Arts In care Homes - Everyday Creativity
Artwork by residents from Coombe Hill Manor, Signature

Developing everyday creative activities is a good way of bringing more art into your homes. Residents and staff that are put off by the term ‘the arts’ may be more willing to take part in craft, reminiscence or cooking related activities.

  1. Ensure all residents have easy access to pens and paper. Encourage them to use them on a daily basis to write their signature, make lists, draw or doodle.
  2. Have an impromptu Friday dance session. Choose music that makes you and your residents happy. Dance, dance, dance! If you have an Alexa, have fun with your group choosing the song selections.
  3. Make tea-time a special sensory treat. Use nice china cups and saucers. Maybe try a different fragrant tea such as Earl Grey and different biscuits – lavender, rose, lemon or ginger flavour? Have vases of fresh flowers around the room. Put on some mood music. Use linen napkins, cake stands… create a sense of occasion!
  4. Make a post box for the home. This could be a ‘Blue Peter’ job using an old cereal packet etc or you could order an mdf one and paint it together. Encourage residents, staff, relatives and visitors to post thank you notes, postcards, recipes, love letters and poems.
  5. Do a desert island disc session. Choose three residents that enjoy talking about their lives. Ask them to each choose a piece of music that means something to them. Discuss associated stories or memories. Have a special evening: dress up; get a microphone and music system to play pieces of music; invite friends; share stories and open the fizzy wine!
  6. Go to your local park or garden. Gather a selection of seasonal flowers and greenery, the more variety the better. Bring the outside in. Enjoy the sensory sensations – the smell, look and touch of the plants. Share related memories about nature. Pile up the flowers and foliage on a long table and encourage people to start making small posies or flower arrangements. Use oasis and small plant pots for more formal arrangements.
  7. Load up a trolley with an assortment of interesting items: nature related sensory objects – herbs, flowers, pumpkins, lavender bags, seed packets or reminiscence related objects – old jewellery, postcards books, records and toys. A quick trip to your local charity shops should result in some rich pickings! Take your trolley and go for a wander round the home, including residents that don’t like to join in group activities. Take the time to sit with them and give them your full attention, looking at different objects, smelling and touching them together. Share associations and memories.
  8. Have a cake decorating session. Buy or make cupcakes or biscuits and decorate using icing, sprinkles etc.
  9. Have an ‘I wish’ session. Get some blank postcards. Write ‘I wish’ on each one. Ask a small group of residents what they would ask for if they could have one wish granted. Write the answers on the card. On the other side use coloured pencils, felt tips, collaged bits of coloured paper etc to illustrate the wish in whatever way people want to. If possible, find a way of granting their wishes!
  10. Ask a few residents that have good craft skills like knitting, crochet or embroidery if they would be prepared to share their knowledge. Have a special relatives’ evening or invite children from a local school to come and learn a specific skill. Give residents lots of help and support. Teaching people new skills is a demanding thing to do and doesn’t always go as planned, so be prepared to add your input if needed. Set up a regular Knit & Natter or craft group and make items to sell at the home/school fair.
  11. Have a poem of the day. Buy an anthology of poems – most good book shops sell nice seasonal or nature poetry selections. Choose a time slot to read the poem to residents. Maybe before teatime? Get people to read the poem out aloud and share your views and opinions on the poems. This could be developed into poetry writing.
  12. Set up a Film Club. Get the community of the home to vote for their top ten favourite films and have monthly screenings. Organise related activities such as red carpet events and sing-a-long screenings. Have film festivals on specific themes. Don’t forget the popcorn!

The Baring Foundation’s ‘Treasury of arts activities for older people’ is an excellent resource, containing 50 activities, long and short, for use in any setting with older people.