The holiday season is a challenging time for some seniors, but with a little extra effort you can make it special for your residents.
Christmas Activities for Seniors
Here are 12 of our top activities to spread the cheer in your facility this year:
Upgrade staff uniforms with festive shirts
Get your residents and staff into the Christmas spirit with Christmas T-shirts. Stores like Lowes, Best & Less, and Big W have affordable Christmas themed shirts that make this an easy and fun way to bring cheer. This can also be a subtle and effective way to boost staff morale, which as we know results in a cheerier environment for residents.
Don your Santa hats, elf ears and reindeer antlers
A similar solution to number one, but with more flexibility. Staff, residents or visitors can throw these on easily and join in the Christmas spirit. You can find these simple hats and headbands at the Reject shop, most dollar stores, and Kmart. It’s a bit of fun and great for visitors’ photos and facility photos.
Fill the space with Christmas carols
Don't have Christmas CDs or a stereo? Grab a portable speaker from home and connect it to your mobile phone or office computer. Use Spotify to access every famous Christmas Carol in pop culture history. Even access Christmas carols in different languages or from different countries to include staff and residents from different cultural backgrounds.
Tip: If you only have the free version of Spotify, sign up for their three-month free trial to avoid the ads. Just remember to cancel after the holidays. If you forget to cancel, you'll be charged $11.99 a month until you do cancel.
Hang Christmas wreaths on all the residents' doors
Activate the mind and the spirit by holding a Christmas wreath workshop. Residents can utilise their fine motor skills, be mentally stimulated by the creative challenge and get in the Christmas spirit. Once you’re done you have the added bonus of decorations for your facility that visitors can admire.
Tip: Workshops are a great photo opportunity for social media or any holiday newsletters to residents' family and friends.
Get a fresh pine Christmas tree to decorate with your residents
Go the extra mile and get a fresh pine tree for your residential aged care facility. Smell is said to have a stronger link to memory than any of the five senses. For residents with cognitive decline, this is an opportunity to trigger positive memories. The seniors of Australia did not grow up with plastic trees, so on this special holiday let them decorate a pine tree as they did as children, or as they did with their children.
Tip:Is your facility’s Christmas budget tight? Approach a large corporation like a supermarket and see if they will donate a Christmas tree. Offer to share photos of the residents and their families enjoying the decorations and the tree over the holiday season.
Hang Christmas stockings on residents’ doors
Surprise residents on Christmas morning with a visit from Santa Claus. Hang stockings on the door and let them wake to a stocking stuffed full. Some ideas for seniors stocking stuffers for aged care residents are:
- Gingerbread man
- Christmas cracker
- Pen and notepad
- Pencils and colouring book
- Coin purse
- Stress ball to squeeze (good for grip strengthening exercises)
- Candy cane
- Santa’s hat or xmas headbands
- Dried fruit and nuts
- Comfortable socks
- Deck of cards
Hold a Christmas card workshop
Many residents may not have the ability or capacity to get gifts for their visitors, this doesn’t mean they wouldn’t want to give something to them on Christmas. Set up a Christmas card workshop so residents have the opportunity to create something sentimental to give their family or friends over the holiday season. This will test their cognitive thinking and fine motor skills.
Make Christmas cookies, gingerbread men and houses
Stimulate all the senses and hand-eye coordination by holding a Christmas cookie workshop. Let residents express themselves by decorating with different colours and lollies.
Tip:For residents who may find this challenging pre-prepare your gingerbread men or houses and have them just act as the decoration squad. Most of the big supermarkets also sell kits to make it simpler.
Set up a virtual chat for families and friends
Since the pandemic the vast majority of Australians have become familiar with video calls. For some of your residents separated from family and friends overseas, a virtual call with loved ones would be the ultimate Christmas gift.
Tip 1:See if your facility can invest in a Google home hub (or similar technology). Once your hub is setup add your residents’ contacts to make video calls easy. If you do this, we also recommend investing in headsets so they can easily hear and be heard; just remember to sanitise the headset.
Tip 2: If setting up virtual calls is too challenging; you could encourage family and friends to send short pre-recorded video messages to the facility to play for the residents. You could even send short video messages back from residents.
Run a Secret Santa note exchange
An exciting activity for residents, the Secret Santa Note Exchange can be coordinated by your lifestyle therapists. Similar to Secret Santa, residents are assigned someone to write an anonymous Christmas note to. They are instructed to write something nice about the recipient and a Christmas blessing.
For example:“You have a lovely smile, and you are always kind towards the other residents. Thank you, and have a lovely Christmas and a Happy New Year.”
This is an easy option that has been popular with our residents in the past.
Put on a Christmas skit
Get staff and volunteers involved to put on a Christmas play or skit. Decorate the space, put on costumes, and fill your facility with vibrant Christmas cheer. We all know facilities are busy, so if this is not a realistic option reach out to some local community choirs or drama groups. See if they would be willing to volunteer their time and talent to perform at your facility.
Create a Christmas Spirit Board
Have residents build a Christmas Spirit Board by cutting and adding images that create a collage of pleasant Christmas memories. They could also contribute photos, sayings, handwritten messages and drawings. This is also popular with visitors, particularly any children who want to spot their grandparents Christmas collage contribution.
There are many ways you can make the holiday season festive at your facility this year. Another option is to provide disposable cameras, turning memories into mementos, like the good ole’ days. Adding some tinsel to the décor is another simple and cost-effective addition.
The important thing is to consider your residents and their capabilities, and finally putting aside the time to smoothly prepare your facility for the holiday season.