How to make aged care activities meaningful

Aug 17, 2021 | Australian Aged Care

Aged care activities are a lot like modern businesses looking to creating low stress workplaces. There’s an awful lot of great ‘on paper’ ideas, but not enough understanding of what matters the most.

Adding a ping pong table to the recreation room in either case will be met with varying degrees of cynicism and success. It’s how you activate that pool table that counts.

Let’s take a look at aged care activities and how to make them the most effective

Make time a priority

Any aged care activities you run need the appropriate support. And this mean

An elderly woman sits on a couch in a library with a book in her lap. Aged care activities should promote joy

Photo by Amy Bonthorne via Unsplash

s spending time to make sure they are a success.

The ways you can make an activity meaningful are:

  1. Being hands on with your approach. Engaged staff and have them participate in a meaningful way
  2. Don’t set and forget. Allocate time and resources to the chosen activities to make sure staff are there to support them appropriately
  3. Treat the aged care activities with appropriate significance. Just because an activity is fun or less medical or care related doesn’t mean it should be given a low priority. Allocate the appropriate time, budget and resources so that your staff have the time to run them well and be there for residents.

How you roster and budget for the time spent on activities for your staff will determine how effective they are. Make them a meaningful experience for residence by supporting your staff to set the tone.

Less shine, more reality

One of the easiest ways to get trapped with aged care activities is to think about how they would look in the brochure. But recreation is a lot like a dating profile. There are a lot of people out there that love the idea of long walks along the beach that simply aren’t taking them.

Forget aspirational and shiny. Look for impact.

Consider what sorts of activities attract interest from your residents and see what you can do to level up those programs or branch out.

Also look at why those particular activities are popular. Ask the residents why they enjoy them. And see if they have other suggestions of activities they’d like to see.

Like any good event or activity, think about what will get butts on seats. Novelty will only get you so far.

Choose meaningful aged care activities

When we engage with any form of self-care, it’s important to recognise the difference between meaningful self-care moments and activities that operate as a self-soothe.

Self-care in aged care activities will take on forms like exercise or activities that promote gratitude. It might be a case of engaging with nature, other residents or themselves in a meaningful way. The opportunity to stretch the brain, invite a laugh or have some fun all work well. Heck, even mindful moments with some sunshine and a cup of tea with a good conversation can do a lot.

Self-soothing is more like your TV time or indulging a sweet tooth. It might make someone feel OK in the short term, but the value isn’t there overall.

With aged care activities operating as self-care, the backbone again comes back to time. Having time to connect with the activity. Having time to do the activity of choice. And having someone take the time to support these activities being safe, hassle-free and enjoyable.

If you consider reaching mindfulness and high engagement in the activity at hand as your guide to what works well, this can help work out what activities have the most positive impact and meaning on a given day.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Humans love variety. Your staff and your residents are no different. That doesn’t mean you have to have an ever-evolving program of new and wonderful things to try. Routine and reliability also help us connect with leisure in a meaningful way. And it can be helpful to have a plan for resource allocation and for budgetary purposes.

But any new aged care activities chosen should meet a set criterion of:

  1. Are they easy to engage with and provide low barriers to entry?
  2. Do they support physical, mental or emotional health?
  3. Is there a pay off? E.g., intellectual stimulation, opportunities to socialise, challenging etc?
  4. Does it promote connection between residents, and between residents and staff?

That way, any activity you choose to try has the best chance of hitting the mark while also bringing people together to enjoy each other’s company.

Pare down the options 

One of the most common mistakes made with aged care activities is offering a lot and seeing low uptake. It’s far better to consolidate your options, test what excites residents, and give your staff the opportunity to connect with an activity.

Staff that are constantly switching from activity to activity don’t get the opportunity to spend quality time with residents. They’re often too busy remembering the rules and how things run.

Making sure you support staff by giving them the time to get acquainted with aged care activities helps them spend more time playing along. It also means that you can give your staff the opportunity to offer extra support with some aged care activities. This means staff can anticipate who needs extra help based on previous experience better, too.

Giving less activities with better support means both staff and residents can focus on the fun instead of getting a handle on the activity itself.

Want more tips on making the aged care experience meaningful? Check out our blog!

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