday Insights.com a lot because when you click on the link, it gives you information about the special day. I think if you have the background information, it helps you promote the idea of the program to your residents. Some of these ideas inspired me as I reviewed them this time, because I've been trying to find a way to get resident's names and quick facts of interest out to the community, either through the monthly newsletter or our in-house TV channel. I believe that when they see their name, or that of their friends, that they will read or watch with greater interest. Another cute site that I like to get ideas for uniq…