20+ Holiday Nursing Home Ideas to Spread Cheer & Joy This Season

Create memorable holidays in the nursing home with these fun and inclusive Christmas activities for older adults.

Updated December 12, 2023
older adults having fun

Adding a festive touch to the winter months can mean so much to those living in a nursing home. Why not spruce up your senior residents' holiday with fun, exciting activities? From nursing home holiday ideas like a red hat luncheon to a New Year's Day party, these fantastic ideas are sure to bring everyone plenty of holiday cheer. 

Fun & Festive Nursing Home Holiday Ideas 

Winter holidays like Christmas and New Year's Eve are special times that most people have celebrated their entire lives. There are plenty of ways to make the holidays in a nursing home just as meaningful and festive. 

1. Have a Santa Hat Luncheon

Old people celebrating Christmas

Host a luncheon and invite residents to wear a Santa hat if they'd like. Combine it with an arts and crafts session beforehand, where residents can decorate a simple and inexpensive felt hat with baubles and bling and put a unique style on the hat that is all their own. Offer Christmas-themed goodies at the luncheon, such as a wide variety of Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, and popcorn balls.

Quick Tip

Add a little friendly competition to the event with a contest! Provide awards for the most original hat, prettiest hat, ugliest hat, and so on.

2. Get Cozy With a Holiday Movie Marathon

Celebrate the holidays with a movie marathon. This is a perfect Christmas Eve activity. Watch tried and true favorites, such as It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and White Christmas. Complete the evening's activities with a visit from Santa, who can pass out a small gift to each resident (or candy canes if you're on a tight budget).

3. Set Up a Carol Sing-Along

Area schools and churches often have choirs that are happy to come in and perform some Christmas carols for a fun sing-along. Be sure to find out what songs the choir will be singing ahead of time and provide lyrics in large print for residents to sing along.

4. Decorate the Rooms

older man decorating

Allow family, friends, and volunteers to come in and decorate each resident's room with a few festive decorations. Small Christmas trees and garlands can add a special touch. Since many residents may experience the winter blues during the holidays, particularly if they don't have a lot of family nearby, a cheerful room can make a big difference.

5. Plan a Shopping Day

Plan an outing for residents who can leave the home so that they can get their Christmas shopping done. For those who are unable to travel, set up a holiday store on the premises they can visit to purchase a few items for gift giving, such as bath soaps, small stuffed toys, and other items.

6. Have an Interactive Christmas Skit

Engaging residents in a brief performance of a short Christmas skit is a fun holiday activity for seniors. Make it an improvisation-type show by passing out scripts right before, then have everyone read their lines and act them out on the fly. Or hold auditions and rehearsals beforehand to create a polished production. 

7. Plan a Secret Santa Note Exchange

Elderly woman and young carer by Christmas tree

Gift-giving within the community is an excellent way to foster connections with fellow residents. One way to do this is to plan a Secret Santa note exchange. Assign each resident another resident to send encouraging notes to throughout the season. Everyone can find out who their secret note writer is on Christmas day through a big reveal.

8. Celebrate With a Christmas Baking Class

What's more festive than Christmas cookies? Throw a baking party or cookie decorating party to get everyone involved in the fun. Better yet, participants can deliver the baked goods to fellow residents to spread Christmas cheer.

9. Set Up a Charity Project

older adults gathering gifts

Provide small stockings or baskets and a variety of inexpensive toys or trinkets for gathered residents to pull together. The packages can then be delivered to a local shelter or elementary school.

Quick Tip

If residents can't help with the delivery, staff can record it and have a viewing party for the residents afterward.

10. Host a White Elephant Gift Exchange

A White Elephant gift exchange is always fun with a group and would be perfect for the holidays in a nursing home. Have residents bring one item (it can be silly, useful, or even strange!) to the gift exchange. Everyone can draw numbers to determine the order they'll select their gift in, then each person will get the opportunity to open a gift.

11. Have a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

Nursing homes with a chapel or spacious communal space can host a candlelight service on Christmas Eve in anticipation of Christmas Day. This can be a beautiful opportunity to bring residents together and even invite friends and family to attend. Often, the more, the merrier! 

12. Get Festive With a Hot Chocolate Bar

nursing home hot chocolate bar

Host a hot chocolate bar, complete with candy canes, marshmallows, whipped cream, and sprinkles, for a holiday experience residents will enjoy. Everyone can make their drink to their liking and then enjoy it in the company of others.

