Activities inside a senior living community today look far different than they did in February of this year. When it seems their hands are tied, how do people charged with the social well-being and recreational activities keep residents engaged in everyday life? When it’s not safe for family members to visit inside, when organized groups cannot come and entertain, and worship services are put on hold, how do activity professionals, administrators, and other staff members in a community like Fair Haven in Birmingham see to the social, emotional and spiritual health of residents while still ensuring their physical health?
Creativity is necessary. Retirement community life can be very engaging for residents socially, while still maintaining physical distancing measures to protect their health. Here is a showcase of some practical activities ideas that have been implemented at Fair Haven, and a few more ideas, that seek to replicate some of the reasons residents play together, all while keeping properly distanced:
Who’s Who Game
A staff member distributes a sheet of paper to each resident to write down 3 fun facts about themselves. The staff member will then select one of the fun facts for each resident along with a list of the residents’ names, and see how many resident can match the fun fact to the correct neighbor. The winner receives a prize, and the answer key is distributed to all.
Picture Me, Baby
Baby pictures of each participating resident are collected and compiled together. Then sheets of the baby pictures are distributed to each resident to try to see who can identify their neighbors by only their baby picture. Winner is announced.
A staff member snaps pictures of participating residents making their silliest funny face, and distributes the images to the residents. Tally up the votes for the silliest funny face and announce the winner.
Hallway Exercising, Doorway Bingo, Etc.
Residents bring a chair into the hallway right in front of their apartment door. There are a number of games and group activities that can be played as a group from the doorway, such as bingo, Jeopardy, trivia, and exercising, too. Residents are properly distanced while still getting the benefits of exercising or playing the games they enjoy together.
Build A Story
A staff member or residents begins a story of poem by writing one sentence or short paragraph (for creating a story) or one line of poem (to create a poem) to begin. Residents are then given the opportunity to, one at a time, add a sentence, paragraph, or line of verse to continue the creative work along. When all have participated, a staff member will wrap up the story or poem to finish it, and then makes copies of the completed work to circulate to everyone.
Some additional ideas are:
Each participating resident bakes a batch of their favorite cookies, collect them, and assign a number to each batch, keeping a secret chart of matching numbers to names. Going door to door, the leader will invite residents to taste test and vote for their favorite cookie, and then announce the winner to everyone.
Paper Airplane Contest
Each participant receives a few sheets of plain copy paper with the charge to attempt their best paper airplane. If identities are to be kept secret, numbers can be utilized to keep up with which airplane belongs to which resident. The aircraft hangar is brought door-to-door, and each resident test flies the airplanes and votes for their favorite. There could even be different categories, such as most creative design, flew the farthest, or barely made takeoff! The top paper aircraft maker in each category is announced.
Show & Tell
Each week, a resident is asked to choose an item in their apartment that has special meaning and staff makes a video recording of the resident telling the story of the item. Maybe it’s a post card from a special trip taken years ago. Perhaps an old sweater knitted by their mother. Perhaps a photograph of a new great grandchild. During that week,a staff member plays the show & tell video for each resident during visits to the apartments.
Playdough Art Gallery
Each resident receives a glob of playdough, with a time frame for the completion of a creation. Staff members can designate a particular creation to be made, such as a bird or musical instrument, or let resident imaginations run wild. Staff collects the creations, showcasing the artists’ names, and takes the art gallery on tour to each apartment.
The important thing for activities during a pandemic is for the activities professionals or other staff members to find creative ways to help residents shine and maintain a feeling of togetherness, even during social distancing, We hope that this brief activity showcase demonstrates that life in a retirement community today can still help people maintain social health as well as physical health.
For more information about life at Fair Haven, including details on our how to make Fair Haven your new home, contact lifestyle specialist Ardell Fleeson at 205-956-4150, or send an email to her at AFleeson@fairhavenbirmingham.org.