ACTIVITY DIRECTOR TODAY
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Don’t Be Lost. Read the M.A.P.!
Men’s Activity Programs in Health-Care Facilities
By Kimberly Grandal, CTRS, ACC , Executive Director, ReCreative Resources

Getting Started

Although “all men are created equal”, Recreation Professionals face the trials and tribulations
of meeting the needs and interests of a diverse population. Traditionally there are many more
women than men in health care facilities.  Activity calendars often reflect an abundance of
activities that are female-oriented such as crafts, cooking, domestic activities, and beauty
groups, with the occasional Men’s Club making an appearance.  It is extremely important to
overcome this challenge and provide programming that is specially designed for the male
population.

Morris Mandel once said, “No two men are alike, and both of them are happy for it.” Men, just
like women, have a variety of leisure and recreational interests so it is impossible to develop a
“one-size-fits all” approach. However, the men in our health care facilities may find interest in
some of the following : sports, cars, trucks, trains, boats, planes, outdoor work, building,
woodworking, painting,  politics, military, police, fire and rescue workers, fishing/hunting, nature
and outdoors, animals, music, movies, physical games, exercise, community trips, children,
board games, collections (coins, stamps, sports cards, matchbox cards, model trains, etc.) and
parlor/casino games.  Many of these activities need to be adapted for the individual male
participant, but if we are creative we can accommodate these needs and leisure activity
interests.
The first place to start is with a Population Analysis.  How many men reside in your facility or
attend your day program?  What is the percentage?  Then look at your Activity Calendar and
compare the percentage of female-oriented activities versus male oriented activities.  Many
activities, such as physical games, exercise, socials, parlor games, and music are of interest to
both genders, however, chances are you are not offering enough activities that truly appeal to
men.  

Next, review the initial Activity Assessments of all the men to determine their leisure interests,
needs, and abilities.  Organize a men’s committee or council that meets once a month to
discuss programming ideas, options, funding, resources, etc.  Create an organized group for
the men such as the MACs (Men’s Activity Council), or ask the men to come up with an official
name. It could be something that just sounds good with the facility name such as the Kessler
Kings, the Bayside Bulls, or the Ocean View Vikings.

The Planning Phase

With the establishment of an official men’s council or club underway, begin planning a series of
activities, special events, fundraisers, and trips in accordance with the council’s ideas, and the
functional abilities of the male population. Determine how often male-oriented programs should
be provided.  Many activities can be incorporated into the regular calendar of events with the
men in mind.  For example: word games, discussion groups, and trivia can easily be adapted
to interest the men simply by offering various themes (Sports Hangman, Famous Men
Discussion, Automobile Trivia) etc.  Adapted physical games such as putting, bowling,
basketball, target games, shuffleboard, and horseshoes are often of interest to the men and
may be incorporated into the schedule of activities for men and women as well.


Although many regularly scheduled activities may be adapted or altered to meet the interests
of the men, it is also important to have separate “men-only” activities such as the Men’s Club.  
Some facilities have monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly meetings.  How often this program is
offered is based on the unique needs and interests of the men in your facility.  Have the men
organize and implement fundraisers to raise money for special outings (sporting events,
bowling, fishing, putting greens), equipment, special games, supplies, Men’s Club t-shirts and
hats, etc. Fundraising examples include car washes, craft sales (birdhouses and other wood
projects, leather crafts, etc), raffles of sporting event tickets, Walk/Wheel-A-Thon, and so on.  

Male Staff and Volunteers

Since the Activity and Recreation Profession is a female-dominated one, it very important to
recruit male staff and volunteers to assist in providing a program of activities for the men.  
Since the inception of the revised CMS Activity Guidance to Surveyors in June 2006, there has
been a heightened focus on providing an interdisciplinary approach to quality of life.  The
revised interpretive guidelines for F248 indicate that all facility staff should be involved in
providing meaningful activity.  This is a great opportunity to get the male staff involved. Male
staff may be able to contribute by bringing in old sports magazines, tapes of sporting events,
and their own collections and can assist with facilitating the Men’s Club.  The maintenance
personnel (male or female) can assist in woodworking projects or even take a resident “on
rounds”. In addition, many men would also love to see the boiler room or workshop if
accessible and safe for the residents.