Quick Tip

Be sure to offer sugar-free and dairy-free options for those with dietary restrictions. 

13. Get Everything Glittering With a Door Decoration Competition

Old man with christmas balls in his hands

Provide decorations to participating residents so they can decorate their doors with a holiday theme. Decorating a door may be easier than decorating an entire room, plus, everyone can enjoy the decorations as they move throughout the facility.

14. Find the Elf Can Be Daily Fun 

Give residents a fun daily challenge with "Find the Elf." For this activity, nursing home staff can hide a festive elf doll (or angel or Santa) around the facility, and the resident who finds it every day gets their name displayed as the day's winner.

Need to Know

Not only will this activity get everyone in the Christmas spirit, but it's also beneficial for cognitive engagement. 

15. Create a Christmas Spirit Board

Display a large board with markers and encourage residents to write out their favorite Christmas memories. Display this in a community room or dining area where everyone can see it. Throughout the holidays, residents will enjoy reviewing the board and sharing stories with others. 

16. Let Santa's Helpers Visit

There's nothing like warm, fuzzy pets to give folks the warm fuzzies! Partner with a local animal shelter to bring in some friendly animals to visit the residents. This activity benefits both the residents and the shelter animals, but don't forget to provide treats for everyone to give to the visiting pets! 

17. Do a Christmas Lights Tour

Seniors watching the Christmas Street Lights

If the nursing home has access to a bus or van, take the residents on a tour of local homes that are decorated for Christmas. Residents will enjoy taking a short trip to enjoy the decorations, but you can certainly turn up the cheer by encouraging everyone to wear Santa hats and play everyone's favorite Christmas tunes. 

18. Double-Duty Christmas Pageant

Contact a local elementary school or middle school to ask if they would like to have a final rehearsal for their pageant in the nursing home's space. The students will enjoy the preview audience and residents will enjoy a fun show without needing to leave the premises. Win-win for everyone! 

19. Set Up a Sporting Holiday

If a game is scheduled to be televised on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, hold an exciting viewing party complete with snacks, pom-poms, and mini-banners for each team. Include some holiday elements, such as optional Santa hats, or hold an "Elves Bracket" to see who can most closely predict the winner.

20. Make It Funny With an Ugly Sweater Party

An ugly sweater party is always a great way to bring on the laughs around the holidays. Have everyone wear their most gaudy or eccentric Christmas sweater. Before the event, you could even host a sweater decorating gathering so residents are ready for the party.

Quick Tip

Craft time is a great activity for nursing home residents that many folks enjoy. 

Ideas to Celebrate New Year's Eve

It can be fun for residents to celebrate each new year and think about things to look forward to in the coming year. These festivities can help mark the occasion:

Celebrate on UK Time

Senior Asian Woman Raising Glass of Non-Alcoholic Punch for Toast

If residents don't wish to stay up until midnight in their own time zone, consider ringing in the new year with the United Kingdom. The time difference is about five hours, so you can ring in the new year at 7 p.m. instead of midnight. If the nursing home is located on the West Coast, then it becomes quite easy to celebrate earlier with the East Coast.

Resolution Shuffle

Have each resident print their New Year's resolution on a 3 x 5 card, shuffle them all together, and pass them out. Each person must then match the resolution with the correct resident by asking questions until they find the owner of the resolution.

This is a great mixer activity and helps residents get to know one another better. It also creates an occasion for ongoing dialogue as they keep up with one another throughout the year and see how the resolutions are going.

New Year's Day

Keeping families involved with residents can be vital. Consider having an event on New Year's Day that family and friends can attend. Because many people might have commitments on New Year's Eve, family might be more inclined to visit on New Year's Day. Just don't plan the event too early in the day since everyone was up late the evening before ringing in the new year. 

Make the Holidays Festive With Simple Ideas 

When it comes to planning events and gathering nursing home holiday ideas, there's no limit to the number of things you can put together. Why not coordinate small activities every day for the 12 days leading up to Christmas? Or, considering that holiday schedules are typically packed, you may want to plan just a few really memorable events. However you go about it, the residents are sure to enjoy the season! 

Trending on LoveToKnow
20+ Holiday Nursing Home Ideas to Spread Cheer & Joy This Season