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MEN'S ACTIVITIES - Don’t Be Lost. Read the M.A.P.
Men’s Activity Programs in Health - Care Facilities

By Kimberly Grandal ACC/EDU, ACM

Getting Started

Although “all men are created equal”, Recreation Professionals face the trials and tribulations of meeting the needs and interests of a diverse population. Traditionally there are many more women than men in health care facilities. Activity calendars often reflect an abundance of activities that are female-oriented such as crafts, cooking, domestic activities, and beauty groups, with the occasional Men’s Club making an appearance. It is extremely important to overcome this challenge and provide programming that is specially designed for the male population.

Morris Mandel once said, “No two men are alike, and both of them are happy for it.” Men, just like women, have a variety of leisure and recreational interests so it is impossible to develop a “one-size-fits all” approach. However, the men in our health care facilities may find interest in some of the following : sports, cars, trucks, trains, boats, planes, outdoor work, building, woodworking, painting, politics, military, police, fire and rescue workers, fishing/hunting, nature and outdoors, animals, music, movies, physical games, exercise, community trips, children, board games, collections (coins, stamps, sports cards, matchbox cards, model trains, etc.) and parlor/casino games. Many of these activities need to be adapted for the individual male participant, but if we are creative we can accommodate these needs and leisure activity interests.

The first place to start is with a Population Analysis. How many men reside in your facility or attend your day program? What is the percentage? Then look at your Activity Calendar and compare the percentage of female-oriented activities versus male oriented activities. Many activities, such as physical games, exercise, socials, parlor games, and music are of interest to both genders, however, chances are you are not offering enough activities that truly appeal to men.

Next, review the initial Activity Assessments of all the men to determine their leisure interests, needs, and abilities. Organize a men’s committee or council that meets once a month to discuss programming ideas, options, funding, resources, etc. Create an organized group for the men such as the MACs (Men’s Activity Council), or ask the men to come up with an official name. It could be something that just sounds good with the facility name such as the Kessler Kings, the Bayside Bulls, or the Ocean View Vikings.


The Planning Phase

With the establishment of an official men’s council or club underway, begin planning a series of activities, special events, fundraisers, and trips in accordance with the council’s ideas, and the functional abilities of the male population. Determine how often male-oriented programs should be provided. Many activities can be incorporated into the regular calendar of events with the men in mind. For example: word games, discussion groups, and trivia can easily be adapted to interest the men simply by offering various themes (Sports Hangman, Famous Men Discussion, Automobile Trivia) etc. Adapted physical games such as putting, bowling, basketball, target games, shuffleboard, and horseshoes are often of interest to the men and may be incorporated into the schedule of activities for men and women as well.

Although many regularly scheduled activities may be adapted or altered to meet the interests of the men, it is also important to have separate “men-only” activities such as the Men’s Club. Some facilities have monthly, bi-monthly, or weekly meetings. How often this program is offered is based on the unique needs and interests of the men in your facility. Have the men organize and implement fundraisers to raise money for special outings (sporting events, bowling, fishing, putting greens), equipment, special games, supplies, Men’s Club t-shirts and hats, etc. Fundraising examples include car washes, craft sales (birdhouses and other wood projects, leather crafts, etc), raffles of sporting event tickets, Walk/Wheel-A-Thon, and so on.

Male Staff and Volunteers

Since the Activity and Recreation Profession is a female-dominated one, it very important to recruit male staff and volunteers to assist in providing a program of activities for the men. Since the inception of the revised CMS Activity Guidance to Surveyors in June 2006, there has been a heightened focus on providing an interdisciplinary approach to quality of life. The revised interpretive guidelines for F248 indicate that all facility staff should be involved in providing meaningful activity. This is a great opportunity to get the male staff involved. Male staff may be able to contribute by bringing in old sports magazines, tapes of sporting events, and their own collections and can assist with facilitating the Men’s Club. The maintenance personnel (male or female) can assist in woodworking projects or even take a resident “on rounds”. In addition, many men would also love to see the boiler room or workshop if accessible and safe for the residents.

Volunteer recruitment is also another way to enhance the facilities’ men’s program. There are so many local, state, and national clubs, groups, committees, etc. that can be contacted. Male volunteers may be found in churches (men in ministry programs), schools (debate club, sports, politics, wood-shop, auto-shop) universities (men’s clubs, fraternities, sports clubs), community groups (VFW, American Legion, Elks, Kiwanis, Jaycees, YMCA, Big Brothers, 4H Club, various culture-oriented clubs etc. Some national programs include the Federation of Jewish Men and the National Coalition of Free Men. Another suggestion is to contact various sports and hobbies organizations and clubs. For example, a local coin collection club or baseball card collector may be willing to show their collection and give a presentation. Many individuals who have a collection are more than happy to show off their treasures! There is a club and organization for just about anything (fishing, hunting, camping, model trains, all sports, various collections, etc.) and may have people who would be interested in providing demonstrations, educational sessions, or becoming friendly-visitors.


