Activities for Elderly People in Care Homes

Updated on May 18, 2020
Jennifer Stone profile image

From my time running a care home, I learned that listening to other people's ideas can really improve the systems you have in place.

Happy Pensioner
Happy Pensioner | Source

The days when nursing homes sat all their residents around the perimeter of a lounge with a TV on in the corner that they could neither see, hear nor were interested in, have thankfully been relegated to a bygone age.

These days, all homes, whether residential or nursing, are required to provide activities for their residents on a daily basis that are stimulating, engaging and person-centred—ensuring their minds and bodies are kept active, healthy and alert.

Regular activities that are centred around individual needs that include social interaction, as well as achievable tasks that can be completed alone, have been proven to help prevent depression, the onset or worsening of memory problems, the ceasing up of joints and muscles and pressure sores that come from long periods of inactivity.

Person-Centred Care

Person-centred care means designing a care package that caters for the individual and encourages the care receiver to make their own choices in the care they receive as well as the activities they do on a day to day basis.

It is preferable where possible to include family and close friends as well as the individual themselves when designing the care package, especially where the individual suffers from dementia or other memory or mental health issues, as it is very common for residents in nursing or residential homes to feel isolated from their loved ones. It can also be very distressing for the families to witness the deteriorating health of their loved one, and to have had to "put them in a home." By working closely with the families they can still feel involved while being confident that their relative is being well cared for when they are not around.

A person centred activities plan should include:

  • Communal activities that all residents in the home can take part in if they choose,
  • Individual activities that they can do if they do not wish to take part.
  • It should take into account a persons culture, language, religion, interests and jobs they have had in the past, and the choices they make on moving into the home.
  • It also needs to take into account that people have the right to change their minds!
  • Health issues should by no means prevent a person from enjoying regular and varied activities, the necessary resources should be put into place to cater for all!

An Example of a Communal Activies Weekly Timetable

Chair Aerobics
Musical Enternainment
Flower Arranging
Games or Wii
Cooking / Baking
Gardening (indoor and out)
Musical Enternainment
Music for Health

Above is an example of a weekly activities timetable that could be put into place in a home that has up to 30 or 40 residents. Homes bigger than this would need to have at least 2 organised activities each morning and afternoon.

All care homes should employ an activities coordinator to ensure the activities happen as they should, are well organised and changed to suit the changing population of residents as is the nature of nursing and residential homes.

If a particular activity proves unpopular then it should be changed, and regular "house meetings" should be held to ensure that the activities fit what people actually like to do.

The activities in the example are by no means exhaustive, an activities coordinator with an imagination is essential to keep it interesting for the residents.

Most of the activities mentioned are self explanatory, however I will explain some of them here.

Music for Health

This is a program that has proved to be very popular in many nursing and residential homes.

It is a session where the residents get to listen to music that they can sing along to, relax to, and they have instruments like tambourines for example that they are encouraged to use along to the music.

Music for Health can be very beneficial in that it helps people remember old times, relax, socialise, have fun and also with coordination and gentle exercise in using the instruments. It is important that there is an area this activity can take place where interruptions are kept to a minimum, as the person leading the session needs to keep everyone's attention.


Using the Wii

Although we don't usually associate elderly people with gaming consoles, this has been a success in many homes brave enough to invest in one!

The advantage of the Wii is the interactive nature of the games, where the participants get some exercise whilst playing, it helps hand to eye coordination and the whole activity can be very sociable. It does require a large screen to play the games on so the residents can see what's happening!

Chair Aerobics

This activity must be led by someone who has proper training in health and fitness in the elderly.

It is designed to increase the heart rate, helps keeps joints and limbs supple, uses muscles to keep them fit, aids coordination and is also great fun for everyone taking part.

All residents in nursing and residential homes must be encouraged to take some exercise whatever their mobility is like, and this is a great way to include the less mobile people in an exercise program that everyone can enjoy.

Musical Entertainment

There are many musicians out there that make their living by going round residential and nursing homes entertaining the residents. This activity is always very popular, being sociable and fun, and helping to keep memories alert by remembering the songs!

This activity is a must for any self respecting activities timetable!



Reminiscence is an activity is particularly beneficial to those who suffer with dementia.

It involves talking about the past, remembering events in peoples lives, jobs they've had, activities they used to enjoy, people they knew or met, the list is endless! This activity is great with a small group of people, and should include items collected from the "old days" such as carbolic soap, that everyone involved will remember and can touch and smell, and helps get the conversation going.

Losing your memory as you get old can be very distressing and frightening. Reminiscence can bring a lot of comfort, even if some of the memories are sad ones, as everyone in the group will talk and comfort each other if they get sad.

