How to Become Certified as an Activities Director

Memory Cafe Directory

Submitted by Dave Wiederrich
Founder, Memory Cafe Directory
Co-Founder, Dementia Map

Whether it is for a Memory Cafe or in a care community, appropriate and enriching activities are very, very important. An Activities Director makes that happen.

Many community organizations have an Activities Department that is responsible for creating and executing recreational activities. The department head is often the Activities Director (sometimes called Life Enrichment Director) reporting to the Executive Director.

You may or may not be interested in this as a career path, but it is helpful to understand the importance of the role. Let’s take a look at the different ways this position contributes positively in retirement communities, long term care, and in dementia care as they support group activities. That can even include Memory Cafes!

What is an Activities Director?

An Activities Director (AD) is who plans and manages special events and engaging recreational and age appropriate activities in various assisted living and memory care communities. They often facilitate the special needs, emotional support, and even spiritual needs of the residents in their long-term care.

Sometimes there is a solo, dedicated Activities Director, and at times the AD leads an entire team. Since they sometimes have staff members to assist, leadership skills and interpersonal skills are needed. These skills – and a positive attitude – in an important part of helping these small groups really enjoy themselves. Overall, they must have excellent customer service skills.

An Activities Director is sometimes called a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. While there are some similarities, there are also differences. Job titles are sometimes applied differently across various social service disciplines. For this exercise, we’ll focus specifically on Activities Director.

Tools of the Trade

To help promote and encourage participation in the activity programming, the AD often publishes a monthly newsletter. This can take on many forms, but generally it comes from the “Activity Department” or senior living management, and lists the schedule for a variety of individual activities.

Having a regular communication like this not only helps the AD plan, but it makes a positive impact by setting in place things for which the entire community can plan. We all like to have things we are looking forward to enjoying and this is a very special form of care planning. As a bonus, it can help family members plan their visits and be involved, too!

Activities Director Dementia Map 1
Photo by cottonbro studio from Pexels

Types of Activity Programs

The best programs offer a variety of activities for older adults which addresses the social needs of the community. An activities program may range from fully therapeutic activities to those that are… well… just really fun!

Here’s just a small sampling of the types of events, including various options for physical activity, that might show up on a monthly activity calendar:

  • Arts and crafts
  • Music
  • Dance
  • Exercise classes and sports
  • Pet visits
  • Outdoor activities and adventures
  • Field trips
  • Movie nights
  • Morning walks
  • Chair aerobics
  • Card games
  • Horticulture

As you can see, time management becomes a necessity for the Activities Director. Event planning, especially at this scale, takes time. ADs often participate in an Activity Directors network with other qualified professionals to share best practices and learn from each other to be as effective as possible.

Wears Multiple Hats

The AD has a wide range of responsibilities. Beyond creating and facilitating activities, they train and manage their staff, they interact with staff, and if needed, administer first aid!

Here’s a sample of the types of responsibilities one might see on a job description:

  • Create and maintain weekly and/or monthly activity schedules
  • Coordinate events and daily activities, including entertainment
  • Promote participation from all residents
  • Where needed, act as contact for outside entertainment vendors
  • Collaborate with staff on event management
  • Promote activities on social media for family engagement
  • Establish and monitor pet visitation protocols

Obviously, this list isn’t a comprehensive treatment of the full responsibilities. It could go on and on and is just a sample. (See a full sample job description below.) The recreational programs created and executed by ADs are quite varied, so their experience and abilities needs to be wide ranging as well. To pull this off, they must have excellent communication skills.

Sound Like You? If this sounds like you, or if it sounds like an enjoyable profession, you could become an Activities Director, too.


Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA production from Pexels

How to Become an Activities Director

There are many training courses available. You may find an Activites Director course at your local university where you could earn a college degree. Conversely, you could start with a high school diploma and at that level of education, begin to build experience. Eventually, you would need to work toward certification from a recognized accrediting body. No matter the route, an Activities Director resume can be as varied as the activities they plan.

Whether you earn a Master’s Degree or build many years of experience, your training program will help you with you create activities for residents according to their individual interests and unique mental abilities. This of course requires extensive knowledge of the function – not to mention the average Activities Director salary might depend on it.

Bachelor’s Degree

A Bachelor’s Degree in Healthcare Management, with a focus on senior living management is a great target. A successful career is possible across senior care, healthcare management, dementia care, long term care, and more.

Build Experience

Experience is held in high regard by most assisted living and memory care communities in the United States – and it should be. However, building many years experience takes time. Potential candidates are well positioned if they have a body of volunteer work to show. This helps during undergraduate times to show direct knowledge of important aspects such as safety procedures, federal regulations, how a privacy policy works, etc.

Entry Level Alternative

For many people, seeking an entry level position is the best starting point. Immersing one’s self into the more common conditions experienced, and to work side-by-side with an Activities Director, can be a valuable experience. Being exposed to the best practices being used builds that base of experience needed, while earning an income.

