Activities in care homes

Meaningful activities in care homes for elderly people

It’s important that elderly people living in care homes are given the opportunity to live enriched lives. Which is why no two days are the same in a Barchester care home. Every resident in a care home is unique, and should be treated as such - especially where their well-being is concerned.  

Meaningful activities such as outings, hobbies and community events are crucial to residents' lives, in ensuring they continue to feel enriched and stimulated. At Barchester, we celebrate life through everything that we do, and are keen to make sure that life in our homes is more than just about the care needed. 

Trish is a resident at Corrina Lodge Care Home and is an avid painter - something which enriches her life on a daily basis. As someone who lives with cerebral palsy, painting plays a really important part in her ability to express herself.

When asked why she likes to paint so much, Trish explained: “I like the colours. It’s something I can do.”

Sharon Rickman, the Activities Coordinator at Corrina Lodge Care Home said: “Painting is a bit of freedom for her. It's the one activity where she's completely in control. She finds it very therapeutic.”

What is a meaningful activity?

Meaningful activities are personal to each person and often refer to any physical, social and leisure care home activities which are tailored to the interests, needs and abilities of individuals.

This could be anything from creative activities such as art sessions, reading, flower arranging and drawing to physical pursuits such as walking, gardening and mindfulness. It can also include sharing personal stories and memories, and engaging with fellow residents.

care home residents reading the newspaper

Maintaining residents' independence is a fundamental factor in ensuring their well-being is met, and daily activities such as making the bed, putting washing out on the line and feeding the birds are all vital forms of meaningful activities in care homes. Not only does this enhance their life skills, but gives them a sense of purpose.

Importance of meaningful activities in care homes

Meaningful activities in care homes are crucial in order to help maintain social health and well-being. It’s important for older people to have an active social life, that they feel stimulated and are having fun.

Care homes are ready-made social environments, with a plethora of sociable areas and residents to enjoy activities with. It’s important that residents are offered the opportunity for one-to-one activities too, to ensure their hobbies and interests are fully looked after.

Benefits of meaningful activities in care homes

There are a number of benefits of meaningful activities in care homes, both for mental and physical health. Not only can meaningful activities alleviate loneliness, but they can offer both stimulation and a sense of purpose.

Physical activity can help with balance, coordination and muscle strength, whilst also lowering any risks of heart disease, strokes and dementia. Moving around more also helps with thinking skills such as problem-solving and decision-making, and decreases feelings of stress and boredom.

Sleep is likely to improve thanks to a number of factors, and the feeling of restlessness will decrease. Older people are at risk of needing increasing help with things such as moving unaided and are prone to falling, but regular physical and mental stimulation are hugely beneficial in helping to keep health problems at bay. 

Consequences of engaging in non-meaningful activities in care homes

If a resident doesn’t engage in, or isn’t offered the opportunity to partake in regular meaningful activity, this could have an adverse affect on their physical and mental well-being.

They might struggle with weakened muscles and joints due to a lack of gentle exercise and movement, and could begin to develop feelings of disconnection and isolation.

A lack of mental stimulation could see them becoming increasingly disengaged, and could lead to confusion, anxiety and depression.

Meaningful activities in Barchester care homes

Life-enriching activities are a key part of life in a Barchester care home. We make sure that no two days are ever the same, and our residents have access to a calendar of activities and events designed to support their mind, body and soul.

Group activities such as outings to local places of interest, live entertainment and the opportunity to engage with the local community all play a huge part in our timetabled events. 

But we believe that meaningful activities should be available to residents every single day, and so outside of their specified timetable, they’ll have access to plenty of activities and sources of entertainment in their day-to-day life. 

This could include ‘Oomph On-demand’ - an online platform for quizzes and activities, a multitude of card, board games and puzzles. Knitting and craft materials will be on-hand, as well as fiction and non-fiction books, and up-to-date newspapers and magazines. Or they can spend some time in our garden spaces, potting up plants in the potting sheds or help to maintain our green spaces.

We also have partnerships with the likes of the English National Ballet, Blenheim Palace and the V&A Dundee to offer trips out or live virtual experiences for our residents, to ensure they’re still able to experience events, experiences and performances.

Blenheim Palace
One of our partners, Blenheim Palace.

Our dedicated activities team ensures that each of our residents are listened to, as they take time to learn about our residents' hobbies - old or new. It’s important that our residents have the time and facilities to continue old passions or strike up new ones. 

Our tailored care programmes are designed around each individual, after they fill out their ‘Getting to know me’ booklets which help our team learn about their likes, dislikes and life stories.

Get a feel for our activity schedule by watching the video below.

Mental stimulation activities 

Keeping the mind active is an important part of each day, and so activities which stimulate memory and encourage problem solving and logical thought processes are key.

By which skills and games someone currently enjoys and the topics that interest them most, we can tailor activities to their unique needs and preferences. Our residential homes in particular sometimes also have hair and beauty salons - something which is great for pampering and maintaining routines.

News quizzes and discussion groups

Regular discussions with other residents and members of staff can encourage residents to revisit memories and practise regular communication skills. News quizzes in the newspaper or via quiz sites on tablets and laptops are a fantastic way to aid brain health, and encourage stimulation and critical thinking skills.

Fitness and wellness activities 

Keeping the body active is as important as keeping the mind active too. Gentle exercise can help to boost the immune system and improve wellbeing as we age. Each resident has differing abilities and so we support residents to keep active and have fun, taking into account what they can and can’t do.

