Planning activities for adults in a day care setting may be challenging, especially if people cannot be easily grouped according to their abilities. Budgets, staffing, and facilities have a direct impact on the activities chosen for an adult day care center. Some areas that can be explored for appropriate day care activities include games, arts and crafts, music and exercise.
Both group and individual games have a place in adult day care programs. A little friendly competition may stimulate clients and assist in socializing them if they have been isolated at home.
- Charades can be adapted by selecting topics suited to the individuals in the game. Because this is a team game, individuals with different abilities can be grouped together. The only supplies needed are some index cards or slips of papers with the names of things or simple daily activities.
- Drawing games in which a team member draws an item for the opposite team to identify require only a large pad of paper, an easel, and some wide-point markers.
- Guessing games can be fun while they also reinforce basic memory and sensory skills.
- Tactile skills and memory are reinforced when items are placed in a cloth or paper bag for identification only by touch.
- Visual memory is enhanced by showing pictures of well-known people and places for identification by each team.
- Auditory memory can be stimulated by playing recordings of common sounds, such as those from musical instruments, animals, and nature. Again teams compete to identify the most sounds correctly. An MP3 player with speakers or CD player is required to play the pre-recorded sounds.
A variety of games suitable for older adults are available in books, on the Internet, and for electronic game consoles. While not all experts on aging agree, a number of studies and the day-to-day observations by professionals who work with seniors suggest that games may result in a positive effect on mental capabilities, including memory, reaction time, and other cognitive skills.
Games on Paper
- Crossword puzzles can be purchased in inexpensive paperback books at a variety of levels. In addition, it is possible to create crosswords tailored to individual needs and reproduce them an inkjet or laser printer.
- Sudoku, word search, mazes and other puzzles are also available in paperbacks. They can also be accessed for free on the Internet. A free tool for teachers lets you create a variety of custom puzzles.
- Computer games for older adults are available on the Internet from many sites. AARP offers "Brain Games" for seniors
- Video Games can usually be played alone but may also allow to players to compete. Game manufacturers are beginning to provide games targeted at older adults. One example is Brain Age for the Nintendo DS.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts activities for seniors in day care can be as simple as pencil portraits of other clients or as complex as knitted and crocheted projects. Some projects may need to be adapted to accommodate special needs such as stiff joints or poor vision. A few possible activities follow below:
- Drawing and painting are relaxing and can be done relatively inexpensively with student-quality paper, water colors, markers, crayons, and pencils available from discount stores. More advanced artists may want acrylic or oil, good brushes, and canvases.
- Collages can be created from scraps of material, construction paper, and clippings from magazines. Even scraps of yarn and fabric can be integrated into a collage. Tag board or other sturdy paper should be used for the foundation for a collage. Glue sticks or white glue can be used for collages.
- Simple knit and crochet projects that can be completed relatively quickly, such as potholders, scarves, hats, and slippers are suitable for adults in day care. Cotton yarn should be used for potholder; synthetic yarn may melt when subjected to heat. Bulky yarn and larger than usual knitting needles or crochet helps may aid people with poor vision or arthritis in their hands.
Anecdotal evidence suggests has shown music is especially valuable for Alzheimer's patients and others with memory deficits. The Alzheimer's Foundation of America has advice on selecting and using music for both stimulating and calming purposes with memory impaired clients. Music from an individual's youth seems to stimulate long-term memory. In addition, music may have a calming effect when day-care clients become agitated. Music is also provides entertainment and provides an opportunity for other adult day care clients. Some possible uses for music are:
- Adding music to chair exercises can enhance the experience and adds rhythm to the activity.
- Selecting music from 1930s, 40s, and 50s may awaken memories from a senior's youth and provide opportunities for reminiscence and verbal sharing.
- Dance or arm movements to music engage the participants can provide enjoyment and exercise.
- Sing-along sessions led by day care staff or by a volunteer can be enhanced with sheets of lyric in large type. In addition, CDs, such as Sing Along with Mitch Miller, encourage participation in the musical experience. An impromptu rhythm band can accompany sing alongs; common household items, such as coffee tins, pie tins, and wooden spoons, can be turned into drums, tambourines, and rhythm sticks.
Daily exercise has health benefits, and may provide socialization activities for seniors in a day care setting. As mentioned, clients in adult day care may have a range of physical and mental abilities. Exercise needs to be tailored so that it does not increase risks for falling. Carefully selected exercise can improve balance and physical strength so that falls become less likely.
- Games like bocce ball, lawn bowling, croquet, and shuffleboard are appealing to seniors who are relatively physically fit and can also be played by people in the early stages of dementia.
- Chair exercises can be lead by a day care staff member, or participants can follow televised instructions from a DVD.
- Tai Chi, which is especially valuable for balance, can be taught without an expert instructor, because there are excellent and inexpensive instructional programs available on DVD.
- Supervised nature walks or city walks can provide exercise, while also expanding the world of the seniors attending the day care center.
Reflecting Real Life
Activities for adults in day care should reflect the interests and abilities of the individuals in the program. In addition to games, crafts, music, and exercise, activities such as birthday parties, holiday celebrations, and luncheons provide an opportunity for adult day care clients to assist with food preparation, decorations, and table setting. These activities create a feeling reminiscent of life at home.