Quilting may be for quiet types, bingo for bashful types and scrapbooking for serious types. So when you're trying to put the fun back into the lives of senior citizens who are still _fun_ctional, unleash your creativity to organize activities that will capture their imagination, trigger their enthusiasm and stir them to their feet. Go for quality over quantity and put a new twist on some old favorites with these four lively activities for fun types:
Bring Out Everybody's Best With M&Ms
Set it up: Place an equal number of M&Ms in small cups and distribute one cup to each of the senior citizens in your group (and tell them not to eat the candies – yet). Then make a color-coded chart, assigning a revealing piece of information to each color. Your chart might look like this:
Red: Tell us about your favorite subject in school
and why. Orange: Tell us what you aspired to become when you were a child. Green: Tell us what you did to get grounded by your parents for the first time. Brown: Tell us about your first childhood crush. Yellow: Tell us about a meal you prepare better than anybody. * Blue: Tell us what Olympian sport you think you could excel at and why.
Let the fun begin: Go around the room (or the circle or the table) and ask each senior to remove one M&M from his or her cup and reveal the corresponding answer. Be warned right now: Seniors have so much fun with this sharing activity that they might not even empty their cups ‒ and the conversations that ensue will explain why.
Mad About the Movies
Set it up: Organize more than a “movie night”; get the popcorn popping and host a film festival that revolves around a favorite senior movie. Decorate your “screening room” in the motif of the movie – complete with a movie poster, if you can find it. Ask the seniors to dress in the manner or style of the movie's main characters. Identify a favorite repeated phrase from the movie. Then find a list of 20 or so trivia questions from the movie and hand out a list to each senior before the movie begins.
Let the fun begin: Enjoy the movie with a deeper “lens” of appreciation: Chug a handful of popcorn every time the line is uttered during the movie, schedule an intermission, and replicate food and music from the movie. Discuss the answers to the trivia questions after the lights come up, offering a prize to the winner.
Watch Their Garden – and Menu – Grow
Set it up: Purchase some potting soil, pots and seeds for some easy-to-grow herbs, such as basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley and thyme.
Let the fun begin: After you plant the herb seeds, plant seeds of a different kind by pairing off the seniors and putting them to “work” on finding recipes that showcase their favorite herb. A lunch or dinner entree might be their first choice, but don't overlook the value of steering the seniors to smoothies or other concoctions that tap into the restorative powers of each herb. (They might be surprised at what they find.) Designate each senior a “resident herb expert” and ask that they disseminate their favorite recipes to the group.
Put on Your Dancing Shoes
Set it up: Choose an upbeat musical genre, such as the mamba, and stage an immersive musical experience. The Cuban dance craze “washed up” on the shores of America in the 1950s, which means that some of the older seniors in your group will probably remember it. But everyone is sure to enjoy the upbeat, fast-paced tempo of the music, especially if you provide a 360-view of its influence.
Let the fun begin: Post pictures of some early mamba pioneers, such as Perez Prado, the “king of mambo,” and Tito Puente, the “king of Latin music.” Round up some of their more famous recordings, or "Que Rico Mambo" and "Mambo No. 5” for the former, and the albums Mambo Diablo and Goza Mi Timbal for the latter. Gather and display an assortment of mamba instruments, which virtually any free-spirited senior can play, including the conga (a drum), bongos or claves (wooden pieces that are played by striking them together). Then learn some basic mamba moves from online videos and hold a “mamba fiesta.”
Stage Encores With Enthusiasm
Capitalize on your successes and tweak the activities your senior group responds to best. Build a game around any type of candy. Host a movie night around any movie. If you have room, you can upgrade a container garden to a land-based garden. And you can stage a dance night around any musical genre. Put a suggestion box in front of the seniors and let them help direct your next effort – an encore certain to capture their imagination, trigger their enthusiasm and stir them to their feet.