Eight Fun Thanksgiving Activities for Older Adults to Celebrate Turkey Day

Whether you're celebrating at home or with loved ones in a nursing home, there are tons of ways to make this holiday great for everyone.

Updated November 2, 2023
Active seniors walking in the city

While change is part of every life stage, there's just something reassuring about celebrating Thanksgiving as an older American. You can give your holiday plenty of traditional charm and totally fresh fun with these Thanksgiving activities for older adults.

It's all about getting creative and finding some new ways to have fun. These turkey day ideas are perfect for doing at home on your own, with friends and family, or in an apartment or care facility. Activities can be traditional or just build on the traditional to create something new. It's up to you, and we're all for incorporating multiple ideas to make this holiday special for everyone.

Creative Thanksgiving Games and Activities for Older Adults

You don't have to do a super involved craft or complicated game to have some serious turkey day fun. These are simple Thanksgiving games for older adults to do with friends and family, as well as crafts that can make the dinner table prettier.

Senior couple setting the table for Thanksgiving at home

Set Up a Scavenger Hunt

This super easy Thanksgiving game is great for older adults at home or in care facilities. You can do it on your own or involve kids and grandkids in the fun. Basically, you just come up with a list of things to find and see how many you can get. These are some of the items we like to include:

  • Mini pumpkin
  • Paper plate
  • Something someone else is grateful for
  • Candle
  • Gravy boat
  • Dried corn
  • Wishbone
Quick Tip

If you're playing with other people, it's really fun to have some simple prizes. It might just be an extra piece of pie or a pass on helping with cleanup, but winning something can make the game more fun.

Guess the Number of Candy Corn

This is a simple game that doesn't require a ton of people or any special skills, and that means it's perfect for older adults to share with kids or basically anyone. It's simple, too. Grab a bag of candy corn (bonus if they're Thanksgiving colors) and count as you drop them into a jar. Write down the number and have everyone guess to see who gets the closest. The person who does is the winner.

We love this game because it's an easy way to get all your visitors involved in the holiday fun. If you're in a new apartment, this can be an icebreaker for meeting new people. It's also awesome for when kids visit (just keep an eye on the candy corn).

Make Grandparent and Grandchild Pumpkins

Create a mock pumpkin patch in front of your house or in a common area of your apartment or care facility. You can accessorize the patch with hay bales and even a scarecrow. You can host your neighbors or just do this with kids that you know.

Buy enough pumpkins for both grandparents and kids. Instead of carving the pumpkins, let kids and their grandparents decorate them with washable acrylic paints. You can also use ribbons, artificial flowers, feathers and other items to decorate the pumpkins.

Quick Tip

Don't have a grandkid handy? This is a fun activity to do with anyone, from friends to adult family members.

Create a Thanksgiving Tree

Create a tree trunk and branches on a large piece of tagboard or butcher paper that you can hang on the wall in your dining room or in a common area of a care facility. Pick up some pre-cut paper leaves from the craft store or make your own. Each day, write what you're thankful for on the leaves. Then, attach the leaves to the tree branches with tape or with glue dots.

This can be fun when you have visitors, too. Have some spare leaves and ask them to jot down something they're grateful for, as well as their name.

Decorate Pinecone Turkey Place Cards

Cute turkey place cards are easy to make from pinecones. Each person will need a pinecone, warm-colored construction paper pre-cut into ¼ to ½ inch strips, a bright-colored pompom, small plastic eye, white glue, and scissors.

  1. Have each person cut paper strips into short lengths that will be the turkey's tail feathers.
  2. Glue the strips into the spaces in the bottom of the pinecone.
  3. Glue the pompom to the stem of the pinecone as a head.
  4. Add a triangle of construction paper to the head for a beak.
  5. On a larger strip of paper, each person can write their name and insert it among the "tail feathers." The card can be used for the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Traditional Thanksgiving Activities

Senior couple taking selfie through smart phone during Thanksgiving at home

For years, care facilities and independent living centers have celebrated Thanksgiving with some of the age-old traditions that families all across the United States celebrate each year. These classic events help many older adults adapt to life in a new apartment or nursing home, because there are some familiar activities. These traditions are often a comfort amid a lot of change.

Here are a few things to try if you're celebrating the holiday in a new place this year or just want to enjoy those classic activities.

Embrace an Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving Dinner

If you're at home, your Thanksgiving dinner may not change much over the years (though we totally recommend getting family to help with more of the meal prep). At a care facility, Thanksgiving dinner is also a huge part of most celebrations.

Most senior apartments and nursing homes offer a Thanksgiving dinner or turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. These are dishes that residents recognize from the time they were children until the present day. Usually a few treats are thrown in, as well, such as pumpkin pie and special beverages. Thanksgiving cookies, cut in traditional shapes such as turkeys, pumpkins, and cornucopias, are also welcome treats around the Thanksgiving holiday.

Make Some Pretty Fall Decorations

Adding a few Thanksgiving-themed touches to your home or the common social areas of the care facility can set the mood for the holiday. A cornucopia filled with pumpkins, corn, gourds and other autumn produce makes a colorful centerpiece in a dining room or activity room.

Decorate windows in residents' rooms with bright-colored leaves cut from construction paper, fabric, craft foam, or translucent paper or plastic. You can cut out patterns from a printed design or picture in a magazine. You can use construction paper or craft foam leaves to create wreaths for your door, too. Glue the leaves to a grapevine or Styrofoam base. Add a bow for extra flair.

Share Thanks With Others

We all know that gratitude is one of those things that grows when you share it with others. Invite other older adults or residents to share a life event or experience for which they are thankful. You can do this as part of Thanksgiving dinner or at a craft or musical activity.

Start a New Tradition or Two for Turkey Day

While traditional Thanksgiving activities for older adults are a great way to bring back treasured memories and make new ones, new activities are also awesome for enjoying the here and now. The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving leave plenty of room for group activities, music, crafts, and more, so fill your schedule with fun stuff every day until Turkey Day.

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Eight Fun Thanksgiving Activities for Older Adults to Celebrate Turkey Day