January Activities for Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

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Here are three articles to jump start your January activity programming.

Ah the New Year’s resolution – many people poo-poo them especially as they grow older and set in their ways. But it’s important to have resolutions as you grow older. If nothing else they provide goals and purpose.

Rush University has conducted studies that show people who view life with a sense of purpose are two to four time less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Purpose gives you discipline. Another Rush study notes that that self-disciplined, highly organized people less susceptible to Alzheimer’s.

Writing down our thoughts and desires can make a big difference in our general outlook on life. It’s a way to enter the year with an upbeat and positive attitude. And yes there are studies to support the benefits of a positive attitude as you age. A Columbia University study showed that people who are enthusiastic and content less likely to develop heart disease while a Swedish study noted that social people who don’t sweat the small stuff are 50% less likely to develop dementia.

Origin of New Year's


The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. It was first observed in ancient Babylon about 4000 years ago. In the years around 2000 BC, the Babylonian New Year began with the first New Moon (actually the first visible crescent) after the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring).

The beginning of spring is a logical time to start a new year. After all, it is the season of rebirth, of planting new crops, and of blossoming. January 1, on the other hand, has no astronomical or agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary.

The Babylonian new year celebration lasted for eleven days. Each day had its own particular mode of celebration, but it is safe to say that modern New Year's Eve festivities pale in comparison.

The Romans continued to observe the new year in late March, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.


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What's Up with Babies? Intergenerational Programs


The tradition of using a baby to signify the new year was begun in Greece around 600 BC. It was their tradition at that time to celebrate their god of wine, Dionysus, by parading a baby in a basket, representing the annual rebirth of that god as the spirit of fertility. Early Egyptians also used a baby as a symbol of rebirth.

Although the early Christians denounced the practice as pagan, the popularity of the baby as a symbol of rebirth forced the church to reevaluate its position. The church finally allowed its members to celebrate the new year with a baby, which was to symbolize the birth of the baby Jesus. One of things people are curious about on January 1 is who the first baby is.

Two songs associated with babies are "Baby Face" and "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby."


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New Year's Resolutions

How did this tradition of resolutions start? Well it goes back again to the Romans. They indulged themselves in excess as a way of acting out all of the chaos that they hoped a new year would get rid of. Their New Year’s festivals were seen as a way to start over. By purging yourself of so-called excess energy and confessing your sins, there was hope that you would be better in the year ahead.

Puritans never did approve of all this hoopla. So they went for the religious renewal of cleanse, purge, fast and confess. They encouraged young people not to waste the new year on foolish things but to use it as an opportunity to make a good change in their lives. They made New Year’s vows or pledges focused on overcoming their weaknesses, to enhance their given talents and to make them better citizens.

The custom of resolutions came into vogue in the 20th century. Most was done in jest and an understanding that they would not be kept. Resolutions today are simply a secular version of the religious vows made in the past toward spiritual perfection. Perhaps they had the right idea in the past.


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