by Angie

I have some really fun ideas for making chocolate spoons and ways to decorate them. It is an activity that is easy for most people to do, including kids and elderly folks too. You can use these treats for many kinds of occasions and parties. And they’re really nice as gifts you can make. Not to mention, what a great spoon for stirring in coffee or coco!

I prefer to use the microwavable chocolate because it is the easiest and fastest method.

But you could also do it the old fashioned way where you melt bits of chocolate in a double boiler. (A double boiler is very important to avoid burning the chocolate). It needs to be put on medium heat and stirred frequently until it’s melted.

This works well if you want to use white chocolate – which as far as I know does not come in the microwavable tubs, just chunks or chips. Also, as a little surprise, you can add a drop of food coloring into the white chocolate, if you want to make it a special color for a holiday festivity. (Like adding a drop of red will make pink for Valentine’s Day, or green for Christmas or St. Patrick’s Day). I’ve also added in a drop of peppermint extract when I make them green. Peppermint with chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combinations.

So here’s what you need:

Tub of microwavable chocolate (or a package to do in the double boiler).
Several spoons – as many as you want. I use metal not plastic.
Sprinkles and small or crushed candies to decorate them.
Food coloring, if coloring white chocolate
Wax paper.
A platter.
Ribbon and colored cellophane (optional).

Melt your chocolate first. Remove it from heat. Dip a spoon into the melted chocolate and twirl it around so both sides get coated. Put it on the wax paper to harden, then dip it again.

When the spoon is all covered, while the chocolate is still soft, either dip them in sprinkles or candies, or sprinkle them by hand on to the top. You can make little faces too with different candies – those are really cute. And hair (with coconut, for instance).

Then you can tie a ribbon around the spoon, or even wrap them in cellophane with a ribbon if you’re giving them as gifts. These do make really good gifts. Use them for stirring into coffee or hot chocolate.

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by Edith

If you’re looking for a good winter activity for the elderly (especially for January and February activities), here’s one that our senior group did.

A garden party in winter was perfect for us, since we live in the northern climate and it can get very cold here in the winter months (seems like spring will never come). This was held at our senior center, but I’m sure it will also work for senior living campuses too. We had a lot of people help out, bring things in, help with food. It was for both ladies and gentlemen.

We sent our pretty floral style invitations. One of our members was going to make small watercolor paintings that we could fold in half, but wasn’t able to, so we just bought them. But making the invitation would be a fun thing to do as another activity for a senior group.

We asked that everyone come dressed for a summer garden party. The ladies could wear pastels, spring dresses, florals, (whatever), even hats. The men could also dress up, even wear a suit if they wanted to, and a hat too. We had a big range, from more casual golf clothes with golf hats, to suits. We had a few fellas wear very dapper straw type hats.

The room was decorated with spring colored crepe paper, lots of artificial flowers around, some real plants, a couple of those artificial fica trees, some real flowers in vases, etc. Do you remember how to make those “carnations” from folded and gathered facial tissue? Several of our ladies made dozens of those, and turned them into garlands. One member’s family brought over a garden archway prop. We also hung several strings of little twinkling lights, including draped on the refreshment table.

Our music collection was from the classic crooners, and a little big band and Lawrence Welk style music that some people danced to later.

Food included lots of cut and sliced fresh fruit, sparkling punch, (lemonade would also be good — and you could make either of them “spiked” if it suits your group), plus tea and coffee of course. We just served small sandwiches with a variety of cheeses and meats; plus chips. Also jello, and a couple of salads (pastas, and greens). For dessert, besides the fresh fruit, we had small fruit tarts and cookies. Lemon pie or apple would also be good. A barbeque would also work, but we wanted to keep it easy.

We also played games indoors, including a few that you might play out on the lawn outside, like lawn “darts.” All in all, it was very easy to put on, and people really enjoyed themselves.

Editor’s Note: – Be sure to see our page of other party ideas at Perfect Party Theme Ideas.

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by Marian
(Maine)

One of our popular activities is to have a pickle tasting party. Especially if you have people in your group who make pickles (or know how to). And we don’t limit ourselves to just the cucumber type pickles either!

Many senior groups have members who make (or used to make) pickles as a hobby or family tradition. Otherwise, there are lots of various kinds you can get at grocery stores and gourmet shops. We use both dill and sweet types. And of course there are all kinds of other pickled items, such as peppers, olives, tomatoes, also sauerkraut and even watermelon, eggs, and herring. Anything pickled goes! So lay out your table with a big variety, or you can even have another pickle party for the more unusual kinds.

