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Cool Activities for Care Home Residents

July is National Ice Cream Month in the UK, offering a perfect opportunity for care home activity coordinators to bring joy and engagement to residents.

What are the benefits of ice cream-themed activities for care home residents?

Sensory stimulation

Ice cream engages multiple senses - taste, smell, and touch.

The cool, creamy texture stimulates the sense of touch, both in the mouth and on the hands. The sweet aroma engages the olfactory system, often evoking pleasant memories. The diverse flavours - from classic vanilla to exotic fruit combinations - excite the taste buds. For those with sensory impairments, ice cream can provide an accessible and enjoyable sensory experience, potentially helping to maintain cognitive function and enhance overall wellbeing.

Mood enhancement

The treat often evokes positive memories and feelings.

Ice cream has a unique ability to uplift moods and evoke nostalgia among care home residents. The simple pleasure of enjoying a cool, sweet treat can trigger happy memories of childhood summers, family gatherings, or special occasions. This emotional connection often leads to improved mood and increased sociability. For many older adults, ice cream represents comfort and indulgence, offering a momentary escape from daily routines.

The act of sharing this treat in a communal setting can foster a sense of joy and community, potentially reducing feelings of isolation or depression.

By incorporating ice cream into activities, you can create positive emotional experiences that contribute to residents' overall mental wellbeing.

Social interaction

Ice cream socials encourage mingling and conversation.

The casual, enjoyable nature of these events creates a relaxed atmosphere that encourages residents to engage. Sharing favourite flavours, discussing preferences, or reminiscing about ice cream-related memories naturally spark conversations.

The act of choosing toppings or creating sundaes together can foster teamwork and friendly banter. For those with limited verbal abilities, the shared experience of enjoying ice cream can still promote a sense of connection through non-verbal cues and shared smiles.

These social gatherings around ice cream can help combat loneliness, strengthen relationships between residents, and create a more vibrant community atmosphere within the care home.


Ice cream can play a surprising role in helping to maintain hydration levels in older adults, a crucial health concern in care homes. While not a substitute for water, ice cream's high water content (usually around 60%) can contribute to daily fluid intake. This is particularly beneficial for residents who may be reluctant to drink enough water or other fluids.

For older adults, proper hydration is essential for maintaining cognitive function, regulating body temperature, and supporting kidney health. However, the sensation of thirst often diminishes with age, increasing the risk of dehydration.

Ice cream's appealing taste and texture can make it an enjoyable way to supplement fluid intake.

It is important that care home staff should still prioritise traditional hydration methods, but incorporating ice cream as part of a balanced approach can be a pleasant and effective strategy to support overall hydration efforts.

Eating ice cream can also make you feel thirstier, so in some cases residents may feel more inclined to accept further liquids offered after eating ice cream.

Nutritional boost

When chosen wisely, ice cream can provide calcium and protein.

While ice cream is often viewed as a treat, it can also offer nutritional benefits when selected thoughtfully. Many ice creams, especially those made with milk or yogurt, contain significant amounts of calcium and protein, two nutrients particularly important for older adults.

Calcium is crucial for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis, a common concern in the elderly. Protein, on the other hand, helps preserve muscle mass, supports immune function, and aids in wound healing - all vital for the wellbeing of care home residents.

When choosing ice creams for nutritional benefits, opt for varieties made with real dairy. Greek yogurt-based ice creams are particularly high in protein.

For those with dietary restrictions, fortified non-dairy alternatives can also provide these nutrients.

It's important to balance the nutritional benefits with sugar and fat content. Consider offering smaller portions of regular ice cream or choosing lower-sugar, lower-fat options. Remember, while ice cream can contribute to nutritional intake, it should complement, not replace, a balanced diet tailored to each resident's needs.

Consider setting up a Make-Your-Own Sundae Bar

A Make-Your-Own Sundae Bar is an engaging and enjoyable activity that empowers care home residents to exercise choice and creativity.

Here's how to set it up effectively:

  • Ice Cream Base

    • Offer a selection of ice cream flavours, including classic options like vanilla and chocolate, as well as a few adventurous choices.

    • Include low-sugar and dairy-free alternatives for those with dietary restrictions.

  • Toppings

    • Provide a wide array of toppings such as:

      • Sauces: Chocolate, caramel, strawberry

      • Fruits: Sliced bananas, berries, cherries

      • Nuts: Chopped peanuts, almonds, walnuts (be mindful of allergies)

      • Sweets: Sprinkles, mini marshmallows, chocolate chips

      • Crumbled cookies or cake pieces

  • Accessibility

    • Ensure toppings are in easy-to-reach containers.

    • Use tongs or spoons that are comfortable for residents with dexterity issues.

  • Assistance

    • Have staff or volunteers on hand to help residents who may have difficulty serving themselves or making choices.

  • Personalisation

    • Encourage residents to name their creations, fostering a sense of ownership and pride.

  • Social Aspect

    • Set up the bar in a communal area to promote interaction and conversation about sundae choices.

  • Visual Aids

    • Consider creating picture menus of possible combinations for residents with cognitive impairments.

      • Residents may like to produce these as a separate activity.

This activity not only provides a delicious treat but also stimulates decision making skills, encourages social interaction, and allows for personal expression through food choices.


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