Volunteer recruitment is also another way to enhance the facilities’ men’s program. There are
so many local, state, and national clubs, groups, committees, etc. that can be contacted.  Male
volunteers may be found in churches (men in ministry programs), schools (debate club, sports,
politics, wood-shop, auto-shop) universities (men’s clubs, fraternities, sports clubs), community
groups (VFW, American Legion, Elks, Kiwanis, Jaycees, YMCA, Big Brothers, 4H Club, various
culture-oriented clubs etc. Some national programs include the Federation of Jewish Men and
the National Coalition of Free Men.  Another suggestion is to contact various sports and
hobbies organizations and clubs.  For example, a local coin collection club or baseball card
collector may be willing to show their collection and give a presentation.  Many individuals who
have a collection are more than happy to show off their treasures! There is a club and
organization for just about anything (fishing, hunting, camping, model trains, all sports, various
collections, etc.) and may have people who would be interested in providing demonstrations,
educational sessions, or becoming friendly-visitors.

Technology

The use of arcade games, video games, and computers
provide recreation professionals the tools needed to offer
a large array of programs that are of particular interest to
men. All types of leisure activities are now available in the
form of video games and computer games such as all sports,
driving a car, riding a motorcycle, jet skiing, flying a plane,
casino games, etc. Technology has really made it more
accessible for individuals with varying degrees of physical
and cognitive abilities to engage in their favorite past times.
It's Never 2 Late is a company that offers state-of-the-art
computer systems for health-care facilities throughout
America. Their computers, adaptive devices, specially-
designed programs, and technical support, are ideal for
men and women in health care facilities.  The facility can
customize services to match the uniqueness of each
individual.  Through the IN2L system, men can engage in
familiar and fun activities such as flying a plane and driving
a car (photos on the right).  For more information
visit
It's Never 2 Late.

Therapeutic Environments:

Creating an environment that is conducive to men is an
innovative way to increase the quality of life of the men in
health care facilities.  There is a great article by Keith
Bettany from the Alzheimer’s Association in Australia,
entitled
“Blokes and Sheds: Meaningful Activities for Men
with Dementia in Aged Care Facilities”. This article discusses
the importance of sheds for the male population and how
many men enjoy “tinkering” with the tools and equipment in
a shed.  The article gives ideas on how to build a shed or
create a “shed area” in your facility.

Another example of a male-oriented environment can be
found in the Masonic Health Care Center in Michigan.
The Masonic Health Care Center created Memory Lane,
a series of open-ended rooms (bedroom, kitchen, living
room, back/front porches, bathroom, and attic) in a long
corridor. These “rooms” are representative of a
1930’s-1950’s home.  Two areas of particular interest to
men include a vintage Chevy truck that is literally “sticking
out of the garage” and an attic area. Residents are able to
get into the truck and sit behind the wheel, promoting reminiscence, range of motion and
familiarly.  The attic area is overflowing with vintage knick-knacks and ideal for
residents who enjoy rummaging.  These “rooms”demonstrate that if we think outside the box,
we can create an atmosphere that promotes quality of life for everyone, especially the men.  
For more information visit
Masonic Pathways and Time travel to the '40s-Not-for-Profit Report

There are many other environmental techniques that can be implemented as well such as:

  • Create shadow boxes filled with familiar objects such as tools, fishing gear, camping
    gear, woodworking, electrical, plumbing etc., and display in various locations or in the
    resident rooms.
  • Purchase (or build) interactive boards that have latches, doorknobs, faucets, nuts/bolts,
    pipes, etc. These can be displayed on portable boards or on walls, especially on a
    dementia unit,.
  • Assess the male resident’s room for personalization and stimulation. Display personal
    items via shadowbox, frames, mobiles, etc. Contact the family for personal items such as
    favorite sports team memorabilia, awards, affiliations, hobbies and so on.

Community Outings

Many residents, both men and women, of all levels of functional abilities, enjoy being out in the
community. Outings can be costly for Recreation Departments, but with fundraisers and
innovative strategies, the men can enjoy engaging in events and activities that occur in the
community.  As mentioned earlier, fundraising plays an important role in taking trips to the
community.  Engage the male residents in a series of fundraisers specially designed for male-
bonding outings.  

Although going to professional sporting events is ideal, it is not always an option for the facility.
To increase outings to sporting events, recreation professionals may wish to contact the town
recreation center, schools, and colleges to find out about local sporting events. Attending a
minor league baseball game can be just as much fun, but a lot less expensive for everyone
involved.  Some facilities are located near a field or school and may have the option of
wheeling the residents to a game as well.  These local sporting events are free and require
less transporting, travel, and time.
The men may also enjoy bowling, playing pool, going to an arcade, a putting green, fishing,
joining an organization such as the American Legion, going to a movie or concert, and of
course, dining out. Community outings require extensive planning, assistance, and money,
therefore it is important to recruit volunteers, family members, and staff.

