|The Activity Director's Office
|Music: "Dark Town Strutter's Ball" furnished by Heart and Soul Music "Providing Quality Music for Nursing Homes"
|NAAP Mission Statement
To provide excellence in support services to activity professionals through education, advocacy,
technical assistance, promotion of standards, fostering of research,
and peer and industry relations.
Founded by Activity Professionals
for Activity Professionals...
NAAP is the only national group that represents
activity professionals in geriatric settings exclusively.
NAAP serves as a catalyst for both professional and
personal growth and has come to be recognized by
government officials as the voice of the activity
profession on national issues concerning long-term
care facilities, retirement living, assisted living, adult
day services, and senior citizen centers. NAAP is
nationwide in scope with a growing membership in
Canada and Bermuda.
The National Association of Activity Professionals
recognizes the following values:
The quality of life of the
client/resident/participant/patient served is the
primary reason for our services.
The strength of NAAP lies in the diversity of its
members. NAAP recognizes the rich cultural, and
educational backgrounds of its members and values
the variety of resources represented.
The strength of NAAP also lies in the development
and promotion of scientific research which further
defines and supports the activity profession.
NAAP values the development and maintenance of
coalitions with organizations whose mission is similar
to that of NAAP's for the purposes of advocacy,
research, education, and promotion of activity
services and activity professionals.
NAAP values members who become involved at the
state and national level to promote professional
standards as well as encourage employers to
recognize them as professionals.
NAAP affords Activity Professionals across the
country the opportunity to speak with a common
NAAP successfully worked with members of Congress
to secure a change in the nursing home reform title
of the 1987 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act
(OBRA). Through our efforts, it became mandatory
that an activity program, directed by a qualified
professional, be provided in every nursing home that
receives Medicare and/or Medicaid funds.
NAAP was the only professional activity association
to participate in HCFA's workgroups that revised
OBRA's interpretive guidelines now in effect.
NAAP provides assistance at the state level to
promote certification of activity professionals,
working toward uniform professional standards for
Developing a Writing and Reminiscence Program
By Kevin M. Kavanaugh, MA
Director of Public Affairs
Illinois Council on Long Term Care
The new OBRA guidelines for F248 identify educational and creative activities as important
components of a resident-centered activity program. Writing and reminiscence activities
enhance the residents’ sense of well-being and meet these requirements.
With a twinkle in her eye, an elderly woman writes of the excitement she felt on the first date with
her husband. She is eager to share her tale with her granddaughter who will be visiting soon.
This woman is one of many nursing home residents expressing their fond memories creatively
through a writing and reminiscence program.
Residents in nursing homes are unique individuals with many unusual and interesting stories
to share. They have a vast storage bank of family memories, historical perspectives, tales of
adventure, and touching emotional moments. They have lived through world wars and survived
the Depression, and yet through all of these hardships, they have persevered and triumphed.
These experiences have helped them cultivate a sense of wisdom and an understanding of
what is truly important in life.
Many of us have fond memories of hearing stories from our grandparents and great-
grandparents. We were enraptured by these tales and used them to form a framework for our
personal identity and sense of history. It is an unfortunate truth of today’s society that the elderly
aren’t paid the respect they deserve for their knowledge and aren’t given enough opportunities to
share their wisdom with younger generations. The results of a creative writing program can
produce a rich tapestry of experiences that can be passed down through the generations and
help younger people connect their daily events with those of the past.
A writing program offers residents a unique learning opportunity. Too often it is assumed that
residents simply want to be entertained and would not respond to an educational activity.
Everyone has a desire to learn and enjoy new experiences. This desire does not end when a
person is admitted into the nursing home environment. Caregivers must assume the
responsibility of bringing learning opportunities to the residents. A writing program helps fulfill
this responsibility by teaching residents how to better express themselves creatively. They are
also able to learn from each other.
The results of writing and reminiscence programs provide lasting testimonies to the value of the
residents’ lives. As Laura Fox, contributing author of Creative Arts with Older Adults, explains,
“Writing is articulation. It is translating something of the self into language. And if we can engrave
(our memories) into writing, something of our being remains.”
The Importance of Reminiscence
Many residents in nursing homes believe their lives are not extraordinary. A common sentiment
expressed at the onset of a creative writing program is, “Oh, I lived a very ordinary life” or
“Nothing much ever happened to me.” However, in the process of tapping into memories and
writing down stories, residents begin to realize they have lived through some very unusual and
extraordinary experiences. The writing process vividly recreates these moments and helps
residents feel a sense of accomplishment.
Nostalgia is all too often seen simply as a sign of senility and often is regarded as detrimental to
the well-being of the elderly. It should be viewed as a necessary part of life’s review. It is crucial
that older persons have a chance to reflect on their pasts and find meaning in their life events.
The writing process can bring comfort to the elderly by resolving disquieting issues and
emotions from the past.
