Care home activities - exercise

Care home activities: Which are best for the wellbeing of residents?

Fonthill House - Hertfordshire

Numerous studies have found that social interaction and creative expression are an important part of physical and mental wellbeing and can improve general health. People need meaningful engagement with the world around them for personal satisfaction.

Research by Age UK shows a clear link between organised activities and wellbeing. Groups of people with a shared interest and purpose are more content. The resulting engagement can also lead to physical benefits.

Dr Gene Cohen was known for his research in this area with The Creativity and Aging Study: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults. This research demonstrated that creativity:

  • Improves mood
  • Increases resilience
  • Boosts memory
  • Improves morale
  • Improves sleep
  • Strengthens the immune system
  • Increases working vocabulary

Although these are examples of research amongst older people, creative activities benefit all ages. An example is The Great Create which is the latest project from The Prince’s Trust to assist young people’s wellbeing through encouraging organised creative activities.

However, it is important to put time into carefully tailoring the activities to the residents so that they will be successful and to focus on the purpose of the activity — whether it is to simply make residents laugh or to energise or relax them. Here are some ideas:



Reflexology and head massages are wonderfully relaxing and can help improve sleep. Hand and feet massages are also popular and can include a manicure and pedicure which can make residents feel pampered and special.

Chair-based yoga

Yoga is fantastic for relaxation and can also improve strength and flexibility. Seated yoga is good for less mobile residents.

Guided meditation

Guided meditation has a whole host of benefits to improve wellbeing such as reducing stress, increasing patience and techniques to manage chronic pain. There are many guided meditation exercises on the internet which only need to take a few minutes a day.

Art easel with orange glass full of paint brushes and green pot of chalks on a table in a care home



Making greetings cards is an enjoyable activity as residents can put their own individuality into designing them. There are so many variations of design using different craft materials and for different occasions. The cards also offer the residents an opportunity to send a card to a friend or family member, offering an uplifting form of communication which can be treasured by the sender and the recipient.  

Classes for teaching skills like mosaic making or printmaking can be challenging and rewarding and help improve concentration. The finished product will provide the resident with a great sense of achievement and an added confidence in themselves.


This is a fun activity that can also help to boost memory and help to maintain and develop personal identity. Residents can stick photos, decorations and memorabilia in their own scrapbook which they can show to family and flip through whenever they like. It will also benefit the care home staff, helping them get to know the residents and their lives.

Garden craft

Creating items such as bird feeders for the care home garden will help form a sense of community and the residents will be rewarded seeing them in use. You can also centre artwork and craft activities around the garden, such as pressing wildflowers, flower arranging and making seasonal wreaths.

Feeling useful

People who are no longer working or who are injured and recovering can complain they no longer feel useful, that they have no value or purpose, and this can make them feel depressed. Including residents in helpful tasks can help them to feel included. Ask residents to help with laying the table, give them small cleaning tasks or ask for help folding laundry if they are physically able.

Exercising the mind

As well as feeling useful, residents will want to continue to challenge themselves mentally. News and current affairs clubs will keep them up-to-date with the world, while a computer club will teach them new technical skills.

Reading is known to enrich life and improve wellbeing and a book club or reading in a group is easy to set up. Sharing and talking about the book or poem adds a social benefit. Reading aloud has also been shown to boost verbal and visual memory.

Film nights with subtitles are inclusive and residents can talk about the film afterwards with their friends — much more sociable than watching TV alone. 

Puzzles and games

Board games

Board games and card games are a great way of encouraging social interaction and there are lots of old favourites. You can choose games which are suited to the residents. For example, Call To Mind is a game that has been designed for dementia sufferers.

Garden games

Spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to improve wellbeing. It is known to lower stress, heart rate and blood pressure. Garden games are perfect in dry weather as they encourage residents to get outside for a dose of vitamin D. Games such as boules, skittles, giant Jenga and ring toss are great fun, and many can be played from a sitting position.


Many people love doing jigsaw puzzles so this will provide a genuine sense of enjoyment for jigsaw fans. Plus, jigsaws are good for mental health, stimulating brain cells and generating new connections. This is an ideal activity for small groups of two or three residents.


Music quizzes

Music quizzes are enjoyable and will also help stimulate the brain cells by triggering memories. You can also play music bingo where you show images mentioned in the songs.


Getting a group together to sing songs can be a really uplifting way to relax and smile. The choice of songs needs to be tailored to the residents as it is important that they are songs that they are familiar with or which bring back memories.

Live music

Research suggests that music can stimulate the body’s natural feel good chemicals. Live music sessions can enrich a residential home. Live bands are great for boosting a mood and energising! A harpist can provide music to relax to, while a percussionist could get residents involved in making music too.

Care home activities - exercise


Exercise classes

Exercise is vital for a happier and healthier life. Trained instructors know how to involve all residents so that the classes are inclusive. Many classes can be done from a seated position. Tai Chi and pilates offer gentle exercise and help to reduce stress.


Walking is known to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood and sleep quality. Being amongst nature has a positive impact on mental health, so walks outside in the garden or local parks or countryside is ideal. Regular gardening clubs in a care home are also great exercise and can be hard but satisfying work!


Dance activities are brilliant because residents enjoy the movement, the music and the social aspect. You can organise dance classes or simply hold informal dances or discos. Bringing in a pianist to perform live music can add to the experience.


Dough with added essential oils

Moulding dough is therapeutic as it is such a tactile, relaxing activity. You can make up batches using essential oils which will have the added benefit of a calming aromatherapy. There are many easy recipes to follow on the internet.

Lucky dip

A lucky dip with gift items that are also sensory – things like scented soaps or a hairbrush is a good way of stimulating the residents. You can also put objects in a sock and get the residents to feel the sock to guess what is hidden.

Tasting competitions

A blindfolded tasting competition is sure to encourage laughter. For older residents you can include potentially nostalgic foods like Angel Delight and then encourage them to reminisce.

Special trips out

Tea at the Ritz? Wine and canapes at 400ft? Weekly drinks at a manor house? It is important to have some special social events to look forward to on the calendar. The anticipation for an event planned well in advance is part of the fun. Without trips out to look forward to residents can get cabin fever characterised by combinations of sadness, restlessness, anxiety, boredom and irritability.

The team at Fonthill House understand this need to look forward so they organise luxurious outings which make the residents feel special — and this sets Fonthill apart from other care homes.

If you want to hear more about the luxurious activities programme at Fonthill House, look at our upcoming events.

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Evie McMichael

Evie McMichael

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