What we do for a pickle tasting party is lay out the various pickles or pickled products for tasting on plates, along with a variety of crackers. If you’re going to do a beverage, beer always seems to work well! We have a little sign along side each plate telling what kind of pickle it is. When people bring in their own recipes for tasting, they also have a recipe card by the plate to share it. And make sure you do some fun decorating – green is always a good color!

There’s something about pickles that seniors really enjoy, maybe the “old world” feel and traditions – and a pickle tasting party makes good conversation too.

We’ve also had a local vendor from a specialty store come in who specializes in pickles and has a lot of information about making them. Various countries make pickled products different ways, and it’s interesting to learn about it – i.e. the German traditions. There may be people in your group who have made them at home in the past who can tell about it too. About their families and cultures and how they made them. It’s a really fun show and tell kind of activity.

We try to have a pickle tasting party every year and its’ always a big hit. People come and go and move around on our campus, so there is always someone new that wasn’t here last year, so it is always popular. I highly recommend having one if you’re looking for something unique (and foody) to do. Food activities are always well attended it seems.

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My 86 year old Dad is home bound but is still alert. He doesn’t know what to do with himself now that he is too frail to do his usual activity. He only knows how to work. He looks at hobbies as being a waste of time. He isn’t achieving anything. Does anyone have any ideas on a worthwhile activity he can do in his chair? Thanks for everyone’s help.

by Kathleen
(Wisconsin)

A window herb garden is a wonderful way to watch something grow in any season. And end up having something to eat too. You can grow these as a group or at your own window.

I do group activities with elderly seniors on a campus in the Midwest, so our weather can get bad in the winter. And hot in the summer. Having a group window herb garden was a nice way to have a green thumb activity and bring a little of the outdoors in. You need a sunny window, and one that faces south is ideal. If you don’t have a wide windowsill, you can put your containers on a long bench, table, or chest in front of a window. You can also use a kitchen counter by a window.

Various herbs are available from a nursery, or even order them online if you don’t have a store nearby. Either small plants or seeds may be available. I think it’s fun to watch them grow from scratch.

Our favorites are basil, thyme, sage, oregano, plus mint (which we can make tea from too). Cilantro and dill seem to be those that you either love or hate. Some herbs can get very tall and some spread out, so read packages well. Or ask the staff at the store, if you need help choosing which will best suit your project.

We like to use the long narrow type planters (at least a foot deep), and put several plants in each container. Be sure to read the directions for how close you should plant them from each other. Ask the store about the best soil or potting mix. Put a few inches of soil/mix in, then add your plants, then put some more soil around them. You don’t want to press and compact the soil down too much. When planted, water the plants a little, but not too much where you over water them. The soil shouldn’t get too soggy.

As with any vegetable or herb garden, if you’re going to use fertilizer, get the kind for edibles. Fertilizing definitely helps the plants grow better. It’s also healthy to cut and harvest the plants regularly too, which helps them grow out fuller. This is easy to do since you’ll be eating a lot of what you cut!

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by Frank
(New York)

We found having an easy karaoke evening is a big hit. I was surprised how many of our elderly residents loved to sing. And watch others sing. Our age group ranged from 70’s all the way up into the 90’s, and even some of them wanted to share the limelight! Some participated in pairs so they didn’t have to sing alone. And often those watching in the “audience” ended up singing along. We keep it very informal, so it’s lots of fun.

The group leader or activities director should be prepared to do the first song or two him/herself. Or have it planned for someone to start out. Just to get things warmed up and break the ice.

A really easy karaoke evening is to have a volunteer pianist (other musicians too if available) with a whole lot of songs. You’ll also of course need a microphone. You can get lyrics to the songs online and print them out, in case someone doesn’t know them by heart. Or print them out from the musician’s music so the singer has something to look at. Whatever ideas you have to provide music – you may already have a music book. Then we put the names of the songs on pieces of paper and put them in a basket. Whoever in the group wants to sing can pull out a paper out of the basket to choose a song. (If they don’t like that one, they can always put it back and draw another).

You can also get some favorite music on karaoke CD’s from popular eras (you can find them online) that include the lyrics, and print them out in really large print. It’s easiest to just play the songs in sequence, with a large print list, chart, or poster to let everyone know what’s coming up next. Then they volunteer to be the singer at the microphone.

If you want to go high-tech and “official,” another way to do an easy karaoke evening is to rent a karaoke system. You can look it up in your phone book – it’s easy to find just about everywhere. They’re easy to use too.

We’ve done a karaoke party with songs from different eras, and also hymns. Very popular.

