“Dog Days of Summer” Elder Activity Project

                          Dog Days of Summer” Elder Activity Ideas

                All of the activities of Nursing Home Week are over and now the welcomed days of warm weather have arrived to enjoy the great outdoors. But as the summer progresses and the heat sets in, the month of August becomes a challenge to maintain high levels of motivation and interest on an everyday level. But, there is one ongoing activity that always brings spontaneity, smiles and fun to the residents and that is pet therapy. Of course, pet therapy is welcomed all year long, but this provides an opportunity for both staff and families to share the love of their pets, also. This is why the “Dog Days of Summer” project was implemented which has been outlined for you below.

                Many families may bring their pets to share with a particular elder or just a few, but the “Dog Days” theme invites everyone to share their pet with many people and on their own schedule, instead of on one designated day. The only requirement is that the pet be friendly and the updated shot records be on file at the facility. This is how it works.

1.      1.   The “Dog Days of Summer” is advertised in the newsletter and/or on a poster the month prior to the event. There are categories set up, for example: the biggest, the smallest, the oldest, the youngest, the cutest, most photogenic, friendliest, best dressed, unique, best behaved, can do the most tricks, best haircut, etc. The more categories the better which gives every pet an opportunity to be recognized. Be creative in this area.

2.      2.  Have the residents make doggie biscuits during (Kitchen Kapers) in preparation for the visitors as a welcome gift for the furry friends. Package them to take home, so as to not distract them.

3.      3. Have a camera ready. Emphasize the need to make an appointment during the month of August so an activity staff person is available to take its picture, although we always catch a few who do wander in on their own anyway. In this way, the pet visits can be scheduled around important activities (such as interrupting bingo), and the pets aren’t bumping into one another.

4.       4. Hang the picture immediately in a prominent place (under Dog Days of Summer Pet Contest), which is a good advertisement for those who never noticed the posters all over or read your fantastic newsletter, to finally be aware and perhaps become a part of it. The goal is by the end of the contest that there is a wall of pictures, and it need not just be dogs, but rabbits, cats and others can be eligible, dependent on your facility’s rules and requirements.

5.       5. The residents and staff usually enjoy viewing the growing picture wall and it is a good conversational piece, to include reminiscing or doggy tales about their pets of the past.

6.       6. At the end of the month, select a group of higher cognitive residents to act as judges. Give them each a category(ies), to determine the winners (one pet per category). We even created a few extra categories so every pet is a winner. We judged in front of the pet contest wall and just added a category winner’s label next to the picture.

7.       7. Make out cute certificates which can be picked up at the activity office and advertise the interactive, winning pictures in the September newsletter. After a fun culminating summer event, you’re ready to head into the busy month of September, readying yourself for all the fall activities.

 Peggy McGee, who was a past teacher and then an Activity Director for 14 years, has currently authored six books, mostly geared to a teen audience and also relevant to elders since it emphasizes interaction between the two.  Within the books, her characters are often involved within a pet relationship (cats, dogs or horses), which have brought much meaning to theirs lives through helping them to overcome hardship and issues. “Sara , the Psychic Sleuth”, “Sara to the Second Power”, “Sara and the Destiny of the Stars”, “Sara and the Cyber-Psychic Squad” and most currently “The Destiny of Taryn Rose”. Synopsis can be found at www.peggymcgeebooks.com and are available on Amazon for paperbacks and all e-book sites for a cost ranging from free to $.99.

Cultural Activity Program

                   Cultural Activity Program for the Elderly

            Diversity is the goal we try to strive for when we develop an Activity program in a long term care program; one that will reflect various ethnic backgrounds, in addition to being both educational and fun. What can be one day of ethnic activities can easily be expanded into a week long celebration by developing daily activities to enhance it.

            There are many ethnic holidays we normally recognize to include chronologically: Chinese New Year, Black History Month (February), Mardi Gras (French), St Patrick’s Day, Easter and Jewish Holidays, Dyngus Day (Polish), Cinco de Mayo, United States-regional (Memorial Day through July 4th), Luau-August, Octoberfest, Native American (November), Kwaanza and the different cultural traditions of Christmas celebration. Other ethnic weeks can be included throughout the year, for example an Italian love theme for Valentine’s Day. The goal would be to include one week per month to be involved in a cultural theme.


