Fun and Festive Nursing Home Holiday Ideas

Tamsen Butler
Contributor: Lori Soard
Senior woman talking to a younger woman who is visiting her in the care home

Fighting the holiday blues can be a formidable objective for the elderly in a nursing home. Spruce up your senior residents holiday with fun, exciting activities. Explore nursing home holiday ideas like a red hat luncheon or New Year's Day party.

Twenty Nursing Home Holiday Ideas for Christmas

Christmas and New Year's Eve are a special time of year that most people have celebrated their entire lives. Just because a retired person is now in a nursing home is no reason why the holidays can't still be a time of celebration and revelry.

  • Santa Hat Luncheon: Host a luncheon and invite residents to wear a Santa hat if they'd like. Combine with an arts and crafts session beforehand where residents can decorate a simple and inexpensive felt hat with baubles, bling and put a unique style on the hat that is all their own. Offer Christmas themed goodies at the luncheon, such as a wide variety of Christmas themed cookies, hot chocolate and popcorn balls. Hold a contest and provide awards for the most original hat, prettiest hat, ugliest hat, and so on.
Old people celebrating Christmas
  • Night Before Christmas: Celebrate Christmas Eve with a movie marathon. Watch tried and true favorites such as It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and White Christmas. Complete the evening's activities with a visit from Santa, who will pass out a small gift to each resident or candy canes if you're on a tight budget.
  • Sing Alongs: Area schools and churches often have choirs that will be happy to come in and perform some Christmas carols for a fun sign along. Be sure to find out what songs the choir will be singing ahead of time and provide lyrics in large print for residents to sing along.
Group of senior women singing together and playing the piano at a retirement home
  • Decorate the Rooms: Allow family, friends and volunteers to come in and decorate each resident's room with a few festive decorations. Small Christmas trees and garland can add a real festive touch. Since many residents may get depressed during the holidays, particular if they do not have a lot of family, a small detail like a cheerful room can make a big difference.
  • Shopping Day: Plan an outing for residents who are able to leave the home so that they can get their Christmas shopping done. For those who are unable to leave the home, have a holiday store they can visit on premises to purchase a few items for gift giving, such as bath soaps, small stuffed toys and other items.
  • Christmas Skit: A brief performance of a short Christmas script, complete with auditions and rehearsals beforehand, becomes not only a fun Christmas activity but a fantastic activity to keep residents engaged.
  • Secret Santa Note Exchange: Residents are assigned another resident to send encouraging notes to throughout the season. They find out who their note writer is on Christmas day. This activity can provide encouragement and bring residents closer together.
  • Christmas Baking Class: Throw a baking party or cookie decorating party. Participants can deliver the baked goods to fellow residents to spread Christmas cheer.
  • Charity Project: Provide small stockings or baskets and a variety of inexpensive toys or trinkets for gathered residents to pull together. The packages will then be delivered to a local shelter or elementary school. If residents can't help with the delivery, staff should record it and show it to residents afterward.
  • White Elephant Gift Exchange: Residents bring one item - it can be silly or useful, or even strange - to the gift exchange. Drawing numbers to determine order, everyone gets the opportunity to open a gift.
  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service: Nursing homes with a chapel or spacious communal space can host a candlelight service on Christmas Eve in anticipation of Christmas day.
  • Hot Chocolate Bar: Host a hot chocolate bar (offer sugar-free options) complete with candy canes, whipped cream, and sprinkles for a holiday experience residents will enjoy.
  • Door Decoration Competition: Provide decorations to participating residents so they can decorate their doors with a holiday theme. Decorating a door may be easier than an entire room and everyone can enjoy the decorations as they move throughout the facility.
Old man with christmas balls in his hands
  • Find the Elf: Nursing home staff daily hides a festive elf doll (or angel, or Santa) and the resident who finds it every day gets their name displayed as the day's winner. This activity is beneficial for cognitive engagement.
  • Christmas Spirit Board: Display a large board with markers and encourage residents to write out their favorite Christmas memories. Residents will enjoy reviewing the board and sharing stories.
  • Santa's Helpers Visit: Partner with a local animal shelter to bring in some friendly animals to visit the residents. Provide treats for the residents to give to the visiting pets. This activity benefits both the residents and the shelter animals.
  • Christmas Lights Tour: If the nursing home has access to a bus or van, take the residents on a tour of local homes that are decorated for Christmas. Residents will enjoy taking a short trip to enjoy the decorations.
    Seniors watching the Christmas Street Lights
  • Christmas Pageant: Contact a local elementary school or middle school to ask if they would like to have a final rehearsal for their pageant in the nursing home's space. The students will enjoy the preview audience and residents will enjoy a fun show without needing to leave the premises.
  • A Sporting Holiday: If a game is scheduled to be televised on Christmas Eve or Christmas, hold an exciting viewing party complete with snacks, pom-poms, and mini-banners for each team. Include some holiday elements, such as optional Santa hats, or hold an "Elves Bracket" to see who can most closely predict the winner.
  • Ugly Sweater Party: Prior to hosting the ugly sweater party, host a sweater decorating gathering so residents are ready for the party. Craft time is a great activity for nursing home residents.

A Few Ideas to Celebrate New Year's Eve

It's important to celebrate each new year and think about things to look forward to in the coming year. These festivities can help mark the occasion:

  • Celebrate on UK Time: If residents do not wish to stay up until midnight in their own time zone, consider ringing in the new year with the United Kingdom. The time difference is about five hours, so you can ring in the new year at 7 p.m. instead of midnight. If the nursing home is located on the west coast, then it becomes quite easy to celebrate earlier with the east coast.
Senior Asian Woman Raising Glass of Non-Alcoholic Punch for Toast
  • Resolution Shuffle: Have each resident print their New Year's resolution on a 3 x 5 card, shuffle them all together and pass out. Each person must then match the resolution with the correct resident by asking questions until they find the owner of the resolution. This is a great mixer activity and helps residents get to know one another better. It also creates an occasion for ongoing dialogue as they keep up with one another throughout the year and see how the resolutions are going.
  • New Year's Day: Keeping families involved with residents can be vital. Consider having an event on New Year's Day that family and friends can attend. Since most people outside of the nursing home will have plans on New Year's Eve, you have a much better chance of getting family to visit on New Year's Day. Just don't plan the event too early in the day. Remember that everyone was out late the evening before.

The Perfect Event

When it comes to planning events and gathering nursing home holiday ideas, there is no limit to the number of things that could be planned. Consider that holiday schedules are already packed, plan a few really memorable events and enjoy the season!

Fun and Festive Nursing Home Holiday Ideas