YEAR IN, YEAR OUT – Activities for December

Days, weeks, months, years – oh, how time flies! Before this year comes to an official end, your group might enjoy some sessions that focus on the passing of years. We all have a version of “It seems like just yesterday…” The activities suggested below will encourage your group to share some favorite memories from years past and to anticipate the arrival of another year with new memories ahead.

  • WISDOM: Ask participants to define “golden years” and to share nuggets of wisdom by completing the following sentence: Over the years, I have learned….
  • MORE WISDOM: Discuss the meaning of the following quote by Abraham Lincoln: “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”
  • ADVICE: Ask the group to think about what advice they could give young people today for a happier future. Record the answers and write a “Prescription for a Happy Life,” with each person given an opportunity to add to the list. Sing songs that give advice: “Button Up Your Overcoat,” “Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella,” “Try a Little Tenderness,” “Keep Your Sunny Side Up,” “Look for the Silver Lining,” “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive.”
  • REMINISCE: Encourage group members to reminisce about the “best years of their life.” Ask: Which decade of your life did you enjoy the most – teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.? Is there a chapter of your life that you hated to see end (ex: last child left home)? Which was your best year ever?
  • IDIOMS: Discuss the meaning of the following idioms related to “year”: light years away from, autumn years, getting on in years, ring in the new year, seven-year itch, not in a thousand years, put years on, well on in years, the year dot, year round.
  • WINTER: Celebrate a new season of the year on December 21 when winter officially arrives. Ask participants what they enjoy about winter.  Treat your group to a wintertime favorite: the 1947 film, The Bishop’s Wife, starring Cary Grant and Loretta Young. Serve hot chocolate and cookies.
  • CALENDAR FLOWERS: Make a calendar for the upcoming year, using the theme of birth month flowers. (Look for public domain clip art featuring flowers of the month.)
  • CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS: Listen to Andy Williams sing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Encourage your group to reminisce about family Christmas traditions such as finding the perfect tree, caroling, baking cookies, shopping for gifts, seeing Santa, participating in a Christmas pageant, or attending church services. Ask: What’s your favorite part of Christmas? How has Christmas changed in meaning for you as you’ve grown older? What’s a simple way to celebrate the holiday?
  • PERSON OF THE YEAR: Share recollections of TIME magazine’s Person of the Year (formerly “Man of the Year”). Charles Lindbergh was the first man of the year in 1927. Look up the list of past honorees (available on the Internet). Talk about other people who deserved the honor but did not receive it. Ask: Who do you think should be this year’s person of the year?
  • SONGS: Listen to songs related to ‘time’ or ‘years’: “Through the Years,” “Times of Your Life,” “It Was a Very Good Year,” “Time Has Made a Change in Me,” “Let’s Start the New Year Right,” “Those Were the Days,” “Yesterdays,” “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Seems Like Old Times,” “It’s Been a Long, Long Time.”
  • LIFE STORIES: Challenge participants to tell a story about their life, using the following cue: The year was…. (Example: The year was 1953, and my wife was expecting our first child. On the way to the hospital… OR the year was 1948, and I was preparing for my wedding in two weeks…)
  • CHANGES: Sing or read the words to the song “As Time Goes By,” which mentions several “fundamental things” that don’t change. Ask the participants what hasn’t changed in the past 50 years or has changed very little. Suggestions: basic human needs – love, shelter, food; sun, moon, stars; male-female attraction; cats and dogs; wooden pencils.
  • YEAR’S REVIEW: Encourage year-end reflections by reviewing some of the top news stories of the year, both local and national. Show photos of newsworthy events, if available. Ask: What were some positive things that happened in our country this year? Do you have a prediction for the new year? (Alternate: Review what was in the news the year participants were born.)
  • POETRY: Read some poetry related to this month’s theme. Suggestions: “The Old Year” by John Clare, “The Death of the Old Year” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Year’s End” by Richard Wilbur, “The Year” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, and “One Year Ago – Jots What?” by Emily Dickinson.
  • NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: Celebrate the 125th anniversary of National Geographic magazine, founded in 1888. Gather old and new copies of the magazine, and encourage group members to admire the award-winning photography, year after year. Ask each person to choose an iconic image and to talk about the photograph.


  1. How many days are in a leap year? 366 days
  2. A decade consists of how many years? Ten
  3. If a couple celebrates a golden wedding anniversary, how many years have they been married? Fifty
  4. What are your “sunset years”? Old age or retirement years
  5. According to superstition, if you break a mirror, how many years of bad luck will you have? Seven
  6. What is a centenarian? A person who is 100 years old or older
  7. Name some kinds of years. Fiscal, school, academic, calendar, new year, church or liturgical, leap, lunar or solar, tax, jubilee
  8. How many weeks are in a year? 52
  9. In which year did Americans land on the moon – 1965, 1969, or 1971? 1969
  10. Which historical speech by Abraham Lincoln begins “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, …? The Gettysburg Address


“The years teach much which the days never know.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Year In, Year Out” was written by Sue Hansen. © 2013 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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