Exercise and movement 

Whether it’s physical activity in groups or just a walk around the block, supporting everyday movement is important in promoting independence. This could include yoga or pilates classes, movement to music, ball and balloon games and exercises with weights and resistance bands, to armchair exercises, gentle exercises in bed and mindful relaxation for those with less movement.

Older person exercising in Barchester care home

Outdoor activities

Whether it’s individually or as a group, our residents are encouraged to spend time outdoors everyday - if they’re able. Fresh air can boost mood, lower heart rate, increase energy levels and improve digestion.


The mental and physical health benefits of gardening are endless. Not only is it a great way of getting the body moving, but ignites a sense of purpose into residents. Watching plants grow, smelling flowers and eating produce from the garden can all increase a resident's quality of life.

Virtual activities

Technology can be utilised to provide sensory engagement and nurture the wellbeing of residents. At Barchester, we use the likes of music players to create personalised playlists, create interactive light projections and provide a range of games to stimulate movement and fun.

Virtual events

Our national partners make it possible to bring the best of Britain into our care homes using technology, enabling residents to experience exciting new places and stay connected to the world around them with historical and cultural tours, and live musical and dance performances.

Recreational activities 

Social activities in care homes can uplift the spirit, and there are plenty of meaningful activities for elderly residents in care homes to stimulate the mind and soul, and also encourage creativity.

At Barchester, we ensure there’s plenty of variety to enrich the soul from sing-a-longs to religious services and afternoon tea. Families and friends are always welcome to join any of the events and take part in activities.

Arts and crafts

Craft activities for care homes are a traditional and easy way to inject some fun into resident’s lives. It allows them to tap into their creative side and triggers imagination and confidence. Creating jewellery, mosaics, drawing and painting is fantastic stimulation and also gives residents something to gift to family and friends, or decorate their room with!

Richard is a resident at Mount Vale Care Home. A renowned artist, he’s now the main inspiration and driver for a free art exhibition at the home, which showcases the fantastic talents of residents and those living in the local community.

Richard is a great example of a resident utilising his talents and passions to stimulate the imaginations of other residents - ensuring they have ample opportunity for meaningful activities within the care home.

Cards, word and other games

When it’s raining or cold outside, indoor activities for care homes are a great way to keep everyone entertained. Word games such as crosswords, word searches and scrabble are a fantastic way to encourage cognitive thinking skills. Board games including the likes of Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary are not only beneficial for mental stimulation, but are sociable games which encourage conversation and companionship. 

Older person playing Scrabble in a Barchester care home


Whether it’s entertainment within the home, streamed live via iPads and televisions, or outings out, live entertainment is enjoyable for all. It’s a fantastic way to stimulate imaginations and conversation, and our dedicated activities team ensures that our residents have a varied and enjoyable timetable of live entertainment to enjoy.

Social activities 

Social integration and the feeling of community is a key factor in care home life. Our residents are constantly surrounded by like-minded people, of which they can spend their days with, but it’s also important that they feel part of the wider community. Outings to local schools and farms are crucial to feeling connected to the world around our residents, and help to give a sense of purpose.

We always ensure that there are a number of social activities available for residents in the home too, from sing-a-longs, religious services, afternoon tea and wine and cheese nights. Family and friends are always welcome to join any of the events and take part in activities too.

Work linking with local schools

We know it’s important that our residents maintain links to their wider community, which is why we make sure that there are plenty of opportunities to engage with all ages. Our residents might have the chance to visit local schools, assist with school choirs, give history talks or even make a connection with a school child via a pen pal scheme.

Local outings and adventures

Engaging and purposeful activities and outings allow residents to stay connected to the things they love, and so it’s important that they’re offered regular chances to spend some time outside of the care home within the local region. Although these might not form part of the care home daily activities, they’re still a regular occurrence in Barchester care homes.

Things to consider before planning activities for the elderly

Socialising is a vital part of day-to-day life, and meaningful activities in care homes ensure that our residents have the opportunity to maintain sociable lifestyles. 

However, there are a number of factors to consider when planning activities for care home residents. It’s important to take into account reduced mobility of residents, and any allowances for residents living with physical or mental disabilities which may prevent them from partaking in some activities. 

The main factors to consider when planning activities for the elderly is to ensure that they’re meaningful, entertaining and inspiring, increase life satisfaction and help maintain current skills.

Activity planner

You can download an example of a Barchester care home activities planner to get a feel for what life in a Barchester care home looks like. You can also visit a Barchester Care Home near you and see what activities they’re doing, and even get involved. 

Questions and answers

  • What activities are good for the elderly in care homes?

    Activities which are mentally or physically stimulating are great options for the elderly in care homes. Ranging from quizzes and interactive games, to gentle exercise and gardening, there are a multitude of ways to ensure that residents are living enriched lives.

  • How do you plan an activity in a care home?

    Ensuring that an activity offers some form of social interaction, fulfilment, enjoyment or relaxation is a great basis from which to begin when planning activities in care homes. 

  • What kind of activities can I do at a care home?

    At Barchester, we tailor care plans on an individual basis, and this includes taking into account our residents' passions and interests, meaning that no two days are the same. With that said, we ensure that our residents have the opportunity to do the thing that they love, as often as they like.

  • What are some examples of activities for dementia patients in care homes?

    Listening to music, dancing and contact with animals or children can all provide positive feelings for those living with dementia. Recalling memories by looking through old photos, memorabilia and books can help someone to recall earlier times, too.

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