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Time Needed: 1/2 Day to a Full Day

Skills Needed: No special skills required

Causes: Health & Wellness, Seniors

Project Categories: Geared for 50+ Volunteers, Family Friendly, Indoors, Outdoors


1. Choose a facility to visit. 

2. Contact the facility to set up a date and time for your visit.

Be sure to call early. It takes time to reach people at facilities. Generally, at a nursing home, the person to contact works in the Activities Department. At a hospital, the person works in the Volunteer Department. When talking to the facility representative, ask the following questions:

  • Are children allowed?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • How do visitors get to the facility by car?
  • Where should visitors park?
  • Can visitors get to the facility by public transportation?
  • How many residents will be at the facility on the day of the visit?
  • How many floors/wings are there?
  • Is there a room or is the lobby available for visitors to gather for an orientation?
  • Are there any security requirements or special sign-in procedures?
  • Is photography allowed? 

NOTE: Policies governing the use of photography vary from facility to facility. Many residents are unable to make an appropriate determination and some families object to their relatives being photographed. That being said, we understand that volunteers sometimes want to capture a photographic memory of their visit. If volunteers agree, it is generally alright to take a group picture in the lobby or outside the building; however, refrain from photographing individual residents unless someone from facility management gives permission and signs a copy of a Photo Release on behalf of the resident.

3. Decide if you want The Holiday Project to help enroll volunteers.

The Holiday Project lists visits at and promotes activities through public volunteer websites such as VolunteerMatch and Create the Good. If you want your visit posted, email the following information to

  • Your name
  • Your phone number (to be given to people interested in joining you)
  • Your e-mail address (to be given to people interested in joining you)
  • Name of the facility you are planning to visit and address, including zip code.
  • Date and time of the visit.

4. Make a visit plan.

  • During the first 15 minutes, greet visitors and make name tags. It is your choice if you want to keep a record of those who join you. 
  • Lead a 15-20 minute Orientation. See “Lead an Orientation” in the “On Visit Day” section below.
  • Allow 1-2 hours for visiting. Decide how much time visitors will spend on each floor/wing.

5. Create a flyer and/or a sample email message. 

Include all the information visitors will need to know, such as:

  • Date
  • Start and end times
  • Name and address of the facility (as it is written on the outside sign)
  • Directions by car and parking information
  • Directions by public transportation
  • RSVP information 

6. Enroll visitors.

Visits are most successful when there is a ratio of approximately 1 visitor for every 10 residents. 

  • Ask everyone – friends, family members, coworkers, etc. Imagine that you are inviting people to the best party they will attend all year.
  • Feel free to use social media and evites.
  • As people express interest, give them the flyer or send an e-mail/evite with information.
  • Consider posting your flyer on public bulletin boards near the facility and at local stores.
  • As people enroll, make a list and include phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

7. Make a supply box.

              -Name Tags
              -Marking Pen
              -Pens and/or Pencils
              -A copy of these Guidelines
              -Photo Release Form (optional)
If you choose, you can provide your own gifts and/or cards, as long as you have similar items for everyone you visit. If you choose to do this, do NOT give patients/residents food, sharp objects or cosmetics that they may mistakenly eat or drink.

8. Confirm everyone.

Four to seven days prior to the visit:

  • Call the facility to confirm. Get the name of the person you will report to on the visit day.
  • Call and/or email everyone on your list. Leave messages reminding people of the date and time to arrive. Let everyone know residents at the facility are looking forward to the visit and their presence will make a difference.


1. Be the first to arrive.

  • Check in with the facility.
  • Find the room where you will lead the Opening Meeting. If it is not the lobby, ask the first arrival to be a front door greeter and direct visitors to the meeting room.
  • Ask the second arrival to assist people in making name tags.