Activities for the Cognitively Impaired

Providing activities for individuals with cognitive impairment is also challenging for Recreation
Professionals, especially for the men.  Activities must be individualized and adapted so that the
male resident can participate at their highest level of ability. Recreation Professionals often
ask: How can I take a male resident fishing or hunting? This is where the creativity and clinical
knowledge comes into play.  

As mentioned earlier, various shadowboxes and interactive boards may be utilized for an
individual with cognitive impairment.  These boards and boxes would be reflective of an
individual’s interests, affiliations and occupation). The facility can make these products or
purchase them through a variety of manufacturers.  

Memory or sensory boxes are also a great way to provide quality of life and person-
appropriate activities for the male residents. There are numerous male-oriented kits available
on the market or facilities can create their own individualized kits simply by requesting items
and information from the resident’s family and friends. These homemade boxes should be
unique to each individual. Items in a memory box may include: nostalgic photos, family photos,
awards and honors, memorabilia, reminiscence questions, etc. A sensory box may include
similar items as the memory box, but usually is geared toward stimulating all six senses. Such
items may include:  

  • Olfactory-cologne, shoe polish, shaving cream, woodchips (cedar, hickory, mesquite)
    etc.
  • Tactile-sandpaper, necktie, pocket watch, comb, work gloves, paintbrush, etc.
  • Auditory-marching or military music or favorite genre, sounds of nature/animals, etc.
  • Visual-nostalgic and family photos, personal memorabilia, etc.
  • Gustatory-various food and drinks in accordance with the resident’s diet
  • Kinesthetic-simple jigsaw puzzles, variety of balls, blocks of wood for sanding, etc.

There are other types of kits the facility can create (especially with the help from male staff,
family and volunteers).  Kits and boxes can be made for any type of hobby or occupation.
Please remember to create boxes that are safe for the residents! Some examples include:

  • Tool Box-fill a plastic tool box with items such as a paintbrush, tape measurer, large
    nuts/bolts, sandpaper, leveler, etc.
  • Backpack-fill a backpack with camping/hiking gear such as a mess kit, canteen,
    compass, flashlight, binoculars, etc.
  • Tackle Box-fill a plastic tackle box with items such as fishing lures, reels,  small rod,
    bobbers, etc. (remove all hooks)
  • Cooler-fill a small cooler with sporting event items such as: water bottle, binoculars,
    pictures of sports teams, sunglasses, vintage beer ads, baseball cap, a variety of small,
    soft sports balls (soccer ball, baseball, basketball, hockey puck, etc.).
  • The Feel and Describe Box-find a medium-sized cardboard box. Cut a hole (large
    enough for a hand to easily fit through). Paint or cover the box with contact paper
    (preferably paper with a wood-style).  Fill the box with a variety of items such as those
    listed above.  Have the men reach in and describe what they are feeling.  

Other Activities of Interest

The following is a list of other activities men may enjoy:

  • Table games (cards, dominoes, backgammon, checkers)
  • Socials, parties, happy hour, special events
  • Movies (Westerns, comedies, war movies, mysteries)
  • Humor activities
  • Political debates and discussions
  • Reminiscence of war times or military
  • Men’s health educational programs (Men’s Health Week is June 11-17, 2007)
  • Ping pong and billiards
  • Competitions
  • Cognitive Games
  • Leather crafts, soap sculptures, men’s magazine scavenger hunt
  • Polishing shoes
  • Barbeques
  • Going to the Barber
  • Fantasy football and baseball, etc.
  • Comic Books
  • Leisure Education (learn new skill such as rope tying, how to play Chess, etc)

In conclusion

It is important for Recreation Professionals to identify the needs and interests of the male
population and to formulate an activities component in the comprehensive care plan.  Take
advantage of those products out there that can help enhance programming and recruit as
many male volunteers, family members, and staff as possible.  There are so many activities
that can be provided for the men in health care facilities. Many of the activities discussed in
this article can be adapted to suit the various cognitive and physical abilities of the resident.  
Such examples include:

  • The fisherman may enjoy watching a fishing video, tinkering with a tackle box, playing a
    game of Monopoly Bass Fishing, or looking at the fish tank
  • The hunter/outdoorsman may enjoy watching the birds, listening to the sounds of
    nature, sifting through a Field and Stream magazine, investigating the backpack, or the
    aroma of pine.
  • The sports fan may enjoy adapted physical games such as bowling and basketball,
    watching sports on TV., trips to a game, playing a soccer video game, or looking up at
    the Yankee’s Mobile hanging above his bed
  • The trucks and car lover may enjoy remote controlled cars, watching auto racing, joining
    an on-line car club, going to a car show, sitting behind the wheel of a It’s Never 2 Late
    computer game, or doing a car puzzle.
  • The handyman may enjoy fiddling with wood blocks, helping the maintenance
    department in hanging a picture,  sorting through an array of nuts and bolt in the
    toolbox, creating a pipe sculpture, building a model airplane, etc.
  • The business man may enjoy county fake money, organizing receipts, punching
    numbers on a calculator, balancing a checkbook, monitoring the stock market or reading
    the New York Times.

