Senior Focus

As park and recreation professionals, we know it’s easy to plan programs for children and families–just organize some wild games, teach a new class, or lead an activity involving fun and food. However, planning for seniors takes more thought and effort.

Roll the dice on programming for seniors. Trust us, you'll come up a winner.

While many seniors today are no longer content to sit in rocking chairs knitting stockings, some seniors do need a “scaled down” version of activities from their younger years. So, take some of these programming ideas from the following experts I met while presenting several workshops at the New Mexico Health Care Conference:

Mom and Baby Group

Invite a group of young mothers to bring their babies and/or young children to interact with seniors. Set up small wading pools and water slides. Seniors love holding the babies.

–Judy Allen, Good Samaritan Center, Alamogordo, NM

Seniors Get Their Own Prom

We held a prom for senior citizens. Community members donated suits and dresses, and we brought in a Mary Kay representative to help with makeup and hair. Staff made a balloon arch over the entrance door. We also brought in a photographer for photos. Staff and seniors ate a candlelight dinner before crowning a king and queen and dancing the night away.

–Sharon Rojeski, Cedar Ridge Inn, Farmington, NM

Reminiscing Hour

We asked seniors and their family members to provide pictures of themselves throughout their lives. The pictures were displayed, and people shared stories of each photograph. The activity director played songs such as “Memories” or “Reminiscing” to add to the atmosphere.

–Christine Hernandez, Landsun Homes, Carlsbad, NM

Hit The Jackpot!

Call local casinos, and have shuttle busses pick up the seniors. Ask for discounts on buffets or restaurants. Then invite family members to come along for a great night at a real casino!

–Thomas Hutzler, Bee Hive Homes, Albuquerque, NM

Blue-Ribbon Prizes

Our state fair, Expo New Mexico, is held each year near our facility. Seniors submit projects such as paintings, photographs, crafts, etc. to be judged. We have yet to win a blue ribbon, but seniors are excited to enter projects and receive participation ribbons.

–Andrea Sarda, Princeton Place, Albuquerque, NM

Whose Face Is This?

Our seniors love playing a game in which pictures of famous people are shown. (We cut pictures out of the newspaper or even People magazine.) Then they tell as much as they know about the individual celebrities.

–Sylvia Tinajero, Las Cruez, NM

Nature Decorations

Take seniors on a nature walk to collect leaves, berries, twigs, seeds, etc. Then cut paper to look like a scroll with a string at the top for hanging. Seniors glue the nature items on their scroll that can then be displayed in a hallway in the recreation center.

–Lena Mangano, La Vida Llena, Albuquerque, NM


Make a putting green, and challenge other retirement communities to a competition.

–Garry Fingar, La Vida Llena, Albuquerque, NM

Helping Others

Seniors like to feel useful, so we put together small care bags for the homeless with shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

–Karrie Waid, Manzano del Sol, Albuquerque, NM

A Few More Ideas

• How about having seniors work with Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts on projects such as building bird houses? One group of seniors helped a Boy Scout troop build wooden bat houses from kits. Fun for all!

• A local bank contracted with a group of seniors to be in charge of the bank’s front-entrance area. Seniors received a budget to buy flowers or seasonal decorations, like pumpkins and cornstalks. The bank had the best-looking entrance in town!

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