2. Lead an Orientation.
The purpose of the Orientation is to give volunteers an introduction to the facility and the residents and to thank them for volunteering. The Holiday Project recommends you place importance on “people being with people.” As visitors, we always take time to talk and listen to the people we visit, to spend time with them, and to ensure they know we remember them.

  • Introduce yourself and have each visitor do so as well.
  • Spend a few minutes talking about the importance of your visit.
  • Ask who has visited in the past and determine which visitors are first-timers. Ask a few experienced visitors to say a few words about their experiences of visiting.
  • If possible, ask a representative from the facility to greet the group and tell everyone about the types of people that reside at the facility.
  • Remind visitors of the following: 

    **DOS AND DON’TS**

    -You can visit with people in a group or individually. You can visit people in the lobby, halls, day rooms, and in their rooms, according to the arrangement made with the facility. Before entering someone’s room, always knock and ask if that person would like a visitor.
    -Spend as much or as little time with each person as is comfortable. One visitor may spend just a few seconds and the next person may spend 20 minutes.
    -When entering rooms, look for conversation helpers such as photographs, craft projects and collections. Ask residents questions to engage them in conversation; however, do not ask residents why they are living in a facility.
    -Approach people from the front, giving them a chance to see you.
    -Refer to people as residents.
    -Start by introducing yourself. Use your first name. Ask permission to address people by their first names. You can often find people’s names on their doors, on wristbands and on their possessions, or you can ask. Do not disclose the full names of people you visit to others outside the facility.
    -If a resident is in a wheelchair, crouch down to his/her level. Make eye contact.
    -Look for hearing aids. Speak slowly and distinctly, directly to people. Do not raise your voice unless you are sure the person cannot hear you.
    -It is generally OK to touch people, especially by holding hands. Be aware of religious restrictions. If a person pulls away, respect that person’s body language and stop touching. Continue your conversation.
    -If a resident does not verbally reply, he/she may still be able to hear you. Keep looking at the person and continue talking.
    -Sometimes people will respond with incoherent conversation. That may be their way of communicating. With these people, be more concerned with just being with them than understanding what they are saying. Listen as if you do understand. You can even respond. These people often respond to touch.
    -If a person wants to hug or kiss you, consider letting that person do it. If you want to hug or kiss someone you are visiting, ask first.
    -Singing is a wonderful way to share a holiday. It doesn’t matter if you are a good singer; join in and have fun!
    -Policies governing the use of photography, including digital photography, vary from facility to facility. Let volunteers know the guidance you received from facility management.
    -Do not give residents food or water unless specifically OKed by facility staff.
    -Do not take residents to the restroom. Ask before taking residents to other floors.
    -Always thank people for letting you visit them.

3. Evaluate your Visit Plan.

  • 1. If you have more visitors than you anticipated, divide the group into two or three sub-groups and appoint a leader for each one. Have each subgroup begin the visit on a different floor or wing. If time allows, all subgroups can visit all floors or wings. Those we are visiting will enjoy the wealth of visitors. If you have fewer visitors than you anticipated, do not visit the entire facility. No one enjoys being rushed and you want to make sure both the visitors and those visited have a quality experience.
  • Explain your visit plan, letting visitors know the floor plan of the facility and how long the group will spend on each floor/wing (usually about 20 minutes). Let visitors know what time to be back at the meeting area.

4. Conduct the visit.

  • Move from floor/wing to floor/wing as a group.
  • It’s OK if people are left behind; be sure to let them know where the group will be visiting next and they will catch up.
  • Allow enough time on each floor/wing to both visit with people in the community areas and in their rooms.
  • Try to visit with everyone who wants a visitor.

5. At the end.

  • Gather together for a few minutes.
  • Invite visitors to talk about their experience and the people they met.
  • Thank everyone for attending.


1. Send thank-you notes.

  • To your contact at the facility. That person will be thrilled to receive it.
  • To those who joined you for the visit.

2. Acknowledge yourself.

  • If you visited just one person, remember that is one more person that had a visit because of you!