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Our residents LOVE the game Penny Ante. You need to make up about 100 cards that say various things such as “Take a penny if you have blue pants on” “Give 2 pennies to anyone who has been to the Grand Canyon” “Give 5 pennies to the bank” “Get a penny if you like to cook” “Get a penny from anyone who has driven a motorcycle” etc.

You will have a bowl of pennies in the middle of the table as the “bank” and then each player will have a small dish in front of them with 25 pennies in to start. The residents really enjoy this and it gets them to learn more about each other and to reminisce a bit.

I believe if you google search it you can find pre-made cards as well if you aren’t interested in making your own!

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by Mary
(WV)

Seniors, start your engines! Nutrition – what is it? It is the key to our ‘go power’. At it’s best it can help us feel better, think better, move better and keep us going strong. Of course, the flip side to this is another story altogether.

Poor nutrition or unbalanced choices can leave us feeling like @#*!, not able to focus our thoughts well, as well as trigger all sorts of serious health conditions.

We first think that it’s a matter of money and or will power. Money to buy the best of all the choices available whenever we feel like it. Will power to overcoming cravings, temptations and overfilling our bodies before we realize we are already ‘full’.

Not so simple, folks. You can have a great race car, but without the right maintenance and pitcrew and the support of your ‘sponsors’, you can be left in the dust.

People who are blessed with a good source of income can still be malnourished. Rushing about grabbing a quick snack or whatever is handy- fast food or the leftovers in the fridge. Waiting till we are too tired, hungry to make wise choices can cost us a healthier body.

Theses days, making the most of our resources-money, time and especially energy is so very important. The same is true to getting proper nutrition.

Reading the track
It pays to learn about what your specific dietary needs are and how you can navigate through the mazes of food sources. How do we sort through all the myriad tv ads, web sites and the latest ‘buzz’ on what’s good and not good. It seems to keep changing and it can be very frustrating to find what best for you and your family.

Have a solid ‘pit crew’
Time to talk with your doctor, diabetes educator or registered dietician before you launch into a new eating plan. Once you get approved guidelines, stay positive, take small steps so you don’t get discouraged. Fall off the wagon? Don’t beat yourself up, just get back on track and keep on going.

Line up your $ponsors
Options- sharing meal chores with neighbors- pot lucks or planned menus, even once a week can be fun and take the load off preparing an entire meal alone.

Some senior centers offer hot meals on site or delivered. Be sure to check out the menu first. See how it meets your needs. Ask about how the meals are prepared.

Checking under the hood
Do you have any food allergies or dietary restrictions- sodium, sugars, starches, fats, hot spices, etc. Ask if they offer any substitutions or can accommodate your medical requirements.

If the meals are high in calories or other things you have trouble with try dividing the meal and then adding your own choice of fresh fruit or non-starchy vegetable.

Pit Stops
Just remember, your body needs refueling every 2-3 hours. Not a lot at one time, just enough so you don’t crash. Share a meal, take turns buying fresh veggies and fruits with a friend or neighbor. This is helpful when you are single and don’t want to have a whole lot of produce go bad before you can use it up.

Crossing the finish line a winner
Remember you are never too old to learn about good nutrition and you deserve the best body you can have. You are a ‘seasoned driver’ and you can still show the young kids how to win the good nutrition race. Congratulations and many happy dining!

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by Rebecca
(NJ)

Here are some top luau ideas for a good party that we’ve had with our group. A luau is perfect to have any time of year, especially in the winter. Some guests may have lived or traveled to the South Pacific including Hawaii and will have some authentic ideas. Elderly love to have parties, and help plan them also. So I like to ask people what ideas they might have. Here are a few favorites from the folks at our assisted living community.

Ambiance
First of all, make your own invitations, which can be a group project. You can use stickers too. Or take a rectangle of colored paper and cut fringe at the bottom like a grass skirt. A pineapple or fish or bird are other good shapes to use.
Have a host or hostess greet the guests dressed up in a costume.
Guests should also wear at least one thing Hawaiian.
Leis can be provided on hand in case someone doesn’t have a thing to wear.
How about those removable tattoo type stickers kids like to put on their cheek or arm or hand, with a floral or tropical bird theme.
Island music can play in the background. Better yet, see if you can get a live band. Anything that gives off a coconut scent is really nice.
Once we had a visitor bring in their pet parrot for the party. It was a real hit.
If you did an RSVP and know who is coming, you can make a name tag with their real name and also their name in Hawaiian. You can find this online like at http://hawaiiannames.hisurf.com .
If anyone has a grandchild who has made one of those paper mache volcanoes for a science project, they are really popular to have at a party. And you stage a little ceremony when it erupts, maybe before dessert.

