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Activities Home | Index of Activities

Large Group Social Activities

"Residents who are actively involved with others have less time for self-pity and depression and usually adjust better to living in the nursing home than those who remain isolated and unwilling to participate in social recreational activities with others." (Hastings, Complete Handbook of Activities and Recreational Programs for Nursing Homes, 1981).

Pre-dining leisure activity
submitted by Anne-Marie Cram on November 8, 2008

Size of Group: small to large (25-30)

Equipment: Second hand or new books/ magazines with a lot of colorful pictures. You will need to keep a good supply of books to replace any that are destroyed, this is why second hand books are good to use.

Objective: Objective is to provide a focused and enjoyable leisure activity at the dining table while waiting for their meal.
Outcome: Individuals are relaxed and able to transition into a dining experience with less distraction.

Description: Place a book on tables where residents are going to sit. Open books to a colorful page. Escort resident to his or her seat, direct their attention to the colorful picture. Knowing the individuals special interest will help in the selection of a book for him or her. When serving the individual substitute the book with the meal while explaining you are taking care of it while they eat. Or allow them to keep the book at their side while eating.

Wedding Remembering Reception
submitted by Melva Butler of St. Catherine's Village on July 8, 2008

Equipment: Old wedding photos, wedding dresses, grooms attire, and assorted wedding memorabilia

Objective: Build self esteem and promote positive long term memories

Description: Host a reception with wedding cake and punch and other party foods. Allow residents to share their wedding memories and look at photos discuss how weddings have changed over the years. We have also introduced a wedding fashion show, residents and staff can try on bridal wear and have facials and makeup parties the day before. Men get to have Bachelor Party with card games and beer(fake or real). No one jumps out of a cake. Ha!

Cultural Awareness
submitted by Harjit Sandhu of The Terracess Of Los Gatos on 9/15/2004

Identify staff with various heritage. Invite these staff to do a presentation on their heritage/country. Presenter are encouraged to bring items and foods/meals representing their country. Activity Director can go on line and get the information for the country going to present. Make copies for resident to read. Presenter can talk about their country, history, costumes, festivals etc. Residents really enjoy this activity. They find out more about other countries. They enjoy their food. I hope you enjoy is activity. My residents really likes it. Thanks.

Celebrating "National Pig Day"
Submitted by Judith Dullard of Briarwood Nursing Home on March 09, 2004

Size: 20

Equipment: Country sausage, middleing meat, a video of a real hog killing, electric grill, and a fork.

Objective: The outcome was to experience our residents travel back in time, and laugh, talk and enjoy a part of their past that had been missing.

Description: The 20 minute video was shown, and enjoyed by all. The residents could not stop talking about it. No really terrible parts were included. We cooked the sausage and middleing meat, and a 1 hour activity turned into an all afternoon discussion about the good 'ole days. This activity was truly enjoyed by our highest and lowest functioning residents.

Coffee Shop
submitted by Elizabeth Thackery of Vantage House on April 05, 2004

Size: 10-15

Equipment: Coffee,

Objective: residents have continuity in their morning. Avoids behavior problems and helps everyone feel comfortable.

Description: Every morning we have a informal activity where everyone meets to have a cup of coffee before morning activities begin. We begin at 9:30AM. We offer coffee and donut halves to everyone that come in while playing toe-tappin' music. They love this social time.This was actually started with two outcomes in mind.

First, residents start their day out the same every morning, this gives them a sense of comfort. Even if they do not know what is going to happen the rest of the day. Some open the paper, most just talk among themselves.

Second the Nursing Staff love this program because for every person they bring in they also get to enjoy coffee shop. This is the first time I have been successful in motivating other departments to help get everyone to the activity.

Happy Hour
submitted by Gerald Flickinger of Grandview Nursing Home on October 13, 2002

Size: 4 to 40

Equipment: Tables, table clothes, menus, candles, small dishes, snacks; peanuts, nuts & bolts, bugles, etc.., plastic glasses, straws, drink umbrellas, piano or cassette or cd player for music, blender, ingredients to make various drinks.

Objective: The activity provides an opportunity for residents to get together and socialize. Allows the residents to unwind and enjoy a fun atmosphere with music and laughter.

Description: The Dining Room or Recreation Room, depending on the size of the group, is setup. Table clothes are placed on tables that are then decorated with candles placed in old bottles, burning. Small dishes are placed with various snacking items to enjoy along with the drinks being ordered. The room is decorated with various memorabilia.

Menus with various drinks ( 4 to 6 drinks, depends on group size ) are presented to the residents by staff who are either waitresses or waiters. Music is provided either by a piano player or cd player.

