How to Earn Extra Money as a Nursing Home Entertainment Provider
Nursing Home Entertainer
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 your self in a new rewarding career.
How to Start Your Business
The first step to starting your new business is 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 look out 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 and one they'd rather share with you, if you can work within their budgets. Budgets vary based upon 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 a 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 you 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, 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, South Pacific and 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 40's and 50's--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 Dollar stores 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 chach keys 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, 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, large tarp or plastic, 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, a few decorations (Oriental Trading Company). You can even provide grass skirts and coconut drink cups if the budge 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 goes a long way toward's 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.