As many residents in nursing homes feel increasingly dependent on others, a writing program
recognizes the resident’s expertise and creates a feeling of empowerment. Memoir writing
makes the resident the “expert,” who is able to teach others about a life truth based upon
Reminiscence is particularly helpful for persons in the early stages of dementia. They have
difficulty with their short term memory, yet can vividly retrieve distant memories. Reminiscence
allows them a chance to express themselves and feel a sense of pride. Memories also provide
material for conversation and interaction with others.
Creating a Writing Program
Many residents may be intimidated by the thought of having to write. A writing program should
address this concern by beginning with simple writing exercises, such as describing a past
event or object in a few sentences, and slowly building on these skills. The activity professional
may want to prompt residents with a lead sentence for a story or offer a particular topic.
Sometimes, just mentioning one specific word or phrase is enough to generate a good
The activity professional may consider having residents complete a survey about past events. In
answering the survey’s questions, they may remember important life experiences that can be
developed into stories later. Filmstrips, videotapes, DVDs, and slides can help residents tap into
memories that can be developed into stories. Physical clues such as a magazine picture or an
object can also be helpful. Reading stories from famous authors is another way to encourage
the resident’s written expression.
Residents should be able to work in a well-lighted and quiet environment. Some residents will
want to work with pen and paper, while others may enjoy working on a typewriter or computer.
For residents who physically cannot write, a staff member or volunteer can ask about a life
experience and record the story on a tape recorder. The staff member or volunteer can write out
the story later and distribute it to the residents and others.
An important part of the program is sharing stories and poems with the group. Residents can
come forward to read their works aloud. After the reading of each work, conduct a short
discussion and solicit questions from group members. Often, a resident’s piece will tap into
memories of others. Praise from the group members will help to foster a resident’s self-esteem
and desire to write.
Involving the Community
It would be very productive to involve community members in the program. A local high school or
community teacher may be willing to volunteer time to help. Family members could also be
involved in the activity. Facilities can invite them to write and share their experiences with the
residents or listen to the stories created in the program. Writing can also be incorporated into an
intergenerational program. Residents can share favorite stories from the past and have the
students transcribe their responses. This activity would be fun and enlightening for everyone.
When the stories or poems are complete, they can be typed, framed, and displayed around the
facility. These steps give the residents’ work a sense of dignity and status. Each resident could
have a notebook collection of their pieces, which they could share with family and friends during
visits. The activity professional may also consider publishing the residents’ creations in the
facility newsletter. Another good idea is to create a journal of resident work, which can also
feature resident artwork and brief biographies of the resident authors. There may also be other
association newsletters and local publications that would be interested in printing this material.
(Remember to get the resident’s written permission to release the piece to an outside entity.)
A Memoir Writing Class
Nursing home residents can enjoy a wonderful opportunity to utilize their creative talents and
reap the benefits of a reminiscence and writing activity in a memoir writing program.
Provider magazine has featured information about this type of activity. In one of these articles,
Provider described a facility program created through a grant from the city’s historical
preservation commission. The purposes were to enhance resident self-esteem by validating
personal history; chronicle history through the residents’ experiences; and leave memories for
future generations through a compilation of the residents’ work.
A professor from a nearby university led the six-week program. He had residents sit around a
large table and provided them with writing materials. He handed out typed assignments
accompanied by short philosophical statements from other authors, including Mark Twain and
Russell Baker, on the value of writing and reminiscence. These assignments included writing
about the five most important dates in their lives, developing character sketches of memorable
people, writing concrete descriptions of their parents, recreating childhood memories, writing
essays about a point in time they would like to visit again, and describing a humorous event.
The program included visiting with residents from another facility whose memoir writing works
were compiled in a book. Also, an award-winning author gave a talk on how memoirs could be
transformed into fiction.
The residents were very happy to share their memoirs with others. They read their stories aloud
to the group and answered questions about their works. Stories were also typed and distributed
so residents with hearing problems would be able to participate.
When the course was completed, the professor and some volunteers selected stories to be
included in the residents’ work. Five hundred copies were printed for the historical society that
funded the course and another five hundred were distributed to residents, family members,
friends, and others.
The residents have continued to meet as a group and develop stories. Their efforts are regularly
published in the facility newsletter.
The article emphasized that other facilities can develop similar memoir writing programs at a
low cost. A local community college professor or high school teacher may be interested in
serving as a consultant.
The residents thoroughly enjoyed translating their experiences into written expressions. The
program is an excellent example of the creative and therapeutic benefits of a writing and
WHY NOT JOIN NOW?
There are so many benefits when you belong to
NAAP! Each member will receive a newsletter
which will give the updated reports on Government
Relations, Special Interests, International Updates,
Professional Development, Nominations, Standards
of Practice, Financial Updates and a Membership
Report. Along with this comes an update from our
President, Diane Mockbee, and our Executive
Director, Charles Taylor.
Members will also receive a discounted rate at the
Annual Conference which is held in March/April of
Effective JAN 1, 2006 membership dues are:
Active Membership = $75 US dollars
Associate Membership = $65 US dollars
International Membership (outside US) = $65 USD
Student Membership = $55 US dollars
Supportive Membership = $99 US dollars
Email us for more information at
You can download and mail in this application with
your payment or use our new online registration.