Drinks are prepared by a bartender and served. Examples of drinks can be: Shirley Temples, Pina Coladas, Daiquiris, Pink Ladies, etc... Use your imagination. All beverages were non-alcoholic. Some were decorated with whip cream, having a cherry on top, while others were garnished with orange, lemon or lime slices, along with a drink umbrella.

Activity is usually run on a Friday afternoon. Runs about two hours and the residents really enjoy it.

Mocktailsm music & munchies
submitted by Cher Oddy of Community Housing Association on March 29, 2003

Size: Up to 20

Equipment: fruit juices, list of mocktails (non alcoholic cocktails) cocktail shaker, ice, sliced up fruit to decorate glass, straws, pub songs cd and safety darts board & crisps etc.

Objective: For the residents to socialize with the people around them, talk about the drinks they try and have a go at shaking their own mocktail.

Description: Residents sit in small groups around small tables with nibbles in dishes and choose from the mocktail menu which drink they would like to try. They can even have a go at making their own drink to add to the fun. Whilst this goes on the old pub songs are playing in the background and the residents sing along, some of mine even got up and danced.

This event went well because it hadn't been tried before. Several of my residents asked what was the special occasion and could we do this again!!

Chat & Nibble Cafe
submitted by Kathy Stone of Elmwood Care Centreon on June 01, 2003

Equipment: kitchen made afternoon snacks, coffee, juice, CD player, upbeat music

Objective: To gather a group for socialization, interaction, and to supplement nutrition.

Description: We continually had poor turnout for snacks in the afternoon, until I came up with the idea for a different setting. We had cheap white paper place mats printed at the local paper with Chat & Nibble Cafe across them with a checkerboard, we wear checkered aprons and serve the snacks cafe style. Jazzy upbeat music brings people to see what is going on. Snacks are served and we grew from a few residents coming to the dining area for a snack in the afternoon to an average of 30 residents in a 100 bed facility coming to join the fun. We do treat it as a cafe too, we wait on people and visit while we serve. This has been a hit and the administration is very happy with the activity. It is great that people are now getting their afternoon snacks and we try to really target the residents that are having trouble maintaining their weight or have other weight issues.

How good can I look
submitted by Elizabeth Campbell on June 25, 2003

Size: 3-10

Equipment: make-up, dress up clothes from a thrift store,Hair bows, hats, Film and a camera

Objective: build self-esteem

Description: have a group of volunteers from area Beauty School volunteer and do makeovers with the residents. Clothing and hats make one appear different. Take pictures and the proof is in the pictures what one can look like with a bit of guidance.

submitted by Celeste K. T. Brooks of Washington Center for Aging Services on November 21, 2000

Size: Varies

Equipment: Tables(round is best), Aroma therapy products (bath gels, lotions,all should be allergy-free) , Manicure items, Hair products, finger bowls, sprays, Large container of hot water, small containers of ice water, Video tapes,TV:VCR set up, Stereo system,CD's, Audio tapes, LOTS OF STAFF: manicurists, cosmetologists, hairstylists, massage therapist, reflexologist or a lot of volunteers who can serve in these functions.


To relax the residents
To increase socialization
To increase level of self esteem
To provide a variety of sensory stimulation
To increase levels of participation
To increase residents' quality of life
To have fun

Description: Have the room filled with relaxing sights, music and scents before the residents arrive. Have at least four stations with different activities (manicures, facials, hair styles, hand massages, etc.). Invite your residents in. Make sure that you have presented each resident with each station (or with as many as they will tolerate). Introduce the residents sitting at the same table to each other. (You should hear some of the conversations that come up, it's like sitting in the beauty parlor) Provide the services! This activity usually takes 2-3 hours. Make sure that you keep the music playing and the scents flowing. Our male residents enjoy it as much as the females. We purchase products especially for the men and they like to sit and watch their girl friends get dolled up!. We implement this event in a large group setting maybe three times a year. We have smaller versions of SPA DAY on the units in the solariums or as individual sessions in the resident's rooms. One of our residents always comes to this event in her wheelchair (she is blind and very hard of hearing). However, after she has received "the works" she struts not walks to her unit guided by her ANA. Many of our volunteers are staff members from other departments, who give maybe 20 minutes of their time to help. However, make sure that all of your stations are manned by people who can remain there throughout the entire activity.

