I'm a lifelong researcher with a passion for sharing education and building a better future through critical thinking.
Nursing Home Entertainment
I worked for many years as an outreach librarian. During this time, I developed a number of very successful programs/activities for nursing home and senior housing residents. There is no other audience out there that is as appreciative and welcoming as our seniors.
Studies have shown nursing home residents that are provided with stimulating activities not only have a much more rewarding experience at the nursing facilities, but these activities stimulate their minds and stave off depression.
I'd like to share some of my best programs with you and give you the information you need to turn this into a great part-time or full-time business of your own. Nursing homes and senior housing, especially those with higher budgets, are always looking for entertainment for their residents. By contacting nursing home activity coordinators and working within their activities budget, you may just find yourself in a new rewarding career.
How to Start Your Business
The first step to starting your new business is to know your clients. Your clients are not only the nursing home residents but the staff and administrators of nursing homes.
Activities directors at nursing homes are always on the lookout for reasonably priced entertainment. Their jobs are to provide interesting activities that stimulate the minds and bodies of their residents on a daily basis. Not an easy task, which is why they hire you, if can work within their budgets. Budgets vary based on your region. In a small town, you're looking at $50 to $100 per performance or activity and more if you live in larger cities.
You'll want to scope out the nursing facilities in your area and consider how far you would travel to offer your services. Compile a list of nursing homes and contacts to determine your range. Start with at least 50 facilities so that you can pitch your services. With 50 different contacts, you'll build your base. The great thing about nursing home activity directors is that they talk to each other, and if you give great service, word will spread.
It's extremely important to know your audience, especially if you are planning an activity. Not all nursing home residents have the same skill levels. Ask your contacts about your typical audience so that you can gear your service to the specific needs of their residents.
Ok, this is the fun part. There are literally thousands of ideas for your service. Whether your strengths lie in singing, dancing, or even crafting, this is your chance to shine.
Seniors love to hear songs and music and see live entertainment and the best thing is you do not have to be a professional singer. I'm speaking from experience. I once did a valentine's program where I sang "That's Amore" and a couple other valentines songs of that era and I am not a great singer. It was the interaction along with the singing that hooked my audience. Act silly, really put yourself out there and your audience will love you.
Great programs offer stimulating activities and lots of humor. Doesn't hurt to add a great costume as well. For singing performances, I'd opt for an evening gown or attire that goes along with the program. If singing programs sound like fun, be sure to gear your music to the era of your audience. Songs from their youth and teenage years are the perfect fit, especially if you encourage the audience to sing along. I promise you'll get blank stares if you try a Lady GaGa act, keep it relevant to the audience.
Great Ideas for Musical Performances
- Musical numbers—think Judy Garland and South Pacific; keep it peppy!
- Lounge act—think elegant evening gown, or suit -no reason to leave the guys out here. View some of the best lounge acts from the '40s and '50s—Dean, Frank, etc. A must for this one is audience interaction with some key phrases and jokes from the era. (Google lounge singers and you'll get more than enough ideas)
- Vaudeville numbers—this one offers a plethora of vibrant and fun skits and performances that you can adapt to entertain and amaze your audience. (Again, good ole Google to the rescue with a simple search of "vaudeville acts", there are even videos of great acts out there)
- Instrumental performances—do you play piano, violin, flute or even the spoons (I know a country jug band that enthralls the senior audience)? Whether your forte is classical music or silly songs, you're sure to have success with a musical program.
Note: There is some competition here, local churches and individuals will volunteer with music programs. The key here is to provide something they don't and give it a selling point. Your competition is mostly gospel music/hymns, if you steer clear of that genre you'll be fine. Free is always more attractive, so you must provide a quality service.
I love activities with seniors! It will take a great deal of patience. Again, make sure you know your audience as this is vital to any activity program. Activities also present a little more of a challenge because you'll also be providing supplies for the activity. I liked to add a funny story from their era, favorite poems, or an anecdote to entertainment while they crafted.
Craft activities can be great fun for your audience and can be geared to their level of function. You'll want to keep it simple even for the higher functioning residents and be prepared to be completely hands-on. I purchased many of my craft supplies from The Dollar Store and Oriental Trading Company. Keep your crafts small. Remember that nursing home residents have very little room for extras.
Here are some things that worked well for me:
- Doorhangers(simple crafts to hang on doorknobs)—these take up very little space and residents enjoy creating decorative elements for their rooms. Be careful to keep this one within the skill level of your residents.
