BEAT THE WINTER BLUES – Activity Ideas for January

Although a brand new year is coming and the year ahead is filled with endless possibilities, for those of us living in the northern hemisphere, the new year comes during winter. Days are shorter, temperatures are cooler, and the hustle and bustle of the holiday season comes to an end. While December is filled with carolers, festive decorations, parties, holiday crafts, and more, in January it’s time to put the holiday season behind us, store the decorations for next year, and cozy up for a long-winter ahead. Instead of dreading the winter blues, why not make it the theme of the month with a few of these ideas:

MUSIC: Literally “beat” the winter blues by incorporating drumming into your calendar. Drumming circles are becoming more and more popular in the senior living industry as research continues to show how effective drumming circles are for one’s health. Drumming reduces stress, boosts the immune system, helps to release negative feelings, grounds us in the present moment, and helps to connect with ourselves and others. You don’t need to spend a lot of money purchasing drums. Turn clean, empty yogurt containers into drums by taping them shut with duct tape. Use spatulas as drum sticks. You can find more information about drumming circles online.

SOCIAL: If it’s cold and dark, beat the winter blues by hosting a luau! After the holidays, many entertainers’ schedules tend to be less demanding, and they might be more willing to work with your budget and theme. Decorate with inflatable palm trees. Distribute leis to all participants as part of the invitation. Encourage everyone to wear bright colors to the party. If possible, turn up the heat in your activity room so that it feels like summer. Serve tropical drinks and fresh fruit.

FAMILY: The holidays may be over, but it doesn’t mean that families stop visiting their loved ones. In fact, January might be a better time to host a family event. Families are often less busy after the holidays. Invite families to a Family Game Night. Play “Minute to Win It” games that encourage family members to work together to complete a silly task in under a minute. Provide prizes, such as winter hats, gloves, scarves, or mittens. Serve hot cocoa and cookies.

COOKING: Theme your cooking classes around the winter “blues,”—featuring blueberries as this month’s special food item. Make blueberry muffins from scratch. Ask your dining team to do a demonstration of homemade blueberry pie, then serve it for dessert at dinner. Reach out to your clinical nutritionist to lead an educational seminar about the antioxidants found in blueberries. Host a pancake breakfast featuring the topping of blueberries. Try making blueberry smoothies, no-bake blueberry parfaits, blueberry upside down cake…the possibilities are endless!

SPIRITUAL: January can be a time for personal reflection. Use the New Year as a springboard for reflection and meditation. Encourage residents to journal about the previous year and what they would like the New Year to look like. For participants with lower cognition, encourage them to paint to music as a means of expression. Dim the lights and play soft music while leading a meditation class. This month is a great time to introduce a weekly Bible study. 52 Weeks Studying the Word will take you through the entire year.

CRAFTS: Create a calming glitter jar. All you need is a screw top jar, glitter glue, glitter, fairly warm water, and food coloring. Fill the jar with warm water, leaving a small gap at the top for shaking room. Add 1-2 tablespoons of glitter glue to the jar and stir. Add 3-4 teaspoons of glitter and food coloring of the participant’s choice. Screw on the lid; for a secure fit, add a little glue to the rim of the lid before screwing on and allow it to dry. Once dry, participants shake the jar and watch the glitter settle. This can be used for those struggling with anxiety or stress, allowing them to calm their minds.

SENSORY KIT: Feature all things blue in a sensory kit that you can carry from room to room with you and use during one-on-one visits. Fill an empty shoe box with an assortment of blue fabrics that participants can touch. Perhaps group members liked to quilt; encourage them to arrange the fabrics in a quilting pattern. What’s cuter than baby boy clothes? Purchase a couple of blue onesies and ask participants to fold them. Blueberry fragrance oils are available for purchase as well, have participants smell the oil. Take fresh blueberries with you and encourage participants to taste during your visit (if it suits the dietary needs of your participant). Include a calming glitter jar that you made during crafts. (See CRAFTS suggestion above.)

INTERGENERATIONAL: What better way to beat the winter blues than by inviting a local day care center to visit. Participants are sure to smile when they see the cute preschoolers waltz through your community. Encourage group members to read age-appropriate books with the preschoolers. Sing songs with them, or ask if the children will sing a song for the group members. Remember those drums you made? Get them out and hold an intergenerational drumming circle.

CELEBRATION: January 8 is Elvis Presley’s birthday. Celebrate what would have been his 81st birthday by throwing a party in his honor. Hire an Elvis impersonator, or ask a staff member to dress up as Elvis. Decorate with blue balloons and serve coffee and cake. Play a mix of his famous songs, including Blue Suede Shoes. Reminisce with group members and ask if any had the opportunity to see Elvis in person.



  1. Elvis said, “You can burn my house…” but don’t step on what? My blue suede shoes
  2. “Blue on Blue” and “Blue Velvet” were big hits in 1963 for which singer? Bobby Vinton
  3. In which part of the U.S. will you find the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains? Eastern U.S. (Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia)
  4. Which city has a professional sports team named the Blue Jays? Toronto
  5. True or False: The daytime sky is usually blue because it is reflecting the colors of the oceans. False (A clear, cloudless, daytime sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light.)
  6. What is a “blue moon”? The second full moon that occurs within one calendar month
  7. The Blue Angels, a Flight Demonstration Squadron, is associated with which branch of the U.S. Armed Forces? United States Navy and Marine Corps
  8. If you are feeling “blue,” you are feeling which emotion? Melancholy or sad
  9. Lizards have been described as having blue tongues. Which other tall mammal’s tongue is also blue? Giraffe
  10. Tradition says that on her wedding day, a bride must wear something old, something new, something borrowed, and something what? Blue



“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~ Anne Bradstreet


“Beat the Winter Blues” was written by Erin McCart. Copyright 2015 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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