Simple Start:

            It is important to begin simple and expand from there. That is why it is essential to have a basic format.

Monday: Kitchen kapers to make/bake an ethnic recipe of the week, while introducing and discussing ethnic traditions during the process.

Tuesday: Ethnic Bingo followed by Happy Hour with cultural music enabling the residents to enjoy the ethnic recipe.

Wednesday: Craft involving theme culture

Thursday: Trivia on the theme culture

Friday: Culminating Entertainment of the theme culture.

Of course, the above activities would be integrated amongst the other ongoing activities and subject to change according to need. For example if entertainment is not an option, ethnic bingo could be the culminating event with special prizes from that specific culture.

Example: St. Patrick’s Day

Kitchen Kapers: Irish soda bread – Easy recipe

Ingredients: One cup pre-plumped raisins overnight in water/drain for recipe, 2 cups self-rising flour, one can nonalcoholic beer, ½ cup sugar

Mix together and bake at 350 for about 35-45 minutes. (Enjoy with butter or add green frosting if you choose)

Irish trivia/crafts can be found in Creative Forecast or from the computer.

Make bingo cards from the DTLK kids site which also provides cute crafts and card ideas. Use an Irish word at the top of the bingo card such as IRISH, LUCKY, MARCH, GREEN  etc. In the free spot, add an Irish sticker. (Save for the following year). Give out chocolate cover gold coins as prizes.

      The above format is just a basis for an expandable program.


Black History Month Picture Recognition: throughout all of February

Copy 15-20 famous past and present Black American pictures representing all professions and accomplishments.

On an 11 by 17 paper, print Black History Picture Recognition  and Number __ on the very top, and then Famous person____ Contribution______Winner_________ below each one towards the bottom. Make smaller entry coupons with the above information to be filled out by participants to be handed to an activity staff person. Distribute these around the facility.  Only activity staff can fill out winner information on the 11x 17 picture poster. Residents are allowed the first 24 hours (although staff can assist them to fill out entry coupons) and then the staff can enter. Winner gets a candy bar or prize. The resident who identifies the most gets a bigger prize and then recognition in the newsletter.

*Make sure to begin with the easiest pictures to identify to engage the residents such as Barack Obama, then Michelle Obama, Oprah etc, gradually making them more challenging. This is a fun and educational cultural project for everyone. Hang one poster about every other day. Pictures can be saved and used for the following year. This concept can be used for famous women etc.

      Remember to start simple, keep your ideas and materials for the next year and expand, accumulating as you go so you have much to choose from. And as everyone in the activity profession realizes what is offered at one time in the program, may or may not be an immediate success. So, improvise, smile and keep up the good work. Remember, whatever and however you do it is making a difference to someone! God Bless.


Peggy McGee, past teacher, Activity Director and current author of teen and adult books. I attempted to integrate my main characters into the lives of the elderly, volunteering in long term care facilities to make a difference. This is within the themes of Book 2 of the Psychic Sara Series, Sara to the Second Power and book 3 Sara and the Destiny of the Stars. These books are also easy reading for seniors and are available through Amazon and at all e-book sites, involving some free uploads. More information at www.peggymcgeebooks.com.









Bullying in Schools

Bullying in schools is nothing new, just more recognizable. Yet, it can leave repercussions your entire life. I remember as a very shy and chubby first grader some 50 years ago, my first name Peggy suddenly turned into Piggy. My maiden name was toyed with to the point it is unprintable. But, the teachers just ignored it, and I became secluded more into my shell to the point my first grade teacher wanted to keep me back because she thought I couldn’t read. My mother intervened proving I could, so I was passed on. Even my son some 30 years later was known as McGeek to the point it became so commonplace  that the teacher put his name on the board spelled exactly like that.

Yet, only one small town, progressive school in Iowa ever addressed the problem of bullying some fifteen years ago effectively for my daughter who was being bullied. They had improvised a relatively simple intervention that ironically I have never seen since moving around the country and it worked. I’ve always been surprised it hadn’t become more commonplace, and that is why I would like to address it today.

