Pub Crawl in Senior Living - Now We're Talking, er Drinking

Activity Engages Residents in What Used to be an Observational Experience

pub crawl
One senior community did the next best thing to an actual pub crawl. They recreated it in their community. Getty Images

College towns are familiar with the term, “Pub Crawl” meaning college students spend time together buying drinks and traveling as a group from one pub to another in a single night.  At the Crawford County Care Center in Saegertown, Pennsylvania, activity director Sherry Barzak found a way to bring this excitement to her residents and along the way won the National Certification Council of Activity Professionals (NCCAP)  2014 Best Practice Award.

Barzak, ACC, has a BS in Life Span Development from The Ohio State University and is president of the Pennsylvania Association of Activity Professionals and also the Association’s Professional Development Chair and involved in the Crawford County Area Activity Professionals group.

She came up with the idea for a St Patrick's Day Pub Hop at her community which includes long term care and a dementia unit.

“I came up with the idea because one day while the residents were sitting in the activity room, the news on television was sharing a story about the pubs/bars in the area getting ready for St. Patrick’s Day.  The residents and I were talking about how fun it would be to go from one pub to another and see what they look like and what all was happening at them,” Barzak said.  “We then talked about social hours and what drinks they would like to have there.  After the conversation, I was with the assistant activity director and we shared the idea and everyone suggested we try it.”

The costs of the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Hop were of decorations, most made by residents, and the ingredients for the drinks. Barzak said her out of pocket costs were about $150.

“The residents would help us make and hang the decorations.  I have one that waits every year to put the yarn through the holes on the pub hop passes.

  She will remind me at the beginning of March that it is almost time to send out notices for the pub hop ideas,” Barzak said.  “This year we served Lucky liquid --- pineapple juice, lemonade mix, sprite, pineapple/coconut rum.  Another one was Irish paradise--- coconut rum, blue curacao liqueur, and pineapple juice, sweet and sour mix. A final one was Pina Colada slush--- crushed pineapple, cream of coconut, pineapple juice, rum and soda water (you freeze and then add soda water to make it slushy when you serve). 

The non-alcoholic drinks were the slush without rum, raspberry tea, and the final drink was lucky leprechaun lime drink--- lime sherbet, frozen limeade concentrate, sugar, lemon lime pop, and ice.  We also had a pudding shot.  While you are making the pudding, you put alcohol in addition to the water while making it.  The resident do help us make the drinks.  The pudding shots had to be made two days early and that set some anticipation in as they were all talking about it.”

“The benefits of this activity were residents were able to have an activity in which normally they only watch other members of the public participant it via TV coverage of local St. Patrick’s Day events,” Barzak said.

“At our St. Patrick’s Day Pub Hop the residents get to have the drinks and make choices of which ones they want.  They do travel in groups and have fun with their peers. Staff get involved and have fun too.”

Barzak said it took about a week to get the supplies needed and about a half an hour to set up at the 157 bed community. About 75 residents participated in the event.  Residents spent about one hour completing the Pub Hop course.

“We have three units that go off of the lobby.  We call them blue, green, and mauve (supportive care unit).  We put a pub in the main dining room (which is by the front lobby), front lobby, one on green wing in the mid wing lounge, one on blue wing in the mid wing lounge and one on the supportive care unit’s mid wing lounge.

  And yes, the residents do go to all the pubs, even the one on the supportive care unit.  The residents from the supportive care unit also participate,” she said

Barzak said the staff were involved in many ways:  some created the pubs, others assisted with making the drinks and decorating.  Finally, others were the “taxi” drivers assisting the resident through the pubs.  Nurse Aides, housekeeping, maintenance, dietary and therapy were the different departments that were all taxi drivers.”

Resident Winnie Brumbaugh of Meadville, Pennsylvania, enjoyed the event. “Cheers!” said Brumbaugh. “I like coming to the pub hop every year because you get to try new drinks and even a pudding shot. Everyone is so happy and it's a lot of fun."  

The NCCAP Best Practice honors excellence in activity programing at senior communities, according to Debbie Hommel, NCCAP president.  

“The National Certification Council for Activity Professionals is dedicated to raising the bar for the activity profession. The Best Practice program honors the good works of NCCAP certified activity professionals and highlights unique, successful and innovative programs. The Pub Crawl program, developed by Sherry Barzak, exemplifies the creative thinking and high standards that NCCAP promotes and recognizes,” said Debbie Hommel, BA ACC, CTRS, Executive Director of DH Special Services and a founding member of the New Jersey Activity Professionals’ Association where she served as president and vice president.

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