Want to know how to both provide meaningful and engaging activities for your residents while gathering information on what interests them? You are likely to provide more person-centered care when you create an environment that invites self expression. This is what I’ve discovered over the past few years during my work as a Creative Engagement Specialist with three different groups of individuals: two skilled nursing, one Assisted Living.

In January, I facilitated The Lewis Carroll Experience during one of my weekly “Kareen’s Kettle” gatherings. I prefaced our time together by asking them to fill in the blank of the following quote by children’s writer, Robert Dahl: “A little___________ (nonsense) now and then is relished by the wisest men.” Their answers, which I wrote on a dry erase board, included: love, knowledge, sugar, laughter, romance, humility, appreciation, play time, hug, rest, spunk, humor, and attention.

Isn’t this a much more organic way to assess the “activity” needs of a resident than the forced activity assessments we bombard them with shortly after they move into their new “home?” I later invited them to exercise their imaginations by asking them to invent some impossible thing they did before breakfast. And look at these answers!

  • I did cartwheels around our room.
  • I camped on Mt. Everest.
  • I went to town and got a coke.
  • I went to the animal fair
  • I rode out to sea with Puff the magic dragon.
  • I performed a heart transplant and milked a cow.
  • I turned the lights on my poinsettias.
  • I jumped up and down and rolled around on my bed.
  • I built the house I live in.
  • I walked to my mailbox in my pj’s.
  • I rode a purple horse to school.
  • I went to Paris.
  • I slew a mudcat (someone added that a mudcat is a “pussycat you cover with mud.”)

I concluded the Experience with a Lewis Carroll quote, “Everything has got a moral if you can only find it,” and asked them to come up with the moral of our time together.

“Fun!” shouted one, a lady with dementia who frequents our gatherings.

Need I say more?

If you crave additional support in experiencing this type of engagement with the older adults you serve, I recommend my book, Engage! 28 Creative  Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults which includes The Lewis Carroll Experience.  Like a cookbook, each field-tested Experience is a self explanatory recipe of playful ingredients such as improvisational storytelling and poetry, thought-provoking conversation starters, Readers Theatre, songs, and much more. If you can read, are a people person, and are willing to try anything, you can do this!  And, you rarely need to bring anything to the table except for you!

If you want even more support, I offer creative engagement training’s, including on-site modeling of an Experience, where possible. I also offer keynote concerts, including The Golden Experience and Finding Emilou.

You can purchase the book by clicking: http://www.seniortheatre.com/product/engage-28-creative-enrichment-experiences-older-adults/.

Book Cover



Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults by Kareen King, Founder of The Golden Experience


This just in! I am pleased to announce my new book, an intense labor of love, “Engage! 28 Creative Enrichment Experiences for Older Adults,” available online at ArtAge Publications by clicking http://www.seniortheatre.com/product/engage-28-creative-enrichment-experiences-older-adults/

What it is:  A simple, step-by-step workbook to help you lead stimulating, creative programs
How it works:  Uses thematic lesson plans with storytelling, music, readings, improvisational exercises, and conversation-starters in an easy-to-use format
Results: Stimulated minds, camaraderie, exploration, fun, fulfilled lives

Besides being a great boredom-busting resource for stimulating, creative, and educational experiences for older adults, it will save you tons of planning! Every Experience in this guidebook was field-tested weekly over a two-year span of time with three groups of older adults –  two in skilled nursing communities, and one in Assisted Living.

Proud to share it with the world!



P.S. Please contact me if you’re interested in a creative engagement workshop, a pre-conference, conference, or post-conference intensive, a half-day workshop, or whatever format best suits your situation. I am also available to model how it works in an older adult setting near you.


When You Need Some Encouragement to Keep On Going

November 30, 2014

Some people think that a nursing home is a place where people are dumped by those who don’t care, to be left to stagnate on a “nowhere train” until they die. Perhaps that’s true in rare cases. But not in the retirement communities I serve. I see people who want to live, love, and learn, […]

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How Flat Stanley Helped Fulfill an Elder’s Dream

October 31, 2014

The above photo tells the story of how some dreams must be achieved posthumously. It shows my daughter Joanna holding the photo of a couple in front of the Nymphenburg Palace in Munich, Germany.  Awhile ago I had a conversation with a 95-year-old gentleman who, because of his wife’s untimely death, was never able to […]

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What Makes People Tick?

September 30, 2014

  “What makes people tick?” This question was posed by a 96-year-old Assisted Living resident awhile back. It was in response to me asking a gathering of residents what topic they’d like addressed for one of our creative enrichment Experiences during Assisted Living Week. After a long pause, Helen broke the silence with her usual […]

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Helping People Carry Sunshine, Rather Than Weight, On Their Shoulders

August 30, 2014

We all age differently, don’t we? The above photo, taken near my home this morning, reveals this truth. Some have carried a lifetime of the weight of the world on their shoulders, while others skip through life with sunshine on their shoulders. My role, in the world of older adults, is to help them discover […]

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What Makes a Facebook Post Go Viral?

August 11, 2014

  To go viral means communication is quickly and widely spread or popularized electronically, especially by person-to-person forwarding. What makes a thing go viral? It’s a mystery. I know one thing is certain, when your intent is to make a thing go viral, it’s unlikely to happen.  What I didn’t expect was that the following […]

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July 4, 2014

  It was the night of the annual 4th of July celebration. Rows of spectators sat waiting with anticipation on the hilltop as karaoke music wafted through the air. It was a perfect evening; no wind or humidity, clear sky, 70 degrees. Then I realized she was not out with the rest of us. I […]

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We Learn to Live in Love

June 30, 2014

Since my return from The Memory Bridge Retreat, I’ve taken more time to practice the skill of attention with not only the long-term care residents I work with, but also friends, coworkers, and family members. I have felt more present with them, and they with me. I have had more meaningful interactions with everyone I’ve […]

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How I Met My Sunshine: A Memoir on Connecting with an Individual With Dementia

June 28, 2014

  Day One: “Hi. I’m Kareen,” I introduced myself to Lily. She, a 91-year-old lady with dementia, was seated contentedly in an easy chair watching the world go by. I sat beside her and introduced myself. She smiled and took immediate notice of my turquoise beaded necklace. I removed it from my neck and placed […]

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