Dedicated to helping Activity Professionals with the daily operation of their department.
by Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC, Executive Director of DH Special Services.
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About Debbie

Debbie Hommel, BA, CRA, ACC,
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.
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in Long Term Care Settings

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Programming for the Younger Resident
By Debbie Hommel, ACC, CTRS

The traditional nursing home or medical day care resident is often generalized as a very elderly, gray haired
person.  The activity professional is becoming increasingly challenged by special needs residents or clients.  
One type of special needs resident/client is the individual who is younger than the majority of the population.  
Young adults, who range in age from mid-20’s to late 50’s, have significantly different needs and interests
than the traditional geriatric individual who is often over 70 years old.  
In addition to cohort differences, specific knowledge is needed to understand and address any acute, chronic
or catastrophic condition that has provoked the need for the young adult to seek long term care.   Additionally,
there might be significant psycho-social issues associated with the need to be admitted to a long term care
In creating a program or specific activities for the younger adult, program content needs to focus on
appropriate cohort related topics and interests.    Music, discussion groups, crafts, socials, trivia and any type
of game should be relevant to someone who lived in the current era.  In many cases, if the resident/client is
close to the age of the activity staff – activities that the staff would enjoy are relevant to offer to the residents in
the same age group.    Additional program content would need to offer the residents opportunities for
personal growth, adjustment and adaptation to their individual disabilities.

Specific Programming Options

  • > Craft Clubs: More current crafts and creative opportunities should be available.  Scrap booking, art
    classes, printmaking, stenciling and similar crafts may be of more interest to the younger person.  
    Having an instructor from Michaels or the craft store introduce the crafts would give it more appeal.  
    Involving the younger resident in shopping trips to the craft store would involve them in the selection
  • > Discussion groups or RAP sessions which focus on the era of this generation.  News, history,
    events and topics from the 1960s’ through the present would be of greater interest to the younger
    resident.   The internet is a great resource for historical/trivia information from these eras.  One fun site
    offers the #1 song for a particular day in history.   Resident birthdays or year they graduated high
    school could be selected with the specific songs discussed.
  • >Word games and trivia with a younger focus would interest this resident. Soduku groups, Trivial
    Pursuit and Outburst type games may be appealing.
  • > Guest speakers.  Speakers from local colleges, vocational schools, and interest clubs in the area
    may provide topics of interest to the younger resident. Scheduling classes where the younger resident
    would sign up for a series of lectures on a topic of interest would give them a sense of direction.  Upon
    completion of the classes, the “student” would receive a certificate.  Pursuing formal education via the
    local community college or on line education is another option.
  • > Exercise programs:  Exercise programs using more current music and calling the program
    Jazzercise or Chair Aerobics might be more appealing to the younger resident.  Keeping records of
    attendance and progress provides a sense of accomplishment.  
  • > Movie Nights where refreshments for a younger crowd are served and current movies are shown
    would interest this group.  Creating a Movie selection committee to choose movies of interest is
    encouraged.   Serving snacks of the younger resident’s choosing is encouraged.
  • > Trips into the community: Locations for trips of interest to younger residents may include the local
    mall, restaurants of choice, the craft store, and Barnes and Noble book store.  Creating a Trip Location
    selection committee would involve the residents in choosing trip locales.
  • > Interest clubs: Scheduling a club for the younger residents sometimes is effective, particularly if the
    residents are of similar ability and age group.  Creating a special area for them to meet, with privacy
    and appropriate support is important.   One example might be a “Baby Boomer Club”.  Your residents
    could become official members of the American Baby Boomers ( )  
  • There are plenty of web sites for this age group (42-62)
  • Baby Boomer Headquarters.  ( )
  • Aging Hipsters
  • > Special cooking groups with appropriate adaptation are effective.  The residents can select the
    menu and a shopping trip to the store can involve them in the purchasing of food.
  • > Independent leisure materials need to be available which would include current magazines of
    interest, newer table games and videos of interest.
  • > Socials and food activities for the younger resident are often effective.  Ordering food from local fast
    food restaurants while watching “Oprah” or “Dr. Phil” is often effective. It is fun to generate debates
    about the topic during commercials.
  • > Jobs within the community are often welcomed by the younger person.  Delivering newspapers,
    welcoming new residents, answering the phone or watering plants are just some of the jobs they may
    assume.  Volunteering at other activities might provide some personal satisfaction to the resident.
  • >Computer access and computer activities are important for the younger resident.  Adaptive
    equipment is readily available for computers which would allow them independence.  Once adept at
    the computer, the younger resident may be able to create departmental posters, signs or newsletters
    for the activity department.
  • >Health and wellness programs where the focus is on diet, stress management, holistic techniques
    and alternative medicines provide a sense of growth and direction for the younger resident.  
  • >Sensory/diversional tasks for the very impaired would need to be tailored to the age group of those
    served.  Sensory boxes can be created based on the 1970s’ and 80’s topics.  The same technique
    utilized for creating sensory/diversional approaches for the elderly would apply to the younger
    resident.  It is a matter of collecting pertinent information and creating an individualized approach
    based on the information gathered.

Resources for Young Adult Programming

Assistive Technology Solutions (for computer access)

New Horizons (Service organizations for persons with disabilities – lots of resources on this site)

TR Directory – has a lot of information on programming for various populations.  There is a page on the site
with lots of programming ideas.