The person leading this activity also needs to be able to turn the mood around to remember happy times too. Other things in the "memory box" could include pictures and ration books, anything that will bring back memories of times gone by!

Having a pet cat provides entertainment, activities, and helps make the home feel more homey!
Having a pet cat provides entertainment, activities, and helps make the home feel more homey! | Source


Pets in the care home can be therapeutic for the residents in many ways. For many years I ran a residential care home for the elderly, and we had a cat, two budgies and some fish!

  • The residents can help look them,
  • People suffering from mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety or dementia have reported feeling "calmer" when upset if they have been stroking an animal such as a cat or a dog.
  • Some residents, sadly. get very few or no visitors at all. A pet can help make them feel loved and included.
  • A fish tank helps create a calming atmosphere.
  • Having animals around help to make the care environment feel more homely.
  • People who visit the home with a view to an elderly relative moving in, like to see well cared for animals around! It shows them that the staff are caring and the communal areas feel homely and sociable.
  • If you are running a care home and are considering getting a house pet, it is important to have a staff meeting to discuss this, as usually there will be some staff who will volunteer for the tasks of looking after the animals e.g. cleaning out the fish tank, feeding the cat or walking the dog. All of these tasks can be done with the residents as an activity.
  • As with everything else in your care home, the pet will need to be risk assessed! A well written risk assessment will ensure all possible risks the animal could cause e.g. trip hazard, have been taken into account.

Catering for Everyone!

There will always be a number of people that do not want to take part in the organised activities. It is not enough just to have the activities timetable, everyone else needs to be catered for!

This is where the care plans come into their own, what does the individual like? Sports, watching TV, puzzles or jigsaws, being outside in the garden?

Small groups of residents with similar interests could be given a chance to something together; e.g., watch a game of football with a beer (although many elderly people in homes are on medication, it should be remembered that they are adults and many of them will like a drink sometimes! This can be checked with the doctor involved to ensure it does not interfere with their treatment.)

All homes should have a garden that is safe and accessible to all, and a TV lounge for those that want to watch TV. Regular visits from family and friends should be encouraged and where possible trips out should be offered. Peoples bedrooms need to be a place where they can go to be alone, with a TV and music or radio, books and newspapers should also be available.

If a persons health and mobility issues mean that they are confined to their beds, then it is important not to leave them out of the activities program. They should of course have access to music and TV if they want, also staff need to spend time with them (apart from delivering personal care) when they can read to them or chat when they have no visitors. Sometimes just being there with them is enough.

It is always vital to ask each individual what they want to do! Just because someone usually likes to take part in a particular activity, doesn't mean they won't change their minds one day and choose to do something else! Some people choose to watch an activity rather than take part, and this can be just as rewarding for them as it is for the people taking part.

A person-centred approach is vital for a truly successful activities program, and truly happy residents!

This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.


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    • profile image

      Magda de Wet 

      2 years ago

      Wonderfull. We are doing most of what you are talking about - yes the families are crazy about the activities and what it has done for their love once.

    • profile image

      Terty mWells 

      5 years ago

      I am just starting a job as an activity coordinator and I found your article very useful and thought provoking. Thank you for sharing your experience, I feel a lot more confident about my role.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      Minor fix: Tuesday Chair Aerobics Musical Enternainment

      I will be passing this (as a link) along to local Assisted Living and Home Health Care folks I know. Great effort. I am now following you.

    • Ruby H Rose profile image

      Maree Michael Martin 

      6 years ago from Northwest Washington on an Island

      Yes, yes and yes, things for the elderly to do! So many of them enjoy staying active like they use to. A wonderful little list you have going here. The last care center I worked in had a ceramic shop, a thrift store, animals and pets, many engaging social activities. I too, at first didn't think they would care about a wii game console, but many of them absolutely love it. There is also a computer online for them to use and people around to help them with it. Great hub indeed!

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      6 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you SamitaJassi, I'm glad you enjoyed it! All the best..

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Jmills2006, thank you for your comments! All the best!

    • Jmillis2006 profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub, it is good to know that nursing care facilities are trying to make the lives of there residents better, by providing activities .

    • georgescifo profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Always welcome Jennifer. We can at least have some unadulterated vegetables from gardening and vegetation. :)

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you georgescifo, you are quite right, they are both excellent activities! By law, any home in the UK that is registered for EMI (Elderly Mentally Infirm) must have a garden. Having raised beds and plots to grow flowers and vegetables is a great way to get people involved! In the home I worked in, we had tomatoes every year and a few of the residents liked to help out. It is important for homes to assess the risks and ensure that the garden is easily accessible so even those with mobility problems can access it. Thanks for your ideas! All the best..

