Frequently Asked Questions of New Activity Directors

Are you a new activity director? Find answers to some of your questions that will help you maintain a successful activity program.

1. How many activities should I plan for the day?

    • There is no set number as to how many activities there should be each day. The key is to have your residents engaged throughout the day in meaningful activities. If your residents enjoy more independent activities, like reading or word search puzzles, then you can have fewer group activities. However, if you have residents that seem bored or need more stimulation, then you should include more activities on your activity calendar. For assisted living facilities, you may have five to eight activities per day. For a nursing home, you may need more activities, like seven to ten per day. Just remember that an activity can be as involved for the activity staff as Arts and Crafts or as hands-off as Sing-Along. 

      2. How can I plan an activity program that is comprehensive when I do not have any activity assistants

        • You should focus on providing activities that do not require your presence for each activity. For example, insert a sing-along activity into your program, or even Name That Tune. You can find plenty of products on the market that provide CDs and lyrics for sing-alongs or Name That Tune activities. In addition, consider having a Movie Night or even Armchair Travel in which you show a short documentary about a certain location. Don’t forget to add in fun table activities if your residents are interested, like Checkers, Backgammon, or Dominoes.
        • Be aggressive in recruiting volunteers for your activity program. Contact local churches, retirement communities, and free online volunteer match services. If you also desire student volunteers, be sure to ask them for a letter of recommendation from their school’s guidance counselor to weed out inappropriate volunteers for your facility. Once your volunteers are on-board, be sure to use their special interests to plan activities, like “Canvas Art with Becky” or “Woodshop with John.” 

          3. My residents include those who are higher-functioning and those who are lower-functioning. How do I plan activities that will engage both types of residents?

          • Typically, higher-functioning residents want to participate in more cognitive or mind-stimulating activities, while lower-functioning residents prefer to participate in more tactile or hands-on activities. To accommodate both, continue coordinating cognitive activities each day in your activity program, but ensure to include at least three daily sensory-stimulating activities that focus on sight, smell, sound, taste, or touch. Not surprisingly, your higher-functioning residents enjoy these sensory activities as well, including arts and crafts, sing-along, and baking. 

            4. How do I convince residents that the Activities Room is a place for activities, not just for watching TV

            • Good luck! If you have a group of residents who loudly complain that you are turning off their TV to do activities that they are not interested in, then politely let them know that there are other residents who are interested in participating in the activities. You can even negotiate times when you can have the TV on. For example, insert a “Morning Cup of Joe & News” activity in the morning, in which residents watch the local news before you start your activities for the day. You can also encourage them to watch “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” at night after dinner. However, if you have a resident who is insistent on watching “The Price is Right” in the middle of the day, then it is time to contact their family members to ask them to provide the resident with a personal TV for their room.

              5. My boss thinks that all I do is go out on trips with the residents, play games, and surf the internet all day. What do I do to convince him that I am working hard at my job? 

              • It’s unfortunate if you have a boss that does not understand all of the tasks of an activity director; however, you can make it a point to show off all of your hard work. You should first make sure that all of your activities are listed on your calendar. After all, get credit for all that you do. Second, continuously inform your boss of upcoming events to make sure that he is aware of all the activities that you coordinate in your facility. Finally, and probably most importantly, ask him to come out to some of your activities, like a fun afternoon social. While he is there, ask him to help you, such as escorting the residents to the activity or passing out whatever needs to be distributed to residents. (You never know – he might agree to do so.) Afterwards, he will probably see that your job is not as easy as he originally thought.

                6. How can I make my activity program even better? 

                • Take the Not Just Bingo 30-Day Challenge. Challenge yourself each month to focus on one aspect of your activity program that you can make better during the month. For example, if your activity program has a problem finding volunteers, dedicate the month to building up your volunteer base. In contrast, if you notice that you are not providing enough educational activities for your residents, then use that month to change it. The way to make your program better is by challenging yourself to focus on just one thing that you can make better in just 30 days!
                • Need more ideas? Check out our FREE email tips series “The 3 Best Ways to Create Fun, Fresh Activities for Your Senior Residents” for ideas on building your activity program, or visit our How-To Articles page for more tips and tricks.

                Quick Tip:

                To quickly and inexpensively create buzz among your residents for an upcomingspecial activity, place lots of balloons around your facility in the color theme of the activity (e.g., using red, white, and blue balloons for a fun Independence Day event). Be sure to put out the balloons at the beginning of the day, so that residents will be reminded throughout the day about the upcoming activity.

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