So, don’t be lost and afraid to ask for directions.  Take out the M.A.P. and develop activities
that are truly in the best interest of the men!

For more men’s programming ideas, resources, and links please visit
http://www.
recreativeresources.com/programming-mens-activity-links.htm

References:



  • It’s Never 2 Late. (2007). Retrieved on May 11, 2007 from www.in2l.com
                                    
  • Masonic Pathways. (2004). Retrieved on May 11, 2007 from  www.masonicpathways.
    com/visit_us.html   Masonic Pathways Senior Living Services. (December, 2001). A walk
    down memory lane. Point to Point, pg. 9.

Copyright Kimberly Grandal, 2007.  All rights reserved.
Memory Lane Vintage Chevy Truck
IN2L adapted flying game
Memory Lane "Attic"
IN2L adapted driving game
BOYS' NIGHT OUT:  Ideas for Men's Activities
by Debbie Hommel, BA,  ACC, CTRS Executive Director of DH Special Services.

The male resident or client can sometimes pose a special challenge to the activity professional in terms of
developing programs of interest and motivation to attend programs.  Male residents in long term care
communities are in the minority and in most cases, their needs and interests are different than the
masses of female residents who reside in the facility.    The activity professional and program should
reflect some effort to address these needs through tailored and group programming.

To first understand the male resident, one must understand what generation they have come from.   
Growing up during the 1920’s through the 1960’s was much different than it is today.  The men of that
generation were a dominant force in all aspects of life.  They were the bread winners, bosses, managers,
owners, mayors, and overall decision makers in the home and society.  They equated their worth with their
accomplishments, their strength and ability to protect others.  They had jobs that had a tangible outcome
and other people often depended upon them for a service, support or protection.  Even in the family, the
husband or father assumed a dominant role.  This was before women’s liberation and the wife and mother
often deferred to the husband in all decisions regarding money, raising the children or home.  This was the
life they knew.

Today, these male residents are now residing in a community because they need help.  They have lost
their independence and are no longer the provider or protector.  To make matters worse, they are being
cared for by women (for the most part, as male care givers in health care are also less in numbers).  The
male resident sometimes reacts by withdrawing from the mainstream of events.  They see a facility filled
with women and make the decision they cannot or won’t fit in.  In other cases, they may become
argumentative and demanding, possibly as means to reassert their authority and control.  And then there
are the few men who do adjust and join programs easily.

To address the needs of the male resident, the activity professional can develop “gender specific”
activities.    Our calendars abound with activities for women –cooking, crafts and the infamous “Red Hat
Society”.   We must also make sure there are ample activities for the men.  Scheduling separate activities
for men is sometimes not easy because of staffing or space.  However, ensuring that the men have a role
within regularly scheduled activities as well as special groups is important.  

Craft groups:  Having a workshop area for the men who come to crafts is important.  When the men see a
group of women working with yarn, pompoms and the typical feminine craft items, they may not even enter
the room.  Defining a “workshop” for the men with appropriate male oriented crafts is encouraged.  
Working with wood, paint, tile, leather and similar items may be more welcome.  Most craft catalogs are
filled with pages of more manly oriented crafts.

Discussion groups:  Providing the male resident with a leadership role within daily programs is a
successful approach.  Possibly the male resident could be responsible for obtaining the newspaper from
the front lobby and delivering it to the program area.  During current events, having a male resident be the
“weatherman” and report on weather conditions could be another role.   We think of many “hostess”
oriented roles for our female residents, we need to think of suitable “leader” roles for our male residents.

Exercise programs:  Scheduling a “men’s gym or workout” might be of interest to the male residents.  
Introducing light weights or light gym equipment would be more appealing to the male resident.   Focusing
on repetitions and increasing strength, and monitoring progress on a chart is often appreciated by the
male resident.

Active games:  Games that have a tangible quality and equipment are often well received by the male
population.  Bowling, basketball, target toss and similar games with equipment are effective.   Keeping the
equipment adult-like and as close to the original format as possible is recommended.  Many of the senior
catalogs such as S & S, Nasco, Sea Bay and Sportime have great supplies.  


Creating teams and keeping score are also more appreciated by the male resident.  Creating a men’s
bowling league and contacting nearby care facilities for a shared tournament has also been successful.