    • georgescifo profile image


      7 years ago from India

      Gardening and small scale vegetations are two activities that I recommend the most for elders!!

    • Glass-Jewelry profile image

      Marco Piazzalunga 

      7 years ago from Presezzo, Italy

      However, the most important thing to do to an elderly person, to prevent and ward off old age, is to read all the time. Elder if she/he wants to stay in shape should especially read, as well as physical activities and walks.

    • profile image

      entertainment 4 the elderly 

      7 years ago

      please visit entertainment 4 the elderly at for all your singing show requirments and free shows ,yes free shows ,you tell them that you want a show ,then they find a local business to sponsor that show its easy ,just check it out !

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      need for, thank you for reading and commenting, It's difficult for the elderly who are in care homes because their entertainment is often controlled by what the care home decides is going to happen, so it is important for homes to have many varied activities going on that interest everyone. All the best, Jen

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      FullOfLoveSites, thank you for your feedback and the votes! I'm glad you found this useful, all the best, Jen

    • profile image

      need for 

      7 years ago

      Very useful informations for aging individuals ,as they lonely & have no works to engage themselves . They will be guided more by your hub .

    • FullOfLoveSites profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Interesting article, written with so much concern and love for our elderly folks. There are so many things and activities awaiting them! Thanks for posting. Voted up and useful. :)

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thanks Sally, this is very good advice and I really appreciate your input! From my time running a care home, I learnt that listening to other peoples ideas can really improve the systems you already have in place, and all care homes, no matter how good they may be, should always be striving to improve! Really good to meet you here, all the best, Jen

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      7 years ago from Norfolk

      You are very welcome to add this idea. Too often the little things are the important ones and I do believe that, for some elderly folk, a pet gives people an opportunity to talk with each other, to share , to touch and to enjoy acceptance and love. Sometimes they may never be touched in this affectionate way - they miss the human touch as very often a patient with dementia is often separated from their loved ones, perhaps only because they cannot cope with the family member at home. Visitors can be infrequent in care homes, sometimes none at all! A cat brushing up against your leg or a dog licking your hand is an acknowledgement of acceptance. Sally

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Stephenf, thank you for taking the time to read my article, good home care systems are important too, so that people can remain independent in their own homes as long as possible!

      Sallybea, you are quite right and your comment reminded of the house cat we had at the home I used to run! He was a great character, all the residents loved him (and some would often feed him under the table when they were having lunch or tea... lol), If you don't mind I would like to update this article to include pets! :-) I found a very good way to get round ridiculous health and safety legislation was to be really very good at writing risk assessments! Thank you for your comments and your input! All the best, Jen

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      7 years ago from Norfolk

      Interesting article - especially good to hear that there are people out there who are prepared to treat our elderly with the dignity and care they so deserve. I personally would like to see every home have a resident dog or cat - something for the old folk to talk to, to touch and to enjoy! Perhaps health and safety should be ignored in favor of something which could be of so much much benefit to so many lovely old folks.

    • stephenf profile image


      7 years ago from North Port, Florida

      Jennifer, this is an excellent article and it's obvious by the length and quality that you didn't just throw it together. The listed activities could make it very attractive to seniors who are considering (maybe with apprehension) a resident care facility. We are Elite Senior Companions from southwest Florida and we offer non-medical companion care before it is necessary for seniors to go to a senior care center. Many baby boomers, for example will have some years yet before they contemplate an institution. We offer cooking, housework, transportation, and such for our beloved seniors.

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      7 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you for your comments midget38, I think it is so important to include family and loved ones in the care an individual receives when living in a home, depression is common in the elderly when they move into care and also families often feel overcome with guilt for not being able to cope and having to get help this way. By including everyone and their choices, these emotions can be worked through to provide a happy caring environment for the individual and their loved ones! All the best, Jen

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      I like that you said that the activities should be inclusive of the person individual as well as other members of his family whenever possible....they don't feel so dislocated from the rest of the family this way. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      8 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thanks ezhang, I'm glad you found it useful :-)

    • ezhang profile image

      Edward Zhang 

      8 years ago from Bay Area, CA

      This is a great hub about the activities held in nursing homes! It also provides me some great ideas about activities I can do with my own grandparents :)

    • Jennifer Stone profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Stone 

      8 years ago from the Riverbank, England

      Thank you for your kind comments and for taking the time to read my answer to your question! Thanks also for the vote :-)

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      8 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for answering this question with a hub. Nice job of explaining how to keep seniors active and happily engaged if they are in nursing homes. Voted useful and interesting and will share.


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