People who enjoy working with the elderly and disabled but who do not want to provide medical services may want to consider becoming an activities director at a nursing home. With an aging population, more nursing homes and retirement centers will be needed, and people will be needed to suggest and implement activities for their residents.
Nursing home activities are important for the residents' well-being. Activities keep residents alert and interested and help them to use their muscles, brain, memory and social skills. Residents who take part in activities are generally happier and healthier than those who don't.
Retirement home activities coordinators plan events, outings, games and exercises for residents. They arrange to have scout troops, school groups and performance groups visit the residents. They supervise the activities to ensure residents participate safely as much as they are able. Activities directors purchase supplies and arrange transportation, collecting fees and permission slips where needed.
Activities directors may also conduct resident meetings to find out what activities residents enjoy or dislike. They visit with residents individually to get to know them.
Many activities directors are certified nursing assistants (a six-month training program in patient care skills), licensed practical nurses (a one-year program) or registered nurses (a two- or four-year program). However, many activities directors have none of these credentials but are experienced event planners or have performed volunteer work with the elderly. Many colleges and vocational schools offer courses in various aspects of elder care, recreation, event planning and related subjects.
While not required, the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals offers certification for activities directors. Such certification requires a degree in a related field (social work, recreation, education, science or business); at least five years experience of working with the elderly; continuing education; and completion of a 180-hour Modular Education Program for Education Professionals (MEPAP). The program includes online work and a practicum section that the students arrange through a local facility.
According to Salary.com, the average salary for activities directors is $34,348. Salary may vary based on the size of the facility, the number of residents, geographic region and the director's education and experience.
With the right credentials, activities directors can advance to other positions within the facility, such as director of nurses or nursing home administrator. They may also seek other positions outside the facility, such as event planner.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, recreation jobs are expected to grow through 2016. This includes activities director positions in nursing homes. An aging population will require more nursing homes, retirement homes and senior activity centers, thus requiring more activities directors.
Activities directors may have to work weekend and evening hours when activities are taking place. Because of the nature of the job, activities directors are expected to be upbeat and enthusiastic. They need to be vigilant for the health and safety of the residents and respect their dignity and privacy.
Nursing home employees are usually required to pass a criminal background check. Because they may transport residents, activities directors may be required to have a clean driving record and reliable transportation.
2016 Salary Information for Recreation Workers
Recreation workers earned a median annual salary of $23,870 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, recreation workers earned a 25th percentile salary of $19,780, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $31,310, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 390,000 people were employed in the U.S. as recreation workers.