Trips into the community:  Locations for trips of interest to men include local sporting events, fishing
expeditions, museums with male oriented topics (war, sporting, nature), and a local “man’s” bar for lunch.   
One of the more successful trips for my male residents was taking them to the local Ford or Chevrolet car
dealership when the new car models arrived.  I would make pre-arrangements with the salesmen and they
were willing to spend time with the residents showing the new models and looking under the hood.  

Sensory/Diversional Programming:  Ensuring there are male interest oriented sensory baskets which
include fishing, sports, cars, and other items of interest to the cognitively impaired man should be
developed appropriately.   Having diversional items of interest for men such as bolt boards, pipe works,
sorting baseball cards, and sanding wood should also be available as defined by the resident interest.  

Interest clubs:  Scheduling a “Men’s Club” is one way, but not the only way, to offer programs of interest to
the male resident.   A regular men’s club is recommended for every calendar.  Seeking a male staff
member or volunteer to coordinate the program is also  highly recommended.  The club content can be self
directed, defining topics of interest or directed by the group leader.   Louise Whitley,
(
LWhitney@JewishHomeRoch.org) a social worker in NY State, introduced a program called the “Plaid
Flannel Shirt Society” for her male clients.  Of course, this evolved in response to the “Red Hat Society” for
the women.  She wrote a wonderful poem “When I am an old man…” as a motto for the group.
 http://www.
dhspecialservices.com/oldman.htm

There are two books about programming for male residents in long term care.

Many companies have lots of trivia and reminiscent materials of interest to male residents also.   Creative
Forecasting has a monthly column which lists a variety of activity ideas focusing on male interests.  They
often follow a seasonal or holiday theme.  
http://www.creativeforecasting.net/
"MEN ONLY" - ARTICLES
ACTIVITY DIRECTOR TODAY
DEBBIE HOMMEL
About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA,
ACC, CTRS is the
Executive Director of DH
Special Services. She is a
Certified Activity Consultant
on State and National
level, with over
twenty-seven years of
experience in providing
direct care and
consultation to long term
care, medical day care,
assisted living, and
ICF/MR facilities
throughout New Jersey,
New York, Maryland, and
Pennsylvania. She is an
experienced trainer and
workshop presenter,
conducting a variety of
seminars throughout the
Tri-State area for the
Activity Professional,
Administrator, and allied
healthcare professional.
Debbie Hommel is an
active member of Activity
Professional Associations
on State and National
levels. She is ACC certified
through the NCCAP. She
is a founding member of
the New Jersey Activity
Professionals'
Association, serving terms
as Vice President and
President. She received
the Weidner Lifetime
Achievement Award in
1994 and the Monmouth &
Ocean County Activity
Professionals Life
Achievement Award in
1999.
KIM GRANDAL
Kimberly Grandal,
BA, CTRS, ACC

Kimberly Grandal, Founder
and Executive Director of
Re-Creative Resources,
Inc., is a strong advocate
for the field of Therapeutic
Recreation and Activities,
with over fifteen years of
experience working with
the elderly in numerous
management and
consultant positions.  She
is an Activity Consultant
Certified and a Certified
Therapeutic Recreation
Specialist. Kim is a
member of the New Jersey
Activity Professionals
Association and the New
Jersey/Eastern
Pennsylvania Therapeutic
Recreation Association.

In 1990, Kim graduated
from William Paterson
University with a BA in
Sociology and later
studied gerontology
courses at Union County
College and Therapeutic
Recreation courses at
Kean University.
Throughout her career,
Kim has been the Director
of Therapeutic Recreation
for several long-term care
facilities, including one of
NJ’s largest.

In 2006, Kim founded Re-
Creative Resources Inc.
She is a speaker for
various state and local
activity associations such
as NJAPA, MOCAP, and
NJACA, as well as the
Society of Licensed
Nursing Home
Administrators of NJ. She
also offers lectures for Re-
Creative Resources Inc.,
local colleges, and
community groups, and
provides consultation and
support to numerous
facilities in the state.

Kim is the editor and writer
for the “The Rec-Room", a
monthly newsletter
published by her company.
In addition, she writes
monthly articles for the
Activity Directors Office
newsletter, and has
contributed articles to
Creative Forecasting
Magazine, and The
Continuing Care Insite
newsletter.

Kim is a recipient of the
Kessler Institute of
Rehabilitation 1997
Triumph of the Human
Spirit Award.  Her passion
is to promote the field of
Therapeutic Recreation
and Activities and to unite
Recreation Therapists and
Activity Professionals. Kim
currently serves on the
NJAPA board as the
Chairperson for the
Legislation Committee.