An activities, or activity director, is a person who organizes, leads, and manages recreation and activities for people who are in some level of care. These professionals most often work in assisted living and nursing homes, helping arrange activities for elderly residents but also those that are physically or developmentally disabled. They have to be able to provide appropriate activities for a particular group.

Activities directors may also have assistant activity workers or volunteers that help provide recreation for residents. The position does not necessarily require any special training or advanced education, but these are professionals who should be caring and compassionate, patient, and who enjoy working with people who need extra assistance. A good activity director can greatly improve the quality of life of residents in nursing homes and other care facilities.

What is an Activities Director?

Residents, patients, and clients in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult day care, and those in similar types of care require varying degrees of supervision, health monitoring, and healthcare and treatment. They also need recreation, activities, physical exercise, and intellectual and creative activities. Without these extra activities, the quality of life for these kinds of patients is less than it could be. Even people with limitations can benefit from recreation, fun, and exercise.

The professionals who provide these opportunities are called activities directors. There may be other people who provide similar services, like assistants and volunteers who lead or help with activities, but the director is the one who organizes and develops activities programs. They have to be able to work within a budget to provide a range of opportunities for residents and those in care to enjoy arts, crafts, entertainment, outings and field trips, education, exercise, and other activities. They may lead the activities or supervise if they have a large enough staff that can do the hands-on work with patients.

The Duties of an Activities Director

The activity director of a residential facility or day care for adults is responsible for providing patients and clients with opportunities to engage in recreational activities. The types of activities have to be appropriate for the ages, abilities, and interests of the residents, which requires a lot of planning and getting to know residents and patients. Some of the typical duties of an activities director in any setting include:

  • Plan, organize, and manage or lead activities.
  • Plan activities within a set budget.
  • Maintain and publish a schedule of activities.
  • Modify or ensure activities are appropriate for ability levels and limitations of residents.
  • Set up equipment needed for activities.
  • Explain activities and assist patients and residents during activities.
  • Communicate with third parties to provide activities and recreation.
  • Organize transportation for off-site activities.
  • Enforce rules for safety.
  • Promote activities and encouraging residents to participate.
  • Get to know residents and patients and finding out their interest to inform organizing activities.
  • Consult with nurses, doctors, and other caregivers to best help residents.
  • Administer basic first aid as needed and being prepared to call for help.

Activities directors may also have assistants and volunteers working under their supervision, depending on the size of their employer, the number of residents and patients, and the budget with which they have to work. Assistants and volunteers are likely to take over tasks like setting up and leading activities and assisting residents during activities.

Where Activities Directors Work

An activities director may work in any setting in which patients or clients are receiving care and need opportunities for recreation. The most common employment settings for these professionals are nursing homes and assisted living facilities for elderly adults and disabled adults as well as well as specialized facilities for memory care with residents struggling with dementia. They may also work in hospitals, providing activities for longer-term residents. An activities director may work in a hospital or treatment center where children are receiving long-term care and monitoring.

Activities directors may also work in community settings. Neighborhood, community, and city centers that provide activities for residents who are disabled or elderly employ these professionals to organize and arrange activities are recreation for a wide variety of types of people, from seniors with few limitations to severely disabled adults who live at home but benefit from recreation.

Recreational Therapists

An activity director may also work as a recreational therapist, or a residential facility may hire both types of professionals to be involved with activities. A recreational therapist generally has more education and training and is certified to provide actual therapy for patients and residents using a variety of recreational activities.

Like other types of therapists, these professionals evaluate and assess patients, determine their needs and goals, and develop treatment plans. They implement those plans using recreational activities to meet patient goals. There are many ways recreational therapy can be used. Examples include using swimming to manage joint pain and increase fitness for elderly patients or using games to develop better social skills for developmentally disabled residents.

The Importance of Activities and Recreation

That activity and recreation are important for people in care may seem obvious, but it is also backed up by research. Studies demonstrate that residents in nursing homes and similar facilities get a lot of benefits from having adequate and high-quality recreational opportunities. Residents miss having hobbies and activities and want to have options for activities that interest them. They suffer when there are barriers to engaging in activities, such as lack of options, lack of transportation, or physical impairments.

A good activities director is in place to overcome those barriers and ensure that residents and patients do have opportunities to engage in recreation. They take away those barriers by providing a range of options and ensuring that activities are appropriate to ability levels or that they can be modified in such a way that residents can participate in and enjoy the activities. Studies show that residents particularly benefit from activities that are meaningful, that stimulate thinking, that produce something, that allow for socialization, and that re related to the work a resident previously did.

Quality activities provided by a caring director who ensures recreation is safe and enjoyable can provide a number of benefits: reduced pain, improved fitness, improved overall health, better mood, more socialization, improved mental health, an improved sense of purpose, and an overall increased quality of life, enjoyment, and satisfaction with living situation.

If someone you care about is in a residential facility, a hospital, or adult day care, make sure that they are offered good quality recreation opportunities. These facilities should have an activity director that provides varied activities and options for residents. When this role is not taken seriously, patients suffer, and it is important for loved ones to advocate for them and their need for recreation.