With the holidays just passed, it became clear to all, as it always does, that life in an assisted living facility or nursing home can be tough during that time of year. With all the family-oriented activities, seniors may feel left out and even lonely during times when they are not able to be with their immediate families. Even seniors who have family around them may find themselves struggling to deal with the loss of a spouse or other close one. The following are activities that can lift the seniors’ spirits and help during the new year.
Make a game out of New Year’s resolutions
If the seniors in a facility made New Year’s resolutions, they can serve to make a game. Ask each senior to write 1-2 resolutions they made for the new year, but without signing his or her name.
Then place all the resolutions in a jar and pick someone to manage it. That person draws out the resolutions one at a time and reads them aloud. Then, the crowd takes turns guessing whose resolution it is. This game is a great ice-breaker for new residents and a fun time for those who have been around for a longer time.
Build a time capsule for future residents
Most seniors are acutely aware of how quickly time passes. This activity allows them to feel like they are preserving something of themselves and passing it along to future generations at the facility.
Each resident should select one item to include in the capsule. At the ceremony where everything is placed inside the capsule, allow time for each resident to share what he or she selected, what it means, and why it will be significant to future residents. This exercise will help draw reclusive residents out and can be fun for everyone.
Have a party, and make the decorations!
Many seniors enjoy working with their hands. Whether it’s cutting and pasting items, coloring or painting, or some other craft, they give seniors in a facility a chance to become creative. A good way to do this is to announce a post-New Year’s party and encouraging the residents to make the decorations themselves.
You can designate a certain area as the crafts area for a few days before the event. Open up a room and provide enough craft materials. Let residents go in and be creative at their leisure. On the evening of the party hang up the decorations. This makes for a festive party and involves the residents.
Plan a dinner that uses familiar foods
Almost every senior has a favorite food that reminds him or her of years past. Whether it’s a particular type of ham that a grandparent used to make or a certain kind of sugar cookie that brings back memories of childhood, almost everyone has some foods with strong positive memories associated with it.
Put together a dinner to celebrate the remainder of the new year, and ask seniors for suggestions about what to make and how to make it. Try to match the food with their memorable dishes. The result will be a delicious dinner that provides a trip down memory lane.
For an added treat, ask each person to explain his or her food suggestion and the old memories behind it. Perhaps someone has a funny story associated with a holiday ham or a touching narrative about grandmother’s baking. Whatever the story, sharing it will help seniors reach out and learn more about each other.
Plan an event that incorporates other cultures
At the start of the new year research the way different cultures celebrate the launch of the new year and plan a party in that style.
Seniors will appreciate doing something new and learning a bit more about the world. It may well be that the change of pace makes this party a memorable event worthy of being repeated during the year.
Spend a few moments in remembrance
Many seniors are in the final stages of their lives and you can be certain they are aware of this.
It’s therapeutic to devote a few moments dedicated to dear ones who have passed away during the year. This gives seniors time to reflect on the positive aspects of their departed friends and colleagues. And, it reassures them that someone will remember them fondly when they are gone. That knowledge is a most comforting to give them.
Li, Li, et al. “Factors associated with leisure participation among the elderly living in long-term care facilities.” International Journal of Gerontology 4.2 (2010): 69-74.
Reid, David W., and Michael Ziegler. “A survey of the reinforcements and activities elderly citizens feel are important for their general happiness.” Essence: Issues in the Study of Ageing, Dying, and Death (1977).