Support for Activities Co-ordinators

A vital part of a residential care home is the work of the Activities Co-ordinator. The Internet and touchscreen technology opens up many opportunities to develop this role digitally.

Trying out an iPad

Trying out an iPad (Photo: VAO)

Stimulating and Fun activities for care home residents and day centre users are essential for Living Well, to help maintain a good quality of life and retain a connection to topics of shared interest. If you visit a care home at any time of the year there will be activities taking place which involve quizzes, games, music, being creative with arts and crafts and some physical activities too. 

To enhance these activities further a care home can deepen the involvement of residents, widen the range of activities offered and develop a community network connected to people with similar interests or shared pastimes around the world. All that is needed are a connection to the Internet, a basic Tablet computer and activities coordinators familiar with this basic technology. 

Activities that took place 'off line' are now possible 'on line', no longer limited by the four walls of the building, but connected to the web, to new friends and a wider community on the Internet. Some websites can be used in activities sessions just as they are, but others may need a little more preparation to create an interactive session.

Remember it is important that those you are working with are comfortable with technology, so a person-centred approach, introducing new ideas gradually and talking first about the subject before looking at it on the computer should be followed. Try not to focus on "the computer", but on the fun you can have with it. Maybe let some residents try things out for themselves rather than the computer being something scary and out of reach or restricted to use by "the experts". Natural curiosity can be a wonderful thing as people discover how the iPad or computer can be a new window on their world.

As part of our Connecting Care visits we have recently been working with a group of volunteers from Voluntary Action Oldham to show them the benefits of tablet computers for older people in residential care. This feedback from the volunteers after visiting one old lady and showing her how to use a tablet really sums it up for us.

"I just wanted to share the outcomes of our first Digital Technology session in a care home. We worked with 4 residents and used the pottery app, the making memories app and played YouTube jukebox. The residents really enjoyed the activities. One resident who has difficulty talking and dementia was able to tell us about an experience she had when her mother asked her not to join the army but her father said she could so she went. She has never previously been able to tell us anything about her life but she kept repeating the story which was fantastic. It was overall really successful and the volunteers felt it was really useful using the technology as a conversation tool. I felt it was one of the most enjoyable sessions we have delivered so far."

Go on. Give it a try today!

Activity Suggestions

Here are some suggestions that you could try in sessions or for residents to have a go at :

  • Music Mix - Before a session take requests for songs and film clips that bring back memories and build up a play list on YouTube of entertainment. If you are confident of finding videos on YouTube take requests from people during the session and play them.  Don't assume everyone will ask for 1950s crooners, we have had requests for Led Zeppelin and other stars of the 70s!
  • Memory Lane - Google Street View - A great activity is to find on a map the places where people grew up, then by looking up the Street View pictures, share stories of events and places they remember 
  • Picture Box - There are many apps useful for building a Memory box or memory picture. Apps that we have found easy to use in care homes are PicCollage available for Apple iOSAndroid and Windows devices,builds a collage of pictures either from the Internet or from your device which you can decorate with stickers, colours or words and then either print or share with family and friends by e-mail or social networking sites. Also try Book Creator which is a simple way to create on-line books about a hobby or event for sharing with friends and family. Books can contain text, pictures, video and sound clips and can be e-mailed or printed when complete
  • Keep Connected - It's easy to help a resident keep in touch with friends and family in other parts of the world or just the next town using on-line video calling services. Facetime is only available between Apple devices, but anyone can be connected using Skype or Google Hangouts. Ideal for the times when people can't meet face to face or to help when someone is feeling lonely at a special time.
  • Games and Quizzes - There are many quizzes, puzzles and game apps to suit all tastes and all skills levels. Here are some suggestions available for both iOS and Android devices that we've tried out in activities sessions. Our favourite quiz games are Linkee or for a music lovers of ages (although the 80s were the best!) there's Song Pop. For puzzles that stimulate the mind there is Flow Free and Fit Brains or the puzzles within the Mind Mate Dementia app. Or just for relaxing but interactive scenes of waterfalls, snow, sand or a fish pond explore Pocket Pond, This Is Sand or Gaze.
  • Be Social - Facebook and Twitter are great ways for someone to either keep in touch with distant family members and see their celebrations on Facebook or to keep up to date with the very latest news by following the Twitter accounts of the topics that interest them. As these are two-way social networks it's possible to join in conversations, share your own pictures on Facebook or to reply back to the tweets you read. Dementia Challengers have a page on their website which explains how to use Facebook and Twitter for people with dementia or for families supporting them.

Some of these are suited best as one-to-one activities, others work well as a group session

NIACE have recently produced a resource titled 'A Guide for Activity Co-ordinators and Care Staff' which can be freely downloaded from their website and sets out the role of informal learning for older people in a care setting. It has links to case studies and good examples of care organisations and care homes where touch screen technology is being used well for the benefit of residents. Versions of this guide aimed at care home managers and local authorities can be found here.

Although not directly about new technology, The Daily Sparkle is a service which provides a printed daily or weekly customised newspaper for residents of a care home. These can be used as a way to introduce other computer based activities. 

Some examples of technology use with residents in Care Homes

There are many examples where external organisations work with Activities Co-ordinators in a care home to offer technology based activities and entertainment. We've listed some of these here to give you an idea of what could be possible in your setting.

  • iPad Engage - Creative engagement through digital inclusion, innovative thinking and curiosity is how the team at iPad EngAGE describe their work. Arts based apps and activities are used on the tablets they take into care homes to make links with the creativity of the people they work with. The website contains lots of ideas and inspiring stories about use of this technology.
  • Alive! Activities - The Memory Apps project from Alive has worked with over 200 care homes in the South West running sessions that help residents become familiar with a tablet device and find out what it can do for them. They also run training courses for care staff that explore the use of tablets in a care setting and suitable apps that bring the most benefit. The Memory Apps for Dementia website lists some of the apps that have proved useful when working with older people.
  • Abbeyfield Click! -   Run a programme to help residents of Abbeyfield Homes use iPads in their activities. See this article in The Telegraph about their work.
  • Somerset Care - Took part in the EU funded Ages2 project which provided iPads and trained staff to be 'Care Technologists' for residents in their care homes. The project evaluation is on the Ages2 website. 

Other Useful Links

Resources from the National Activities Providers Association 


Age UK Guide to Digital Inclusion and use of technology in a care home


Produced as one of the resources from the Keogh Urgent Care review, NHS England have written a short downloadable guide to 'Technology in Care Homes'.


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