Because D-Day (June 6th) is an important date for many of our World War II veterans, it’s helpful to provide a series of activities that allow these men and women a chance to tell their stories. Here are a few ways to help your veterans communicate and share their memories of the war.
1. Story Circles
- Organize activities for residents in which they sit in circles to discuss a particular topic. For instance, host a Draft Story Circle where each resident shares their story of how they were drafted or how they volunteered for military duty. During the activity, pass around old draft cards for residents to review and reminisce upon. Another option is to host a Boot Camp Story Circle, in which all the participants talk and compare notes about their boot camp experiences.
- If the participants are willing, consider recording the story circles to either send to loved ones or keep as a “documentary” that can be shown to other residents during your facility’s Documentary Night.
- Consider making these conversation groups a monthly activity that not only allow your residents to express their thoughts on a particular topic but also provide another bonding opportunity for the residents involved. Have popcorn and snacks too!
2. Show and Tell
- Host an activity for your military veterans to pass around and share any mementos or photos from their time in the military. Also encourage them to wear clothing that features their branch’s insignias, like a Beat Navy t-shirt or a Marines pin.
- If you find that there are a lot of military veterans with items to share, consider creating a Military Expo in your Activity Room in which each veteran has an area to showcase his or her items. Seat the veterans near their items so that they can explain the significance of the items to the Expo visitors.
- Recruit a few of your most outspoken veterans to give lectures sharing their stories of their military experiences. In fact, consider hosting an initial information session to educate your non-military residents about the basics of the military (e.g., the different branches of service, the order of rank, and what all the abbreviations mean).
- Contact your local military reservist group to schedule quarterly lectures by one of their community recruiters. Ask them to share information about the current state of the military – the deployment numbers and service obligations – and how much different today’s military is as compared to the military during World War II.
- Honor your men and women veterans by hosting fun parades throughout the year on military observances like Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day. Use your Activity Room to seat the spectators as you encourage your military veterans to walk through giving their name, rank, branch of service, and length of service.
- If you choose to have this parade only once per year, consider making it a large affair by inviting the family members and community leaders. Hang patriotic gliders, and encourage everyone to wear red, white, and blue, and pass out mini American flags for the spectators to wave as they cheer on their veterans.
- Plan events and ceremonies to honor the service of your veterans. You can host an annual military ball for all your residents to enjoy, featuring a live band and patriotic decorations. Also if you have many veterans from all five branches of service, consider hosting five balls throughout the year that coincide with the anniversary date that each branch was established.
- Mimic the real-life ceremonies for the branches of service, like scheduling a ceremonial cutting of the birthday cake if you are celebrating the Navy’s birthday, or giving a ceremonial champagne toast on the birthday of the Marines Corp.
- Coordinate with the R.O.T.C. program of a local high school to start a monthly or bi-monthly mentoring event in which your veterans meet with the students to communicate the commitment of serving their country.
- If possible, pair each of your veterans with a high school student to provide for a more personal exchange of ideas and mentoring.
7. Buddy Program
- Request that your military veterans sign up to buddy up with new residents who are veterans. This bonding experience can help your newer residents become better acclimated to their new home.
- If you haven’t already, start a Veteran’s Club that meets monthly. Encourage the club members to brainstorm ideas for veteran activities as well as community service projects.
8. Music History
- Embrace the military songs of the past by hosting a monthly music history activity. Download songs or play CDs that allow your veterans to reminisce and enjoy the songs that they used to sing.
- Consider incorporating cadence calls into a few of your exercise classes to get your veterans reminiscing about their days of singing songs while running or marching.
notjustbingo.com is an online resource of fun, senior activity ideas for activity professionals of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. They have been providing fun activity ideas online since 2009, and we continue to assist activity professionals across the country by creating meaningful and engaging activity ideas for their residents that go “beyond bingo.” Don’t get them wrong – bingo is fun, but we want to spread the word that there is more to life than just bingo. Overall, notjustbingo.com feels privilege to help activity directors better the living experiences of their residents while demonstrating that a senior’s quality of life can actually improve when they move to a nursing facility.