- Windbox Gardening (small herb garden that will fit on their window sills)—for this one you'll need small window boxes, small herb plants, soil and spoons. While residents plant, I read garden lore and home remedy uses about each herb. Usually 3 or 4 herbs per box.
- Decorative Photo Frames—Visit any Dollar store and pick up frames and tchotchkes to glue onto the frames. I liked to go with themes, holidays, etc. Bring examples with photos of your family. They'll love to see your children and grandchildren, and it makes for great conversation.
Just Plain Fun Activities
I love fun and you'd better too if you want to pull off fun activities. Three of my best-loved programs were very simple but had the activity directors calling me back for more.
- Halloween Party and Cornshucking contest—male and female residents alike loved this one. Supplies consist of funny Halloween music, a large tarp or plastic, a bushel of corn and a few prizes for best costume and quickest shucker. Add in a few classic Halloween tales and you've got a winner
- Spring Festival/Carnival—Supplies include easy games. Bean bag toss, Balloons, ring a bottle, hoola hoop toss and even a hoola hop contest...but go easy. A few prizes, a few fair food snacks (diabetic alternatives are good), and you're set for fun.
- Hawaiian Luau—Get your grass skirt out and practice the Hula. You're going to teach your audience a seated Hula. Great exercise and they will love watching you try to Hula as well. I learned a very basic Hula, with an abundance of arm movements. Share the meanings of each movement and provide some interesting facts about Hawaii. This one's great for bleak winter months. You'll need some Hawaiian-themed music and a few decorations (Oriental Trading Company). You can even provide grass skirts and coconut drink cups if the budget allows.
You're Ready for a Fun and Rewarding New Venture
If you have never performed in front of an audience, and there is no more forgiving audience than seniors, you might consider volunteering your services to a few nursing homes to build your skills and get your name out there among the activity directors. Let them know that you are starting a business and you'd like to try out a program. They'll jump at the chance, and if they like the program, they'll add it to their paid programs.
There are many many more ideas out there for great programs and if you read up a little on seniors, even talk to a few to get ideas of what interests them, you'll have no problem finding unique and entertaining programs.
Just one program and you'll realize how fulfilling providing entertainment to seniors can be. I fell in love with the residents and they with me. Just a little time, effort, and caring go a long way toward a worthwhile entrepreneurial venture.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Shafeeqa on November 17, 2019:
Do you suggest that I write a proposal letter address to activities director to be allowed to come in the facilities as an arts and crafts entertainment...
Jon Cadelina on October 28, 2019:
I love to sing in Nursing homes or others after 15 or 20 years out of
the music industry. Now I am 70's and wants to start back to earn
I sang standard songs, elvis, etc, Country music, Latin ,etc.
Aaron on October 01, 2019:
Ive sang for seniors before..i later tried to see if some similiar venues would maybe pay for entertainment...no one wants to do it...i know people do get paid for gigs..wondering how they did it..just wanted to have something on the side..what should i do??
Barbara Pollard on June 06, 2019:
I will like gey paid to ding for seniors if possible
Robbie mcvey on March 17, 2019:
Can someone advise me is there agencies
To sing in nursing homes or do I contact
Directly to nursing home
My number is 0422752624
Al Urezzio on July 08, 2018:
I am a solo musician but what makes me unique is 2 things , i sound like a full band & my request list of 150 songs covers music from the 30's thru the 90's . also I hand out to the residents my request sheets ,& for that hour they pick the songs they want to hear .. As told to me by a 92 yrs young resident ,I bring "Smiling Faces & Happy Memories " to them .. I am presently play at 20 different Facilities & my WEDNESDAYS & FRIDAY are booked till Jan. 2020 but i still look for new facilities .. I recently started doing evening show at Retirement & Independent Living Facilities ..
Marlene Faisal on July 04, 2018:
Very interesting, thanks for sharing your ideas. I will be using your ideas to help me improve what I'm doing. I agree that it is very fulfilling working with the aged; it makes you more appreciative of what you have and gives you a sense of making a difference to the lives of others.
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on December 08, 2017:
Sorry that it's been a while since I commented. Thank you so much for posting and sharing your experiences. I love to hear that there are wonderful people out there making our seniors lives better.
glo on November 23, 2017:
entertainment in retirement/asst living is very rewarding. husband and I were co mgrs. and as such were required to do something with the residents 1 x a week. we sing well together and do two different types of songs.....Southern Gospel and the middle of road, Tony Bennet,Bette Midler,Matt Monroe, (it's my way) Love is a many splendored thing etc. the residents responded well and we always had a good crowd turn out. Wish I had a mgrs. position still. I did the activity calendars , a lot of variety. I had a valve replaced and had a stroke during surgery which took me off work I enjoyed your article! Gl0Santiago12 @yahoo.com
Rhoni on May 21, 2017:
Wow, so generous to give such wise helpful advice to others lead to do the same. Sharing this is very loving.. amazing way to pay it forward, thank you! :)))
Gherie Tanada on August 15, 2016:
Hi! May I know how can I apply for pianist/one-man band and play for our seniors? Thank you.
