I Am Bored: Brainstorming to Alleviate Resident Boredom
by Kathleen Hughes, ADC
Perhaps we are asking the wrong questions and not empowering the residents to make their own calendar of events to encourage them to participate actively or to buy into the activity and have some stake in the game. The residents who actively participate in the planning and implementation of the activity would be more likely to attend and encourage others to attend.
During a Brainstorming Workshop my coworkers and I learned a technique that allowed for the free flow of ideas and encouraged the participants to give ideas they may not have thought of. Using these techniques on a quarterly basis at the facility we created new activities, different activities and our activity calendar changed every single month. The only constant was the time of the programs, but the activity itself changed and always changed for the good.
Brainstorming follows a specific path that you would need to use to be successful. First, you will need flip charts, markers and tape. These tools will assist with the flow of ideas and staff can help with the process so that they can be a part of it and see what the residents are thinking of.
Appoint an Activities Committee as part of your Resident Council if you have one. If you do not have one, then invite all of the residents. Serve a snack and beverage and have them in a circle where they can see all that is being written down. Make sure that the people writing down the ideas write in large print so all can see.
Each quarter you would ask the following questions (substitute the season for each question on a quarterly basis):
- What did you do as a kid in the summer?
- What did you do with your family in the summer?
- What is your fondest memory of a summer vacation?
- What is the best thing you ever did in the summer?
For example, we had residents discuss having a lemonade booth, going to the fair, swimming in the lakes, fishing, playing kick the can, making a tree house, renting a cottage on a lake, playing hopscotch, listening to music, sleeping in a tent in their backyard with the kids from the neighborhood, riding their bikes all through town, going to a drive in theater, learning how to hula hoop, clambakes, catching frogs, catching lighting bugs in a jar, campfires, cooking on an open fire, eating vegetables off the vine from their garden, spitting watermelon seeds and running through a sprinkler.
We then took the 17 pieces of paper and hung them in the activities office so that we could all generate ideas. Then a week later we gathered a group of residents again and asked them which ideas we could use to plan activities for the summer. Please, remember we did this in April so that we could plan out the summer. We reconvened in August to plan for the Fall. Planning ahead is extremely important to the process.
The group then looked over the memories and ideas and placed the activities on an extra-large calendar for the months of June, July and August. We went through all of the listed activities and some were accepted and some were placed on hold. The residents and the activities staff went through the planning process for each month. Keeping the activities we could not change such as religious services and Resident Council. The rest of our days and evenings were up for grabs.
Each participant was given a copy of a completed calendar to take with them and asked to talk to other residents about what we had come up with and then get back to the activities staff if anyone had any other ideas. A week later we then had the entire summer schedule completed and ready to implement. Many of the ideas were incorporated into the calendar, including all of the above ideas. Our lemonade stand made $200 that summer and we had a campfire with our neighborhood fire department in our parking lot.
We also had residents make the decorations for the events, they made invitations for residents and families, they would also make handouts and door prizes for those that attended and participated so that they could share memories about the programs. When the residents made the table decorations they were very proud of what they created and could not wait to learn who would win them when the event was over.
Involving the residents in the brainstorming session and implementation of their ideas encourages creativity and enthusiasm. The staff also became more creative and tried new ideas for activities. The residents got used to the process and would talk among themselves for the upcoming season. Younger residents got to have some innovative activities and the older residents would attend just to see what was up!
Give it a try, the key to the entire process is to look at the possibilities and do not have any negative interjections. Each thought, memory and idea should be considered and adapted for the residents. You can also acknowledge the residents that participated and helped plan the activities. Everyone has to be positive and encourage participation in the process.
Activity Directors Network was founded in 1996 on the idea that we could help create elderly care that dramatically improved the lives of those we all serve. Activity Directors are the key to creating environments that we ourselves would be excited to live in. We envision facilities that feel like homes, not institutions. Facilities that celebrate our resident’s individuality and allows them to live with dignity, purpose and joy. We believe providing the best education available, with the most talented teachers we can find, is the way to make an impact. Each and every single one of you are the revolution that is changing everything.
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