Boys Night Out
by Debbie Hommel, ACC/MC/EDU, CTRS

It is safe to say that the majority of residents in our care communities are female.  Understandably,  our programming reflects this with many activities and topics focusing on interests of women.  Although the men may attend the socials, games, and general programming, consideration should be given toward introducing masculine opportunities for the men. The male resident comes from a different perspective where independence, control and productivity are of great importance.  Activities that may be appealing are those with a clear purpose and visible achievements.   The following are some options for the male older adult:

> Craft groups: Having a workshop area for the men who come to crafts is important.  When the men see a group of women working with yarn, pompoms and the typical feminine craft items, they may not even enter the room.  Defining a “workshop” for the men with appropriate male oriented crafts is encouraged.  Working with wood, paint, tile, leather and similar items may be more welcome.

> Discussion groups: Providing the male person with a leadership role within daily programs is a successful approach.  Possibly the gentleman could be responsible for obtaining the newspaper from the front lobby and delivering it to the program area.  During current events, having a male person be the “weatherman” and report on weather conditions could be another role.   We think of many “hostess” oriented roles for our ladies, we need to think of suitable “leader” roles for our gentlemen.

>Word games with topics focused on male interests such as sports, history, building things or male oriented occupations could be scheduled periodically.

>Social events just for the guys are a fun break in routine. There are the typical socials based around the World Series and Super Bowl but what about a Men’s Breakfast serving hearty “steak and eggs: or Men’s Barbecue where the guys enjoy some grilled food and and an ice cold beer.  There is a different social ambiance within a group of men.

> Guest speakers of interest to the male person.  Speakers from local sporting goods store to discuss sporting equipment, local VFW or fraternal organization, representative from local historical society and speakers from local colleges may provide topics of interest to men.

>Sharing of collections of interest to men such as stamp and coin collections, vintage automobiles, sports memorabilia and war mementos may be enjoyed.

> Exercise programs:  Scheduling a “men’s gym or workout” might be of interest to the men.  Introducing light weights or light gym equipment would be more appealing to men.   Focusing on repetitions and increasing strength, and monitoring progress on a chart is often appreciated by men.

> Active games: Games that use equipment are often well received by the male population.  Bowling, basketball, darts, target toss and similar games with equipment are effective.   Keeping the equipment adult-like and as close to the original format as possible is recommended.  Creating teams and keeping score are also more to the male competitive spiritt.  Creating a men’s bowling league and contacting nearby care facilities for a shared tournament has also been successful.

> Poker Run is a great cognitive/physical activity.  Card Stations will need to be set up along a defined route where the men can pick up a single card from each station. You’ll need to decide if you are playing 5 card draw (in this case, you give them a card to start, and they have 5 stations to collect the cards along the route, when they return to the finish line, they receive another card totaling seven).  At the end, they will pick out the best hand with 5 cards. The winner with the best hand wins. This promotes exercise and cognition and a little competition.  However, it takes a bit to set up. You need different stations (front office, social worker office, nursing stations, and administration) to agree to hold a deck of cards and distribute them to the men as they visit the “card station”.  Try to use different colors for each station so you can insure they went to each place.

> Guy’s Movie Night where refreshments are served while watching a typical “guy movie” is a welcome activity.  The typical guy movie needs to be determined by your population.

> Trips into the community: Locations for trips of interest to men include local sporting events, fishing expeditions, museums with male oriented topics (war, sporting, nature), and a local “man’s” bar for lunch.   One of the more successful trips for my male residents was taking them to the local Ford or Chevrolet car dealership when the new car models arrived.  I would make pre-arrangements with the salesmen and they were willing to spend time with the men showing the new models and looking under the hood.

> Intergenerational Programming whereby youth groups (Boy scouts) are invited to visit with the men or complete an activity together.

> Sensory/Diversional Programming: Ensuring there are male interest oriented sensory baskets which include fishing, sports, cars, and other items of interest to the cognitively impaired man should be developed appropriately.   Having diversional items of interest for men such as bolt boards, pipe works, sorting baseball cards, and sanding wood should also be available as defined by the resident interest.

> Interest clubs: Scheduling a “Men’s Club” is one way, but not the only way, to offer programs of interest to the male resident.   Seeking a male staff member or volunteer to coordinate the program is helpful.    Finding a unique name is encouraged such as “Flannel Shirt Society” or ROMEO (Respectable Older Men Eating Out).    Sportsman Clubs are successful which focus on specific male pastimes such as fishing, hunting, baseball, football and more. Two successful interest clubs I fostered were Camping Club and Wine Tasting Club, based on population’s interest.  The Camping Club simply met in the back “yard” around a fire pit maintenance created for us.  Periodically, we would go out at dusk and roast hot dogs and other items on a stick.  (Maintenance helped with the fire, to ensure we were safe and remained with “code”. The Wine Tasting Club was with a group of men who were more “worldly” and enjoyed opening a bottle of wine and discussing it’s “vintage”:.

Each population is different.  Some male elders like being amongst the ladies but others like some male bonding time. The activity professional should consistently be assessing the overall needs of the population as it changes over time.  It is all about the person and what the person wants – male or female.