Option #1. You gather a group of thirty or so people into a large circle while you summarize the newspaper headlines and articles aloud.
Option #2. You gather a group of five around a small table. Each holds a copy of the paper, turning the pages while one, or more, read the headlines, taking the group in a multitude of conversational directions.
As the leader, which would you choose?
Now put yourself in the place of a person living with dementia and imagine you have difficulty, integrating sounds, figuring out the environment, seeing and hearing who is talking and wondering if they are even talking to you.
Now which would you choose?
Most of us, regardless of our ability would choose the smaller group where we were allowed to hold the paper. Where we could hear the others and share our own feelings and thoughts. This seems true regardless if our role was leader or participant.
Person centered care and culture change has been the goal for now for thirty years. But we still gather large groups of cognitively impaired people together, not for meaningful interaction but for our own convenience. The blunt truth is that too many times we carry out an activity for the greatest number of people possible just so that we can say they went to an activity. But is it really an activity if the people are not actively participating?
Experience has shown that meaningful activity is best carried out in small groups, where even the person with the quietest voice, can be heard and truly seen. Thirty people can still be engaged by dividing them into small groups and giving them all a newspaper to hold, leading to much more interaction.
We activity professionals are spontaneous, creative people. We can figure this out. We are just stuck in old patterns. We must hold our own feet to the fire and commit to real individualized and interactive activities. The future of our profession depends on it.