Decorations.
Have the room decoration with lots of streamers, candles (battery candles are best), large flowers (you can make large tissue paper flowers ahead of time as a group activity, and can put them in hair too).
You can also use those tiki torches and put battery candles in them instead. A wad of putty or clay will keep them in place, if you need it.
Have a least one specialty theme balloon, like at a buffet or prize table.
Use brightly colored table wear. If it’s in your budget, get at least the cups and napkins in a tropical theme print from a party store.
Have some wall decorations such a hula fringe made with long pieces of brown paper on a roll, then cut fringe on the bottom, about two-thirds of the way up. You can curl it a little too. Along the top you can glue a strip of crepe paper like a waist band. These long wall hangings can be stuck up here and there on the wall. They also make a cute table skirt.
For projects ahead of time, besides making large flowers, you can also make tropical fish to hang on the wall (with bubbles), or from the ceiling. And tropical birds.
One of those large inflatable palm trees is always great, or make a couple from poster board to hang on the wall.

Refreshments and Food.
Have tropical drinks or punch available right away (complete with umbrella drink stick).
Iced tea with a little fruit juice added in. and a mint leaf or piece of fruit.
Use ice cubes made from colorful fruit juice. And freeze a chunk of pineapple in a few.
Fruit kabobs using pineapple chunks, strawberries, apple slices, orange wedges, etc.
Banana bread with a little fruit jam on top, if desired.
This is a perfect party to serve a fruit bowl, such as in a watermelon.
Macadamia nuts are good to toss in with other treats, or have in a bowl.
For meat, anything with pork, ham or chicken, with teriyaki, barbecue, or a tropical type glaze. Kabobs are also nice, and easy to eat. Just about any kind of seafood or ocean fish will work as well.
Or try a Hawaiian style pizza with ham and pineapple on it (it is really good!).
Sweet potatoes are a vegetable often found at a real luau.
A theme cake is excellent, especially if you have someone who can really decorate. Good flavors include banana, pineapple, and coconut.
A coconut or banana pudding is another option.
You can also make homemade ice (a good activity) and serve sundaes or ice cream floats.
Another option is to fruit smoothies.
If you want something small and light, do chocolate covered strawberries (and you can make them yourself).

Entertainment.
Make sure you have some things to do, like games with prizes. Good ones are tossing something into a basket, or passing type game maybe with a coconut, batting around a balloon, or a version of Simon Says (the name for Simon in Hawaiian is Kimona), and guess the number of candy (etc.) in a vase or jar.
If your guests are ambulatory, have a simple cake walk.
Other suggestions, having a raffle with some themed items included.
Make a gift basket or two to raffle off or for a silent auction.
Get some dancers to come in to perform a hula for your guests.
If you know a group of young people to have help with the party, they can also put on a limbo contest, which is really fun to watch.
As mentioned before, have a live band. Guests can also join in with the maracas or a bongo.
Have a sing along, like to Don Ho songs. Even a little sit-down dancing.
Watch the movie South Pacific.

If you ask friends, staff, or participants for ideas, you will get lots more!

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by A
(DE )

Put some Elvis Presley (or other music) on and take out a coloring book! Talk to the elderly and make it a relaxing setting. They love that for those who do early shifts and who are doing activities.

The elderly also loved it when I take out a white board and put a word at the top. Like say I wrote “birthday party,” for example. Then I ask what is something at a kid’s birthday party, whether it be balloons, all the way down to the piñata.

They had a great time guessing things that went with the word on the white board. And you may need to remind them if it’s already on the board and give them another chance go around. Everyone gets a guess until they start struggling. Then you just remind them of their answers and erase the board. And start new with another word.

Or play hang man on the white board. Another activity is to read them a poem. For a challenge, get out a dictionary and look up really long words. See how many words you can make out of just that one word. These are things that will have their minds going and keep active and engaged in what you are doing.

And of course conversation between the residents and yourself is always a plus. When you start to hear things they are into, take self-notes if you need too, so that you know what those who participate in activities are interested in and doing. It will help to know what you can do later, even if it ends up in trivia. I’m sure it would help you out.

Editor’s note – Thanks so much for all of your interesting ideas! These will work for both the elderly and also anyone who may be experiencing some memory challenges. White boards are great tools to have around for all sorts of activities! And coloring is a favorite activity in many senior groups, because you can get either simple or sophisticated and detailed pages, as desired. Be sure to see our other elderly activities too.

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