Gain Certifications

There is no requirement to be certified to get a job as an Activities Director. However, many employer will see a certification as a differentiator between candidates. If you are certified, and your competition isn’t, that could be the deciding factor in getting the job.

One of the most prestigious organizations from which to be certified as an Activities Director is the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals (NCCAP.) The reason this is so highly respected is the requirements to attain. However, there are several tracks possible. NCCAP offers a career path based on 3 levels of certification:

  1. Activity Professional Certified (APC): Meets Professional Standards of Practice to work in an activities and life enrichment department.
  2. Activity Director Certified (ADC): Meets Professional Standards of Practice to lead and direct an activities and life enrichment department.
  3. Activity Consultant Certified (ACC): Meets Professional Standards of Practice to lead, direct and provide consulting services to an activities and life enrichment department.

Learn more about the various opportunities in the Activities profession directly with NCCAP.

Sample Job Description

Every job environment is different. That’s true in any industry. However, seeing how a sample job description might look can give you significant insights into the profession.

Job Title: Activities Director

Job Summary

We are seeking a highly motivated and compassionate Activities Director to join our team. As an Activities Director, your responsibility will be for planning, organizing, and coordinating a wide range of recreational and therapeutic activities for the residents of our community. Your primary goal will be to enhance their quality of life by promoting physical, mental, and emotional well-being through engaging and meaningful activities.


  • Develop and implement a comprehensive activities program meeting the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional needs of our residents.
  • Collaborate with interdisciplinary teams, including medical staff, healthcare professionals, and caregivers to identify residents’ interests, abilities, and needs to create personalized activity plans.
  • Plan and organize a variety of recreational activities, such as arts and crafts, music and dance, games, educational programs, outings, and social events.
  • Arrange for specialized activities, including physical therapy, pet therapy, and sensory stimulation programs, in coordination with appropriate professionals.
  • Coordinate and facilitate group activities to encourage social interaction and foster a sense of community among residents.
  • Conduct individual assessments, identifying residents’ specific activity preferences and limitations, ensuring their participation and enjoyment.
  • Manage and maintain activity supplies, equipment, and resources, ensuring they are safe and accessible to residents.
  • Recruit, train, and supervise activities assistant and volunteer resources, providing guidance and support in delivering high-quality activity programs.
  • Document and maintain accurate records of residents’ participation, progress, and responses to activities, ensuring confidentiality and compliance with regulatory guidelines.
  • Stay up-to-date with current trends and research in senior activities, gerontology, and therapeutic interventions, incorporating new approaches into the activities program as appropriate.


  • Bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy, gerontology, or a related education courses preferred. Relevant experience may be considered in lieu of a degree.
  • Previous experience in planning and implementing activities for seniors, preferably in a an assisted living, memory care, or other related field.
  • Knowledge of the physical, cognitive, and psychosocial needs of older adults and the ability to adapt activities accordingly.
  • Strong organizational and time management skills to effectively plan and coordinate multiple activities simultaneously.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills to interact with residents, families, and staff members with empathy, respect, and patience.
  • Creativity and a passion for creating engaging and stimulating activities that enhance residents’ overall well-being.
  • Ability to work independently as well as collaboratively within a team-oriented environment.
  • Proficiency in using computer software for activity planning, documentation, and record-keeping.
  • CPR and First Aid certification is desirable.
  • Must pass a background check and comply with all state and federal regulations.

We offer competitive compensation and benefits packages, a supportive work environment, and the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of our residents. If you are dedicated, compassionate, and have a genuine passion for enriching the lives of seniors, we would love to hear from you.

Please submit your resume and a cover letter detailing your qualifications and experience in activities programming for seniors.

Photo by Centre for Ageing Better from Pexels

Activities Directors: Key Part of Personal Care

Activities Director jobs are a critical element in supporting the mental and physical well-being of individuals in assisted living, memory care, or other care communities. While the responsibilities are many, the rewards are even greater.

Whether or not you are interested in a career path in this area, you now have a better understanding of the value Activities Directors deliver.

Memory Cafe DirectoryDave Wiederrich
Founder, Memory Cafe Directory
Co-Founder, Dementia Map

Dave Wiederrich founded Memory Cafe Directory when he realized it was hard for families to find a dementia-friendly event near them. Memory Cafe Directory now has over 1,200 in-person listings and nearly 200 virtual Memory Cafes.

Dave co-founded Dementia Map with Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks for the same reason. There simply wasn’t a centralized source of valuable information for the dementia caregiving community. Now there is a rapidly growing base of valuable information for everyone.

Both Memory Cafe Directory and Dementia Map are part of the JADCOM Media LLC network. Dave researches and publishes information on a wide range of topics through various websites. He also provides support services to small businesses, including graphics design, website design, and marketing support.

Visit Memory Cafe Directory on Dementia Map or their website.

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