The Impact of Activity Professionals
Whether they work in retirement communities like Charlesgate, nursing homes, senior centers, adult day programs, or healthcare facilities, activity professionals create vibrant and fulfilling environments. Their job is to create enrichment activities that contribute to person-centered, person-directed care and quality of life. This year’s National Activities Professionals Week is January 21-27. It’s a great time to celebrate how these professionals innovate, inspire, involve – and impact – the wellbeing of those they serve.
During the early days of COVID, activity and enhancement planners nationwide had to adjust quickly to protect communities while preventing loneliness. Some innovative solutions included delivery of games to rooms, socially distanced bingo and exercises, livestreaming events, and costume days to celebrate the local sports team or holiday. Many of these changes continue since they boosted morale.
Additionally, activity programs have expanded in recent years. In the past, some residential communities may have only had the “three Bs”: bingo, Bible study, and birthday parties. But today’s activity professionals embrace a wide variety of interests, including art, fitness, gardening, and educational workshops. And more are incorporating technology-based activities like virtual reality so more individuals can connect and participate.
Using creativity and empathy, activity professionals design engaging events for personal growth. Individuals may explore new interests, pursue lifelong learning, and build lasting friendships. For example, a visit to a museum can encourage additional exploration on a historical topic or a book club may nurture a budding friendship through shared insights. In California, one activity professional told The Orange County Register that their late mother had enjoyed being part of a group more than she realized. “She was always kind of shy,” said the activity professional, “but her children said she had really gotten a lot out of activity.”
The heart of any thriving community lies in its inclusivity and active participation. Activity professionals play a pivotal role in ensuring that every individual, regardless of age or ability, can be involved. Because they tailor activities to accommodate needs, such as adapting sports or sensory-friendly art sessions, they encourage participation. Skye Leedahl, an assistant professor of Human Development and Family Science at the University of Rhode Island, told The Washington Post that activity directors can hugely impact residents’ social engagement. By creating an environment that encourages involvement, activity professionals contribute to a stronger, more connected community.
Studies consistently show that participating in meaningful activities can alleviate stress, reduce feelings of isolation, and enhance overall wellbeing. Activities like exercise classes in retirement communities can directly motivate residents to be healthier. Artistic pursuits provide a creative outlet for emotional expression, promoting mental clarity and self-discovery. And, group activities create a sense of belonging, combating loneliness and fostering a support system within the community.
Activity professionals make all of this physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing possible through their work. In fact, a 2014 study determined that one of the top two predictors of good quality of life in nursing homes was the staffing levels, especially activities staff.
Let’s thank these dedicated individuals who, through innovation, inspiration, involvement, and impact, contribute immeasurably to the wellbeing of our communities. If you have a friend or loved one who lives at Charlesgate, encourage them to participate in activities if they are not already. These experiences can truly enrich residents’ lives.