Resident Initiated Tools for Engagement Programming

Engagement Toolkit – December 2022

In-room engagement has emerged as a silver lining of the pandemic. Moving on from social distancing and isolation, we know that residents continue to enjoy alone time and solitude in their own space, exactly as they did well before COVID. The only difference, is we have learned how to support and provide personalized, meaningful and interactive content to maintain health and wellbeing. Use these tools to help residents think creatively about new ways to engage themselves and each other.


The most important thing we can do for our bodies and minds is to keep moving. Movement is cumulative and all the seconds of movements add up throughout the day and throughout our lives. It is not about the amount of time spent per day moving, it is about the consistency and making a habit of doing something daily.

December Focus: Art Walk

Everyday we walk around the world that surrounds us without giving much thought to art of all forms that is right in front of our faces. As we learn to walk with a purpose and engage our minds to go somewhere, we can also engage our minds to look for external stimuli while we move our bodies. Here are 3 tips to consider on your next leisurely stroll:  

  1. Is There a Story? Yes, there are lots of prints and photos on the wall that we pass by with no interaction because they are so common. Take time to look at pictures and form an impression. What does it mean? To you? To the creator? Do you like it? Is it interesting? Is it a stock photo you’ve seen before? Does it look like a print or original? What is the medium for the picture? Did someone paint it? Is it signed? Is it modern, contemporary, abstract, traditional, etc.  
  2. Beyond Pictures. What else do you see as you walk that could be considered art? Do you think plants are artful? Are decorations a form of art? Sculptures and planters? Is landscaping a form of art? What about the colors surrounding you? How do they make you feel? How does natural light affect your mood or energy when you pass by windows and see out into the world?  
  3. Have an Opinion. Good, bad or indifferent, thinking about why you like or dislike something is a way to engage your cognitive mind and replace routine with novelty. You can even do this while driving or moving about however you get from place to place. 

Creative Opportunities

Mindset is extremely important during increased alone time. Encourage residents to focus on positivity, peace, gratitude, future goals, hopes, and past memories to help them find good in any day.

December Focus: Sitting with Memories 

Holidays are a catch 22 for many people. There are joyful moments, but also ones filled with sorrow because holidays are a forever reminder of memories, family and time with loved ones. As we grow up in life, social circles, family and support systems typically reduce in number.  

Take a moment each day to sit with both emotions. Try sitting in front of a fire, rocking on a chair on the patio or entering into these thoughts upon rising or in the middle of the day. Being mindful of loss or sadness can also help us appreciate the joy and happiness that we can still find and experience in non-traditional holiday happenings.  

December Tools


We all flourish when find creative outlets to express ourselves. Creativity is not limited to the arts. Let your mind wander and ask residents how they engage in creative outlets. Some may say board games, cards, photography, writing, poetry, acting, singing, dancing, gardening, flower arranging, designing, sewing or knitting. Be open minded and let others explain options for additional creative opportunities.

December Focus: Planning for 2023 

Instead of waiting until January 1st to set goals or make changes to have the best 2023 possible, set aside some time now and make a list. The beauty of aging is we are experienced and seasoned enough to understand what goals will be the best for our spirit, mind and souls, not just our bodies. Remember, a new year is not just about doing things better, but also committing to continuation. Here are a few ideas to get your mind going:  

  • Keep moving. A body in motion is good for the spirit, mind and soul. Be motivated to move for the mental gains, not just physical reasoning.   
  • Support a friend. Giving of ourselves in an altruistic manner is always a win-win.  
  • Start a new book.  
  • Try a new hobby.  
  • Learn something you’re curious about.  
  • Go outside at least once a day.  
  • Drink more water out of your favorite cup.  
  • Declutter and organize.  
  • Get rid of things that do not bring you joy.  
  • Reflect on what brings you joy, and do more of it.  
  • Quality time with quality people is a must to keep us sane.

Mental Stimulation

Novelty is the best approach to counteract a monotonous routine. The mind needs to be stimulated: Learning new skills, trying new things and having new conversations with new people are excellent ways to stay mentally stimulated. Mental stimulation is so much more than brain games or daily puzzles.

December Focus: Holiday Decor Challenge 

Holiday decorations are to each their own. What one person likes may be hideous to others. Think about your holiday decor preferences and ask yourself why? Why do you like what you like? Is it because of decade old traditions? Or do you find yourself liking different things each year? Do you have a theme you like? Why is that theme important to you?  

Dive deep into the why’s and see where it takes you and what experiences have shaped your preferences:  

  • Lights– multicolored, white, blinking or flashing, solid color, alternating patterns, small or large bulbs, lava bulbs.  
  • Trees– real or artificial? Fat or skinny? Tall or short? Green or flocked? What goes on top? Over-the-top or minimalistic?  
  • Wrapping– plain or busy, handmade bows or premade bows, no bows, handmade tags, matching tags, hidden tags on the back, ribbon, curling ribbon, bags, brown bags, no wrapping just whatever you have on hand (all about being practical and efficient).  

Tip – as an activity, have people wrap a package and discuss why they did what they did and discuss how this matches their personality or what other people would expect.  

Do your preferences in holiday decor (not what you decorate, but also what you enjoy) represent your personality? Do you find yourself being traditional or trendy? How did your years growing up or raising a family impact your decor preferences? Has life simplified your approach to the holidays? Are you a gift-giver? Are you uncomfortable receiving gifts?  

Behind all the decor and stuff, there are reasons and experiences that shape our preferences and traditions.  

Here’s a thought: Why do holiday decorations make you happier?  

Psychologists say holiday decorations are nostalgic and bring people back to simpler and happier times. They say it also helps boost dopamine. “It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” psychologist Deborah Serani told TODAY.