IN2L adapted driving game

IN2L adapted flying game
The use of arcade games, video games, and computers provide recreation professionals the tools needed to offer a large array of programs that are of particular interest to men. All types of leisure activities are now available in the form of video games and computer games such as all sports, driving a car, riding a motorcycle, jet skiing, flying a plane, casino games, etc. Technology has really made it more accessible for individuals with varying degrees of physical and cognitive abilities to engage in their favorite past times. It's Never 2 Late is a company that offers state-of-the-art computer systems for health-care facilities throughout America. Their computers, adaptive devices, specially-designed programs, and technical support, are ideal for men and women in health care facilities. The facility can customize services to match the uniqueness of each individual. As demonstrated in the pictures, the men are engaged in familiar and fun activities such as flying a plane and driving a car. For more information visit It's Never 2 Late.

Therapeutic Environments

Creating an environment that is conducive to men is an innovative way to increase the quality of life of the men in health care facilities. There is a great information about building a shed on the Alzheimer’s Australia website. There's even an entire manual you can download which discusses the importance of sheds for the male population and ideas on how to build a shed or create a “shed area” in your facility. Visit the Alzheimer's Australia webiste for more information

Another example of a male-oriented environment can be found in the Masonic Health Care Center in Michigan. The Masonic Health Care Center created Memory Lane, a series of open-ended rooms (bedroom, kitchen, living room, back/front porches, bathroom, and attic) in a long corridor. These “rooms” are representative of a 1930’s-1950’s home. Two areas of particular interest to men include a vintage Chevy truck that is literally “sticking out of the garage” and an attic area. Residents are able to get into the truck and sit behind the wheel, promoting reminiscence, range of motion and familiarly. The attic area is overflowing with vintage knick-knacks and ideal for residents who enjoy rummaging. These “rooms” demonstrate that if we think outside the box, we can create an atmosphere that promotes quality of life for everyone, especially the men. For more information visit Masonic Pathways and Time travel to the '40s-Not-for-Profit Report

Memory Lane "Attic"

Memory Lane "Vintage Chevy Truck"

There are many other environmental techniques that can be implemented as well such as:

Create shadow boxes filled with familiar objects such as tools, fishing gear, camping gear, woodworking, electrical, plumbing etc. and display in various locations or in the resident rooms.
Purchase (or build) interactive boards that have latches, doorknobs, faucets, nuts/bolts, pipes, etc. These can be displayed on portable boards or on walls, especially on a dementia unit,.
Assess the male resident’s room for personalization and stimulation. Display personal items via shadowbox, frames, mobiles, etc. Contact the family for personal items such as favorite sports team memorabilia, awards, affiliations, hobbies and so on.

Community Outings

Many residents, both men and women, of all levels of functional abilities, enjoy being out in the community. Outings can be costly for Recreation Departments, but with fundraisers and innovative strategies, the men can enjoy engaging in events and activities that occur in the community. As mentioned earlier, fundraising plays an important role in taking trips to the community. Engage the male residents in a series of fundraisers specially designed for male-bonding outings.

Although going to professional sporting events is ideal, it is not always an option for the facility. To increase outings to sporting events, recreation professionals may wish to contact the town recreation center, schools, and colleges to find out about local sporting events. Attending a minor league baseball game can be just as much fun, but a lot less expensive for everyone involved. Some facilities are located near a field or school and may have the option of wheeling the residents to a game as well. These local sporting events are free and require less transporting, travel, and time.

The men may also enjoy bowling, playing pool, going to an arcade, a putting green, fishing, joining an organization such as the American Legion, going to a movie or concert, and of course, dining out. Community outings require extensive planning, assistance, and money, therefore it is important to recruit volunteers, family members, and staff..

Activities for the Cognitively Impaired

Providing activities for individuals with cognitive impairment is also challenging for Recreation Professionals, especially for the men. Activities must be individualized and adapted so that the male resident can participate at their highest level of ability. Recreation Professionals often ask: How can I take a male resident fishing or hunting? This is where the creativity and clinical knowledge comes into play. As mentioned earlier, various shadowboxes and interactive boards may be utilized for an individual with cognitive impairment. These boards and boxes would be reflective of an individual’s interests, affiliations and occupation). The facility can make these products or purchase them through a variety of manufacturers.

