A typical day for an activities director does not exist. Perhaps apt descriptions for these professionals would be whirling dervishes, as they flit from one resident to the next, anticipating and accommodating their needs.

“As soon as you enter the door, you hit the ground running,” says Cindi Halkola, activities director at The Chelsea at Brookfield in Belvidere, N.J. “If it’s a bus trip, you are rounding up residents, including those who have forgotten about the trip, or need help getting out of bed or getting dressed. Assisted living requires a lot of assistance.”

Sherri Ellis, activity/volunteer director at Good Samaritan Society – Boise Village in Idaho, starts off her day in a similar manner.

“From the time you get there, it’s a go,” says Ellis. “You put on your game face when you’re not feeling well. You focus on having a good day for the resident who may not be having a good day.”

Echoes Morning Carson, activities and volunteer coordinator at The Fairfax in Fort Belvoir, Va., “As I usually tell my staff, the best laid plans… . As soon as you hit the door, it’s the resident’s world.”

Some sort of exercise program follows breakfast. These exercises stimulate the body (chair exercises), mind (trivia), and spirit (tai chi).

Other morning activities ensue. Activities Director at Forest Hills of D.C. Linda Moreno provides her residents with a choice of three programs (lecture, art workshop, Internet travels). Belvoir’s Carson prefers to do lifestyle rituals such as folding laundry, baking bread for the fire department, and tending the garden.
Lunch is then provided, followed by a musical interlude.

While the residents eat, The Chelsea’s Halkola uses this time for prep work (ordering supplies from catalogs, preparing partial crafts to help residents succeed) or one-on-ones.

Similarly, Ellis completes charts of the residents, explaining what he or she did that day and the response—a critical component of the federal survey is that facilities show that residents are being engaged.

“When our programs are over, our day doesn’t end. Activities people don’t take breaks,” says Moreno, who after eating her lunch will typically do one-on-ones such as painting a resident’s fingernails because her daughter is coming to take her to lunch tomorrow.

The afternoon is yet again filled with options, from board games, crossword puzzles, and jigsaw puzzles to poetry groups, art classes, live music, and sports (bowling, bocce).

All facilities seem to wind down the day with some sort of social get-together. Happy hours are held at The Chelsea and Forest Hills. Evening activities such as movies, learning videos, and support groups are then offered.

“When our programs are over, our day doesn’t end,” says Halkola. “After work, and on weekends, we often go shopping for the next day’s craft, cooking supplies, or even party decorations.”

Adds Moreno, “You eat, sleep, and breathe the job.”