Recreation, Socialization, Community Resources, Social Services and Activities in the Community

Introduction:retirement community playing cards

In this module you will learn about your role in helping residents to develop social connections to others within the home and in the community.

Consider a personal care home resident who rarely sees family members and friends, and who has no relationships with other residents in the home. With whom can the resident share his/her feelings, stories and personal experiences?

It is important that each resident has people to care about and people who care about him/her. Being involved in community groups and activities provides many opportunities for important social connections.

Direct care staff persons need to be aware of the importance of social contact in the lives of residents. Whenever possible, interaction with other residents and with family members and friends should be encouraged. Such interaction can contribute to physical as well as mental health.

Encourage socialization among residents:resident socializing

For some residents, adjusting to life in a personal care home can be very difficult, particularly when having limited contact with family members and friends. It is not always easy to make new friends and adjust to new people, new stores, new food, new activities and a new routine.

Here are some things that a direct care worker can do to encourage residents to socialize with one another:

  • Introduce a new resident to other residents.
  • Introduce residents with shared interests.
  • Promote activities in the personal care home. Constantly encourage and remind the resident to participate in activities. Find and provide activities that the resident enjoys.
  • Talk with the resident’s family and friends to find out more about his/her interests and hobbies.
  • Check the resident’s support plan for special interests.
  • Encourage the resident to join interest groups, activity groups or social committees.
  • Honor the resident’s rights to choose activities.


Encourage participation in activities at the personal care home:resident gardening

Many of us take for granted the opportunities we have for changing things we don’t like. We can replace the furniture in our living room, speak to the manager of a store where we are treated badly by a clerk or become a member and supporter of a community organization devoted to making the community safer and cleaner.

Life in a personal care home, however, often provides limited opportunities for residents to be involved in decisions that impact their lives. Meal routines are set, staffing decisions are made by others and residents typically have little input on purchases of furnishings.

Yet, there are some exceptions. Some personal care homes have “resident councils” that give residents a chance to suggest ideas for new activities and to give input into decisions about things like furnishings, meal policies and home rules.

If there is no such council, there may be other opportunities for residents to share their ideas for making changes in the home, such as hobby/interest groups, smaller committees focused on planning activities and group meetings with the management. The direct care staff person has an important role to play in terms of encouraging residents to join such committees and helping residents participate in such meetings.

Encourage participation in the community:
old woman reading to young kid on bench

The direct care staff person helps residents have access to “formal support systems.” This refers to services received from other service systems, such as MR (mental retardation) workshops, MH (mental health) outpatient programs and substance abuse (drug and alcohol) services. The direct care staff person helps residents to get to and from these programs.

Besides taking part in community-based programs that offer formal services, residents can be engaged in the community in many other ways. Some examples include:

  • Going to church, temple, mosque or synagogue.
  • Attending the local senior center.
  • Visiting a local museum.
  • Visiting a beauty salon or barbershop.
  • Joining a gardening club.
  • Volunteering at a local school.
  • Going to the movies.
  • Going shopping.

In addition, many local community groups will often come into the personal care home to provide activities and to help connect residents with the local community. The home should contact local groups such as schools, religious organizations, Lion’s Clubs, fire departments, musical groups and others and invite them to come into the home to visit, teach and entertain.

Direct care staff have an important role to play in terms of sharing information about local recreational opportunities, helping residents to get ready for community activities (for example, getting bathed and dressed) and, if necessary, assisting with transportation.


Things to consider when planning activities for residents:

  • Pay attention to the resident’s abilities and interests.
    • The more you get to know the resident, the better you will be in recommending that he/she participate in activities that match his/her interests.
  • Find ways to support the resident’s interests in various activities.
    • Some direct care staff persons believe that their jobs are easier when residents are less active and not involved in activities. However, over the long run, the opposite is the case. An inactive, socially isolated resident is more likely to be dependent on staff attention and will miss out on the physical and mental health benefits associated with being active with others. Direct care staff persons have an important role to play in terms of letting residents know about various activity options and in encouraging them to participate.
    • You can’t do it alone. Try to enlist the support of the residents, other direct care staff persons, family members and community members in helping the resident to learn about and be able to participate in activities in the home and in the community.
  • Ensure that the resident’s health and safety needs are met.
    • A resident may be fearful of getting involved in a community activity due to concerns about being able to get around, being able to take a rest when necessary and being safe. Ensuring that the resident will be safe and comfortable in the activity is likely to increase his/her motivation to participate.
  • The activities in which a resident participates should be consistent with his/her support plans.

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