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Taking Back the Reins

Updated: Feb 9

Who controls programming?

As in all other aspects of our lives, community programming may be controlled by outside forces, such as community, regional or national management. Management's rationale for controlling community programming may be any of the following:

  • frequent staff turnover

  • staff absences due to health challenges, especially over the past three Pandemic years

  • minimal Activity staff training.

  • maintaining a daily high standard of excellence.

Hopefully, that standard of excellence addresses the interests of each community member and "whole person" health needs, such as the following:

  • physical

  • emotional

  • creative

  • cultural

  • cognitive

  • social

Fitting In, Yet Standing Out

Whenever we work for a larger entity, such as a corporation, we are under their jurisdiction and need to fit into their structure. Yet, it is possible to "fit in," yet "stand out." You may have figured out a solution that works for you. If you are open to learning how I did it when I served as an Activity Director, Regional Director, and Consultant, and what I learned from other Activity Leaders, view the following examples:

  • I was instructed to fill the monthly calendar with at least six activities each day that addressed each "whole person" health need above. One health need might be "physical health," which meant a group exercise every morning. That was the mandate, even for folks who did not like to exercise.Within that mandate, I could be creative. One day a week, we might do chair or standing aerobics, another day yoga, a third day ball toss, a fourth day tai chi, a fifth day gyrokinesis. We also might exercise to music or drumming or dancing or balancing books on our heads or walking in the garden or taking strolls around the block with only a couple folks after lunch.

  • Folks who did not like to exercise might enjoy bird watching /feeding or gardening or accompanying staff on snack cart walks down the halls. Some folks were invited to lead exercise, in the form of "Simon Says" or pantomime.

  • Children were invited to exercise with the elders; for example, we would hold an afternoon dance party that would include elders demoing the "Twist" or "Run Around Sue" and youth demoing line dancing or break dancing.

  • To address individual needs, I printed a weekly and/or daily calendar that was placed in the front lobby or on the community bulletin board or on the breakfast table or handed out to those who were room bound.

  • Management might mandate creating a monthly or holiday event, but we can implement the event in a way that we believe would meet community member needs and interests.

  • We can integrate physical health with other "whole person" health categories. For example, we can invite community members to express the sound of snow or rain or thunder with their body, even without making sounds with their voice, or invite them to express how a snake moves or how an elephant moves or how a crab moves with their fingers or whole bodies.


As in other aspects of our lives, we don't have complete control of our environment, but we do have the ability to "take back the reins," to create, improvise, learn from others, explore, and experiment with alternative practices to meet the needs/interest of those we care about.

Moving Forward

We also have the ability to meet our own needs/interest and sync what's important to us with the needs/interests of others. For example, I like classical music. If those with whom I am in contact prefer playing, singing songs related to, or playing baseball, I follow their needs/interests (view next blog post to see how)...

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