1. When a child is being bullying, they put their complaint in writing as to who, what, when, why and how, including what effect it has on them. This empowers the child to be part of a solution. This is then handed in to a designated staff person.

2. The staff person calls the perpetrator in and reviews the complaint with them, sends a copy home to the parents and files it in the student’s folder. This allows the perpetrator the opportunity to change his/her behavior.

3. If it continues, another complaint can be submitted resulting in escalating punishment for the perpetrator(s) from detention to suspension, up to expulsion.

This was effective in solving my daughter’s issue immediately with just the initial complaint, allowing her to be involved and the perpetrator held accountable.

In my second book “Sara to the Second Power” the subject of bullying is addressed and resolved in several different parts in a  manner involving both reality and special powers that most every bullied child which they possessed at times.  However, in real life, the above school plan is an effective way to eliminate the cause right at the start. I hope every school has a plan similar to it, so bullying doesn’t interfere with the educational process and the students’ psychological and emotional well-being.

Attention all Activity Directors-this one’s for you!

I was an Activity Director for over twelve years prior to retiring and authoring six books. One doesn’t have to remind me the challenges of meeting the psycho-social well-being of every one of the residents in your facility. It is a rewarding, but a never ending job of finding new and meaningful ideas to interest and mentally stimulate the diverse population of elders. Because of this, you have my complete empathy just how difficult it can be. However, I do have one project that would include and be well received by the vast majority of residents and their families, in addition to becoming a possible fundraiser.

The idea is to publish a book about the residents’ past diverse experiences!  Now, I know what you are thinking. I am in 4th gear all day long. How do I  ever find time to publish a book? Granted nothing is easy, but incorporating it in the activity program and with the assistance of both capable residents and family, it definitely isn’t impossible. Just think how much those surveyors will love your finished product when it is completed!

If you are an Activity Director in an assisted facility, you probably will have more assistance from the residents with this project. As we know a care center now involves more short term rehab, medically and/or mentally challenged elders. Though typically long term care has more activity staff, there are usually more expectations with providing both evening and weekend activities. This time factor can be all worked around by determining how much residents are able to assist and requesting volunteers and families to offer their time and expertise. Of course if it is an Eden facility, this could be a fun staff project.

1. First is advertising the project and its purpose and then asking for volunteers. If you have a newsletter this is a perfect place. Select a title from everyone’s input, for example “All About Us; a cultural history of our Elders” or whatever catchy name you choose.

2. Perhaps you may want to launch the project on www.kickstarters.com for funding. If you do, have a reasonable financial goal and ask for family and staff support. This can give you an idea as to the amount of interest and support you can expect.

3. If your facility is financially self sufficient, ask the residents directly or family/volunteers to interview residents about their history and accomplishments and submit a finished report to a designated coordinator in a particular font size with pictures if you wish. Use your best  overall picture for the cover with title of the book.

4. When all is collated in book form, upload to Createspace for a final product. (Make sure new entries or chapters begin on the right side or odd number pages). You will have a choice of book sizes and most probably the 6×9 or larger size would be best. You can also choose large print. They do a professional and reasonable job in producing a quality paperback. Order a proof for final editing or review it online. My 300 page paperbacks cost under $5.00 each to produce, but it is proportionate to the number of pages.

5. The best part is that you can upload new versions, adding to it as time goes on. Of course there are always adders, but if there are any issues ask a staff, or family member computer guru to assist.

6. Although, the paperback will be the most popular version for the residents, your book can be automatically uploaded directly from Createspace to Amazon/kindle; or you can upload it on Smashwords for all other e-book sites for family viewing at whatever price level you wish.  Just fair warning that to be eligible for the Premium, that is  Barnes and Noble etc is very tricky. If you go that route I can referred my formatter Jeannie at ibloomdrop@gmail.com,  who will help you out for a reasonable fee.

7. Order as many books as you need from Amazon to sell and set your price. This is a wonderful way to forever maintain memories of your residents in a professional keepsake to pass on to generations to come.






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