Saturday, 5 January 2013

Here is how to make nursing home activities exciting

Last week I came across the Youtube videos where residents at Waverley Mansion, a Canadian retirement home, sing and dance the songs "Call me Maybe" and "Gangnam Style". I found the initiative fantastic. Having worked in several nursing homes for the past 5 years I must say that one of the most frequent complaints I heard from my patients was how bored they felt, that they didn't have anything exciting to do or to look forward to.

But don't get me wrong, the nursing homes I'm talking about were all 100% compliant with local regulations which  require them to offer a range of activities to their residents. I remember looking at their daily timetables and being amazed by the number of options offered: bingo, sing along sessions, movie sessions, arts and crafts, quizzes, mass, exercise classes, and the list goes on. So, one may wonder, 'how come these residents can still feel bored?' Well, I can give you a few reasons:

1) The majority of these activities help passing time, but they don't have a goal in itself. When activities are done as part of a greater project, with a clear goal to reach, they become more exciting and engaging. For example, one may spend hours doing arts and crafts that will never be seen by anyone. But add a bit of competition to that where the best piece will get a prize, or put them on sale to help raising money for a fun trip for the residents. Immediately there is a clear goal to drive people to dedicate their time and produce something to the best of their ability.

2) In most activities, residents tend to be the audience, rather than the actors. If you think of the activities mentioned above, they are often led by someone else, be it a member of staff, an instructor, or a priest, while the residents are expected to passively follow whatever is asked of them. Having the opportunity to show others your talents or something cool you can do feels great, is rewarding and can do wonders for one's self-esteem.

3) Even though these activities are done in group, they don't necessarily prompt residents to interact with each other. It is incredible to think that many residents may live in the same house for years and never really talk to each other. Activities that involve cooperation and teamwork can help breaking the ice and bringing people together.

4) Most activities tend to be confined to the nursing home setting, in the sense that they don't trigger interaction with the "outside world". How frequently nursing home residents have the opportunity to show others what they are up to? For example, if a group of residents attend weekly exercise classes, why not give them tools to show to their family and friends how well they are progressing? A lot of people do this nowadays thanks to technology and social media, so why not use similar tools in nursing homes?

The reason why I found the Waverley Mansion  Youtube videos so incredible is because they ticked all these boxes. I can only imagine the excitement those folks went through. Having a clear goal to accomplish,  they must have rehearsed and worked hard to put the whole act together. I can imagine the talks during meal times, not to mention the satisfaction of showing what they have done to their children and grandchildren. Well done to recreation coordinator Sarah Urquhart and all those behind this project for showing us all how it is done.

To watch the videos click here:
Waverley Mansion's Call Me Maybe
Waverley Mansion Gangnam Style

Brenda Reginatto

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