Life in an assisted living facility or nursing home can be tough, especially around the holidays. With all of the family-oriented activities, senior citizens may feel left out and even lonely during those times when they are not able to be with their immediate families. Even those seniors who have family around them may find themselves struggling to deal with the loss of a spouse or other close one. Here are some great activities that can come in handy to liven up the seniors’ spirits, help celebrate the holidays, and ring in the new year.
Make a game out of New Year’s resolutions
It’s a time-honored tradition to try to make some resolutions for each new year. This year, you can help make a game out of it. Have each senior write down 1-2 resolutions for the new year, but without signing his or her name.
Place all the resolutions in a jar, and designate someone to manage it. That person can draw out the resolutions one by one and read them aloud. Then, the crowd can take turns trying to guess whose resolution it is. This game is a great ice breaker for new residents, and a fun challenge for those who have been around for some time.
Build a time capsule for future residents
Most seniors are acutely aware of how quickly time can pass. This activity is a great way for 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, when everything is placed inside the capsule, allow plenty of 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 of their shells and can be fun for everyone involved.
Have a party, and make the decorations!
One thing many seniors enjoy is working with their hands. Whether it’s cutting and pasting items, coloring or painting, or some other craft, give the seniors in your facility the chance to get creative. A great way to do this is to announce a New Year’s Eve party, and then encourage residents to make the decorations themselves.
You can designate a certain area as the crafts area for a week or so prior to the big event. Open up a room and provide plenty of craft materials. Let residents go in and create at their leisure. The evening of the party, spend a few hours hanging up all the decorations. This makes for a festive party and gets the residents involved.
Plan a New Year’s dinner that uses familiar foods
Almost every senior will have a 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 childhood memories, most everyone has strong positive holiday memories associated with food.
Put together a dinner to celebrate the new year, and ask seniors for suggestions as to what to make and how to make it. Try to match the food with their memorable dishes. The result will be a dinner that is delicious while at the same time provides a trip down memory lane.
For an added treat, ask each person to share for a few minutes about his or her suggestion. Perhaps someone has a funny story associated with a Christmas ham, or a touching narrative dealing with a grandmother’s baking. Whatever the story, sharing it will help seniors to reach out and learn more about each other.
Plan an event that incorporates other cultures
Many seniors have spent countless evenings at Americanized New Year’s Eve parties. This year, perhaps you should try something different. Spend some time researching the ways different cultures around the globe celebrate the passing of the old year. Then, plan a party in that style.
Seniors will appreciate the chance to do something new and learn a little bit more about the world in which they live. It may very well be that the change of pace is enough to really make this year’s party a memorable event.
Spend a few moments in remembrance
It’s simply a fact of life that many seniors are in the final stages of their lives. Although you may not mention it to them often, you can be certain they are aware of this matter.
It’s therapeutic to have a few moments each year that are dedicated to those dear ones who have passed during the year. This gives seniors time to reflect on the positive aspects of the departed ones. In addition, it reassures them that someone will fondly remember them when they are gone. Sometimes that knowledge is the most comforting thing you can give them.