Campfire sing along
submitted by kym lafontaine of The Pas Health Complex-Maintenance on February 5, 2000

Size: any size

Equipment: Fake fire pit-can be done with a tub surrounded with logs and with an uplight inside. Place a fan facing up inside the tub. Tie red cello strips to the fan to make it look like moving fire. Or you could use a fake fireplace insert. Set up undecorated Christmas trees for a forest effect (bring in some spruce or pine boughs and spray with water to let off scents into the air) also you could set up a small pup tent with a light inside and some other camping equipment. If you can come up with some motion sensor animals(owls or birds) to put in the trees that could be fun. Another option would be to play a wildlife serenity tape(the sounds of water,wolves,crickets etc.) for background music.

Objective: To create an atmosphere with the smell and sounds of an outdoor camping adventure. To encourage residents to reminisce and tell about other experiences they have had camping.

Description: Have residents sit around the campfire in the early evening. Have people bring in guitars, harmonicas, fiddles etc. and have a sing along (some residents can also bring their instruments). You can also have someone to start telling stories and try to encourage the residents to tell their own stories. Tea and hot chocolate can be served from tin cans using a ladle. Also toasted marshmallows can be served on a stick. This would be an early evening activity so you wouldn't need a full supper. This could be set up inside or outside. I think it could be a lot of fun.

Options: If able, build an actual campfire outdoors.

Wine and Cheese Party
submitted by Charlene Gizowski of Glamorgan Care Center

Size: 7-18


Wine(cheap wine-0.5%), cheese, crackers, pepperoni, sausage
Entertainment (band, etc)... entertainment is needed for about 1.5 hours.

Objective: To facilitate enjoyment and to promote socialization among other individuals.

Description: The cheese, pepperoni, sausage,and crackers should be cut and placed on different plates/platters. Have the entertainment play music for about an hour and a half. While entertainment is playing, the recreation staff or volunteers can serve the wine to each of the residents. Not giving them too much to intoxicate them. Just like a dinner party without the dinner!! Have the residents choose what they want for snacks while enjoying their wine as well as the entertainment. The area for this event should be in a spacious area. A dining room or a lounge area would be appropriate for the party.

NOTE: be sure to check with your administration regarding serving wine. The resident's personal physician should also be consulted.

Peanut Auction
Submitted by Dawn M Misiora of The Pines, Lansing, Michigan

Rules: Give each participant a bag of peanuts (around 100) and place one item up for auction. (I usually go to a dollar store or use donations, as we all know most budgets are quite slim.) Start the bids for the participants at one peanut and proceed as an auction. To make it more authentic, have one of the observing participants use a gavel to close the bids.

Supplies needed: brown paper bags, unsalted, whole peanuts, items to bid on (earrings, ceramic items, food stuffs ( watch diet restrictions), baseball caps, socks, pins, jewelry, after shave, perfumes (designer impostors are cheap), and a gavel.

We have a great time, but because it is so expensive, I can only afford to do this once a month. The residents sure do look forward to it though.

Modification: Submitted by Nicole Puchino. For a less expensive idea for the peanut auction activity have employees donate old items that could be auctioned off.

Chocolate Party
submitted by Jennifer Piatt of Do-It Leisure

Size of Group: Any amount

Equipment: Various forms of chocolate, including different boxes and containers that chocolate comes in. You can also find information about the history of Chocolate, chocolate word searches, and trivia.

Description: Have everyone sit in a circle, or around a table. You can structure the party anyway you want. You can talk about different chocolate (dark, milk, etc) as well as different forms it can take. You may even want to get the clients to cook a chocolate treat. We usually read the history of chocolate, tell chocolate jokes, and get everyone to describe their favorite type of chocolate. After you describe s type of chocolate, make sure you have enough samples for everyone. This group is always a hit around valentines day. Everyone comes, talks laughs, and has a great time. Don't forget to have milk for the beverage!

Expected outcome: To increase group discussion, to reminisce, and focus on sensory stimulation

Beach Party
submitted by Melinda Dykes of Lincoln Residential Center, Brookhaven, MS on Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Size: Large group

Equipment: beach balls, beach towels, sand pails, food,lemonade, Beach Boys music, volleyball, sunglasses, frisbees

Objective: Socialization

Description: Decorate for a beach theme. Dance to Beach Boys and other "fun in the sun" music. Play volleyball and frisbee. Give sunglasses to all who participate. And, last but not least, eat plenty of snacks and drink plenty of lemonade!

Senior Adult Prom
submitted by Melinda Dykes of Lincoln Residential Center, Brookhaven, MS on Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Size: large group

Equipment: decorations, finger food, music, a specific place to take pictures

Objective: Socialization

Description: Decorate as you would for a school prom. Invite area high school students to come wearing their prom attire. Dress clients in nice clothing (e.g. old prom or wedding dresses collected from staff). Decorate an area for taking pictures. Play music appropriate for the age group. Have a great time!

Send additional social activity ideas to Charlie Dixon.

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