These are some of the things that have worked for me, that don't require my active participation 100% of the time.
1. Get birds. The residents will sit for a long time talking to them, some of them will help with their care. Put an ad on your local Craig's list and tell them you are an adult day care looking for birds. Some will offer to sell, but many will be happy to donate.
2. Ladies and men both like to bead. The men can make for their wives, daughters, etc. Make sure to get nice quality, large hole beads - not your typical Wal-mart nursing home plastic variety.
3. Plants. Especially fruiting plants. Tomatos, eggplant, peppers, etc. Make sure you have a watering can and hand tools. Get plants that are tough and hard to kill.
4. Fish. Same as the birds. People get tired of their aquariums all the time. Once established, they are fairly easy to take care of.
5. Community service projects.Right now, we are making toys for the area Bird Haven birds, bookmarkers for when the kids go back to school (we have a school that comes every other week to read to the grandmas and grandpas), Christmas cards for a unit of troops stationed in a remote area of Iraq (yes, Christmas in July), and collecting and sending care packages for soldiers that are relatives or friends of our staff, employees or residents.
6. Checkers. Very easy. the men usually like it a lot.
7. Dominos. Set up several tables and have a tournament.
8. Flower arranging. Keep a large container of nice, artificial flowers and ask everyone to do an arrangement for the tables, the restrooms, the dining room, ???? Fresh flowers are always extra special. Maybe a florist close by can donate the stuff they throw away on the days that their suppliers restock them.
9. Movie and popcorn. Pop the popcorn, start the movie and then you can do paperwork, etc while you supervise.
10. Get a facility cat or dog. OR, bring yours to work everyday.
None of these things require you to be directly involved 100% of the time.
If you have transportation, load everyone up and just drive around. Take a neighborhood home tour, go to a garden, drive through the country. People watch. This used to be one of my favorite events with the Assisted Living folks. We looked at decorations, new million dollar construction, some of their old neighborhoods, the mall, lakes, buildings, etc. It didn't matter what we set out to look at/for. They always just loved being out.
Make cookies, homemade ice cream. Almost all folks like to eat.
Sorry this post is so long. I just hate to see new ADs getting frustrated and feeling like there's never enough time in the day. (There's not - but there will never be anymore). It should be fun, exciting and challenging to set up a new program. Add things to the calendar that YOU enjoy. Chances are, your enthusiasm will be catching. You could probably talk them into almost anything with enough enjoyment and expectation in your voice and a huge smile on your face.
The main thing is to enjoy what you're doing with them. There is only so much one person can do...leave the work at work and enjoy your time off. Even though there may be no way it all gets done - look at it this way: If it all gets done (by you) then no one ever sees the need to hire you any help.
Best wishes. If I can help further (if this helped at all), pls feel free to contact me direct.