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Differentiate your community through activities

October 9, 2014
by Debbie Bouknight, AC-BC, ACC, CDP, and Brenda Scott, AC-BC, ADC
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With the arrival of baby boomers into long-term care (LTC) communities, demands for high-quality amenities and social opportunities are greater than ever before. Communities that can meet these increased expectations are more likely to thrive.

“It is time for us to expand our current way of thinking about how we differentiate ourselves from others,” says Sean Mockbee, NHA, managing partner of Sunshine Village Assisted Living, a Viewpoint Senior Care Community in Phoenix. Activities is one way to do that, he says, and certified activity professionals have met stringent criteria to ensure that they can provide programs that stand out.

“Gone are the days of viewing activities as something to keep people busy and something that any smiling person can lead,” Mockbee says. These days, he adds, a systematically designed program of activities offers two main benefits:

  1. Improved quality of life for residents.

Your community can offer the best care possible, but without a great activity program, it could experience an increase in depression, inappropriate behaviors, anxiety and complaints from residents. Certified activity professionals have learned a person-centered approach that enables them to complete extensive, comprehensive assessments for all residents to learn what is important to each of them and how they want to be involved with the community, thus potentially avoiding some physical and mental health issues.

  1. Additional marketing opportunities for the community.

Photos and written accounts of creative or unique activities can be shared via your website and social media channels, adding potential word-of-mouth public relations and marketing to your more traditional efforts. Many of the activities even may garner media attention that you solicit directly or indirectly. Also, activities through which residents participate in events taking place in the greater community—for instance, car shows, fairs, motorcycle poker runs, boutiques, spaghetti dinners, bake sales and carnival—enable those in the larger community, including prospective residents and their families, to see how happy and active current residents are.


One day, certification of activity professionals may be required. This year, for instance, the state of Delaware mandated that all individuals working in long-term care in activities be nationally certified.

Those communities that support certification among their activity professionals now will find it easier to meet future requirements and can take pride in being able to say that they long have recognized the benefits of certification. Such certification for activity professionals can be quite costly and time-intensive, however, so consider making training and related expenses a line item in the appropriate budget, and factor in time to enable professionals to meet requirements related to education, work experience, continuing education (CE) and competency.

In some credentialing agencies, the individual must complete a specific course as part of the process. Once certified, the professional must continue to meet CE requirements by attending conferences, workshops or seminars provided by state health associations, healthcare companies, state activity associations or corporations. Alternatively, professionals may take advantage of online education through DVDs, self-study programs or live chats. Regardless of the method, however, education helps inform professionals of new programming ideas, trends and changes with regulations.

Investing in your activities professionals by helping them become certified yields several benefits for your community. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, it:

  • Increases staffing credibility among peers and prospective residents and families,
  • Assures surveyors that you require high standards, and
  • Helps ensure that activity staff members are up to date in their knowledge and meeting their CE requirements.


Two entities specifically certify activity professionals who work with the elderly:

  1. the National Association of Activity Professionals Credentialing Center, through which individuals can become board-certified activity professionals (AP-BC) or consultant-educators (AC-BC), and
  2. the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals, through which individuals can become certified activity assistants (AAC), certified activity directors (ADC) or certified activity consultants (ACC) or seek other types of certification.

The AP-BC, AC-BC, ADC and ACC certifications are recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under F-Tag 249.

Other professionally certified individuals also can work with the elderly: