Imagine how scary it is for a senior citizen to arrive at a new social club or residential facility where he doesn't know anyone. Icebreaker activities are not just for the first day of school or summer camp; they are ideal solutions to help senior citizens make friends. These activities encourage participants to share basic information and interesting details about themselves with peers in an entertaining context.
One way to help senior citizens break the ice is to get them to share information in an attempt to solve a common problem. Organize a miniature scavenger hunt in the activity room. Place items in various places around the room before the event. For example, post information on tables or walls, place items on bookshelves and storage spaces and use objects already in the room (such as plants and pictures on the wall). A scavenger hunt activity may include filling in information instead of collecting items. Examples would be finding a location on a map, looking for a picture in a book, using a computer with Internet access to find a piece of information and noting the color of an object in a painting.
Assign seniors to work in teams to complete the hunt. Because senior citizens may require assistance moving around, partner those who have ambulatory needs with people who can walk alone. Each time seniors must exchange information to find the items on their scavenger hunt, they will get to know one another better. Once the scavenger hunt ends, rotate members into new groups and begin anew so the seniors meet others beyond their original group.
Talking Musical Carpets
A variation of musical chairs can encourage senior citizens to move around and talk to each other.
To modify the game of musical chairs for wheelchairs, the facilitator can designate spots on the floor with colored carpet squares, which will take the place of chairs. When the music stops, wheelchair-bound seniors and ambulatory seniors must stop talking and proceed to occupy one carpet square (either by positioning their wheelchair or their feet on the carpet square). The facilitator or a senior volunteer should be in charge of the music cues.
Play music for one minute, while participants walk around near the carpet squares and talk to other seniors. In each round, there must be one less carpet square on the floor than the total number of participants in the game.
When the music stops, everyone stops on a square. The person without a square is eliminated and the facilitator removes a carpet square. The music attendant plays the music again, and the participants walk around and socialize for another minute until the music stops. At the end, there will be two seniors competing for the last carpet square and a winner will be determined.
Icebreaker group activities will build trust among a new group of seniors. The key to building trust is getting people to step outside of their comfort zone, relax and get to know others in an unfamiliar setting. Move the group activity outdoors to encourage people to interact instead in an unrestricted environment. Outdoor activities include a nature walk, an outdoor arts and craft project, a group exercise class (like yoga or low impact aerobics) or an amusing game such as egg toss.