Memory or sensory boxes are also a great way to provide quality of life and person-appropriate activities for the male residents. There are numerous male-oriented kits available on the market, or facilities can create their own individualized kits simply by requesting items and information from the resident’s family and friends. These homemade boxes should be unique to each individual. Items in a memory box may include: nostalgic photos, family photos, awards and honors, memorabilia, reminiscence questions, etc. A sensory box may include similar items as the memory box, but usually is geared toward stimulating all six senses. Such items may include:

Olfactory- cologne, shoe polish, shaving cream, woodchips (cedar, hickory, mesquite) etc.
Tactile- sandpaper, necktie, pocket watch, comb, work gloves, paintbrush, etc.
Auditory- marching or military music or favorite genre, sounds of nature/animals, etc.
Visual- nostalgic and family photos, personal memorabilia, etc.
Gustatory- various food and drinks in accordance with the resident’s diet
Kinesthetic- simple jigsaw puzzles, variety of balls, blocks of wood for sanding, etc.

There are other types of kits the facility can create (especially with the help from male staff, family and volunteers). Kits and boxes can be made for any type of hobby or occupation. Please remember to create boxes that are safe for the residents! Some examples include:

Tool Box- fill a plastic tool box with items such as a paintbrush, tape measurer, large nuts/bolts, sandpaper, leveler, etc.
Backpack- fill a backpack with camping/hiking gear such as a mess kit, canteen, compass, flashlight, binoculars, etc.
Tackle Box- fill a plastic tackle box with items such as fishing lures, reels, small rod, bobbers, etc. (remove all hooks)
Cooler- fill a small cooler with sporting event items such as: water bottle, binoculars, pictures of sports teams, sunglasses, vintage beer ads, baseball cap, a variety of small, soft sports balls (soccer ball, baseball, basketball, hockey puck, etc.).
The Feel and Describe Box- find a medium-sized cardboard box. Cut a hole (large enough for a hand to easily fit through). Paint or cover the box with contact paper (preferably paper with a wood-style). Fill the box with a variety of items such as those listed above. Have the men reach in and describe what they are feeling.

Other Activities of Interest

Table games (cards, dominoes, backgammon, checkers)
Socials, parties, happy hour, special events
Movies (Westerns, comedies, war movies, mysteries)
Humor activities
Political debates and discussions
Reminiscence of war times or military
Men’s health educational programs (Men’s Health Week is June 11-17, 2007)
Ping pong and billiards
Cognitive Games
Leather crafts, soap sculptures, men’s magazine scavenger hunt
Polishing shoes
Going to the Barber
Fantasy football and baseball, etc.
Comic Books
Leisure Education (learn new skill such as rope tying, how to play Chess, etc)

In conclusion

It is important for Recreation Professionals to identify the needs and interests of the male population and to formulate an activities component in the comprehensive care plan. Take advantage of those products out there that can help enhance programming and recruit as many male volunteers, family members, and staff as possible. There are so many activities that can be provided for the men in health care facilities. Many of the activities discussed in this article can be adapted to suit the various cognitive and physical abilities of the resident. Such examples include:

The fisherman may enjoy watching a fishing video, tinkering with a tackle box, playing a game of Monopoly Bass Fishing, or looking at the fish tank
The hunter/outdoorsman may enjoy watching the birds, listening to the sounds of nature, sifting through a Field and Stream magazine, investigating the backpack, or the aroma of pine.
The sports fan may enjoy adapted physical games such as bowling and basketball, watching sports on TV., trips to a game, playing a soccer video game, or looking up at the Yankee’s Mobile hanging above his bed
The trucks and car lover may enjoy remote controlled cars, watching auto racing, joining an on-line car club, going to a car show, sitting behind the wheel of a It’s Never 2 Late computer game, or doing a car puzzle.
The handyman may enjoy fiddling with wood blocks, helping the maintenance department in hanging a picture, sorting through an array of nuts and bolt in the toolbox, creating a pipe sculpture, building a model airplane, etc.
The business man may enjoy county fake money, organizing receipts, punching numbers on a calculator, balancing a checkbook, monitoring the stock market or reading the New York Times.

So, don’t be lost and afraid to ask for directions. Take out the M.A.P. and develop activities that are truly in the best interest of the men!



It’s Never 2 Late. (2007). Retrieved on May 11, 2007 from

Masonic Pathways. (2004). Retrieved on May 11, 2007 from

Masonic Pathways Senior Living Services. (December, 2001). A walk down memory lane. Point to Point, pg. 9.


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