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Geriatric Activities Director: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Geriatric activities directors facilitate recreational and therapeutic activities in nursing homes, senior centers and residential facilities. The minimum requirement for geriatric activities directors depends on the position and the facility. Many positions require an associate's degree; however, many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree or higher. Prior experience in recreation organization and basic medical knowledge are also preferred.

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Geriatric Activities Director Job Description

Geriatric activities directors usually find careers as recreational workers or recreational therapists. Recreational workers plan activities focused on leisure, entertainment and socialization, while recreational therapists develop activities designed to keep senior citizens active, healthy and mobile. Geriatric activities directors in both careers work to restore and maintain the mental and physical ability of their elderly participants.

Duties of a Geriatric Activities Director

Geriatric activities directors plan and facilitate games and sports, create arts and crafts projects and organize entertainment events like concerts and plays. Directors coordinate with facility managers to develop activities that are suitable and enjoyable to the residents. For example, residents of independent living housing or senior center may like to dance or go on trips, while patients of a nursing home or long-term care facility may prefer listening to live music or interacting with animals.

Geriatric activities directors are responsible for all aspects of preparation for activities, including taking attendance, ensuring facility rules are followed, informing participants of safety guidelines and managing incidents of conflict or medical emergencies. Activities directors that work as recreational therapists will also monitor patients' progress in their rehabilitation and design activities that will complement their medical treatment.

Requirements to Be a Geriatric Activities Director

Skills

Geriatric activities directors need to be confident and friendly so they can encourage participation and establish relationships. They need to be comfortable working with the elderly and able to lead groups of people. Activities directors should be physically fit and healthy so they can participate in the activities and help others to take part. They need communication skills and patience so that they can work with other professionals to organize various activities, explain activities to the participants and comprehend the needs of the individuals and groups with whom they work.

Education

Education requirements vary. The minimum for geriatric activities directors is usually a 2-year degree, such as an associate's degree in recreation studies. More advanced positions may require a bachelor's degree. Students usually obtain a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation, or a related field, often with a therapeutic recreation concentration. Degree programs in recreation studies may include courses such as:

  • Business administration
  • Needs of the elderly
  • Anatomy
  • Psychology

Licensure and Certification

Some states require recreational therapists to be licensed. Therefore, a geriatric activities director employed in a therapy position may need licensure. Medical boards administer exams and applications in states that require licensure.

Geriatric activities directors may decide to earn voluntary certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Applicants must prove their professional eligibility through work experience and higher education. The certification process includes a written examination.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2012, recreation workers employed in nursing care facilities earned an annual average salary of $25,700, while those working in continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly earned $26,560, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That same year, recreational therapists working in nursing care facilities earned $38,710, on average, while therapists working in continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities for the elderly brought home $36,910, per the BLS.

During the 2010-2020 decade, jobs for recreational therapists were predicted by the BLS to increase by 17%, with some of the best prospects going to those wishing to work in nursing and residential care facilities, the BLS points out. Within that same timespan, employment for recreation workers was projected to increase by 19%, with many new jobs expected in nursing and residential care faciltites or with social assistance organizations.

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