Susan Laramie on August 08, 2016:
Your Comment... I'm a singer. I've gathered a big amount of really well done, close to the original recording, kareoke accompaniments by female pop singers from the forties, fifties and sixties.
Also do some novelty numbers... Shirley Temple impression...etc.
Thinking a CD demo would be the quickest way to get going.
lance on December 22, 2015:
nice hub! adding lights and or some type of images (projector type) would further the mind interaction! Would it be worth hiring someone to the activities? Thanks :)
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on December 18, 2015:
I'm sorry to say I haven't visited the page in a while...but I'm so glad I did the two most recent posters have wonderful advice! Thank you so much for sharing your experience.
Adam Price on April 08, 2014:
I'm a seniors entertainer in Australia and live in a smaller city and you can make a full time income from it if you're sincere and get creative with your shows.
For example, I do 2 nursing homes, retirement villages, day care centers etc each day, then a few times per month, I go to larger clubs and invite several nursing homes / seniors communities to that show (and the club pays me because I brought in the people).
This saves entertainment budgets for the homes (and they'll LOVE you for it) and the clubs will also LOVE you for bringing lots of people to their club on an otherwise quiet weekday.
It's truly a win-win and these wonderful people (our senior citizens in out communities) will have lots of joy and happiness because of it.
Hope this helps, keep up your good work!
Music with Harry on November 18, 2013:
We have been entertaining senior living communities for over 6 years professionally. We actually allow the activity directors to decide what rate their specific community can pay instead of dictating a rate or even a range to work within. This way, even the smaller communities benefit. We make plenty enough to sustain our household of 3 by doing this alone. Be prepared to do some driving, though. Most places only book once a month.
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on May 14, 2013:
Sorry Timothy, I've been away from my page for a while. When split, the earnings might not fit the show. Most places will spend $100 to $500 for entertainment, so the smaller the group the better.
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on February 24, 2013:
Hi Timothy..sorry I haven't been able to access this for a while...hope this gets through. The amount you could earn would vary depending on your area and the budgets of the nursing homes. In smaller towns the activities budget is as low as $50, but larger communities would have more to offer. If you plug your event as a bigger once a year type your could earn more...really the only way to know for sure is contact any facilities you're looking at and ask what their budgets are for entertainment. Hope that this helps...thanks for commenting
Timothy Tobin on December 12, 2012:
My post seems to have disappeared so here it is again. Is this financially worthwhile for a larger group to do? I've been thinking of starting a Western Swing band of around 5+ people. Thanks
Timothy Tobin on December 12, 2012:
I've been thinking about something like this. How much could one expect to get paid for a gig? I was thinking of starting several different projects such as Western Swing, Honky Tonk (50s/60s Country), Swing, and Doo-Wop. The primary outfit would be Western Swing and Cowboy Music from the 20's through the 50's. Each project would require over 4 people; and quite possibly closer to 6. Is it financially worthwhile to attempt this at this scale?
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on September 29, 2012:
Just saw the question about taxes...sorry for the delay. Yes you would have taxes..if you earn over $600 a year. In that case you might want to file for a business name or file as an independent consultant. I am by no means a tax expert, so I would strongly advise consulting a tax preparer so that you know exactly what to do.
donna on June 04, 2012:
is there ant insurance involved , or a tax id needed?
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on December 26, 2011:
Thanks GoodLady and Serena. It's a win win way to help and get some extra cash and it really is a lot of fun to work with seniors.
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on December 26, 2011:
Thanks. Great to see such enthusiasm for helping others - and making it work for everyone!
Nicely put together Hub!
Serena Gabriel on December 22, 2011:
This is a very interesting idea for different kinds of people to get into a growth industry and help others.
Accolades and voted up!
Infiniteresearch (author) from Ohio on December 14, 2011:
Thanks wetnosedogs,I agree and there are several great vaudeville videos out there. I really enjoyed looking back to a different generation's entertainment and it's funny how it carries over and remains just as great.
wetnosedogs from Alabama on December 14, 2011:
Interesting hub. I loved watching the vaudeville video. That was talent.