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Green Hat…Is it for you?

August 1, 2008
by Troy L. Lott, ACC
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Most everyone is familiar with the “Red Hat Society,” a society of women “of a certain age” who get together to embrace the present and future with camaraderie and silliness. However, I want to talk with you about a society for men in long-term care or assisted living facilities. In my facility, Signature HealthCare of Columbia in Columbia, Tennessee, the activity department started the “Green Hat Society” for the male residents. When the men heard about a special society for women, they wanted to know if they could start one, so with that we formed the “Green Hat Society.”

It is very simple to get started. First, ask your men if they are interested in forming a social group like the ladies have. If you receive a positive response, then your next step is to name your society. Green was selected because it was the facility “color” at the time and also the guys felt it was a manly hue. Then, have the members select a King of the society, much like the Queen of the Red Hats, whose duties will be to conduct any business or help schedule the group's special events. Our Green Hats have held Super Bowl parties, had “barmaids” come in to serve nonalcoholic drinks, and talked about old girlfriends and wives.

Some events can be done during the society meetings, while others take the group into the community and some of its attractions. Men from other facilities have been invited to participate in some Green Hat events, such as tailgate parties, Root Beer Socials, and friendly tournaments (checkers, poker, and other card games). Regardless of age, sports are still important to these men, whether they participate or watch from the sidelines. The Green Hats golf, fish and hunt, often swapping fish stories and tall tales. They get together to watch basketball, baseball, and NASCAR races on TV.

They may be “older” guys, but they're still guys. For example, cars still hold a special appeal for them. They've toured an auto museum and a car manufacturing plant. Often, we drive to car lots to see the different car models of today and let the guys “kick” the tires, talk about prices, and compare today's models to the cars they used to drive.

Here are some other Green Hat ideas:

  • Turkey Shoot

  • Antique Car Show

  • Visit the local fire department

  • Billiards Tournament

  • Gun Show

  • Coin Show

  • Motorcycle Rally

The men enjoy having a day each month just to do something without having the ladies around. At times, though, we combine the two societies to play The Dating Game, based on the popular TV game show. An area of our dining room is partitioned off and the ladies ask the bachelors three to five questions and select the bachelor they would like to date. Then the men have their turn to ask three to five questions and choose the “bachelorette” for their date. The couples are accompanied by the activity staff and must wear their green and red hats on the date.

Throughout my career in long-term care, I keep hearing the same question, “What can I do with my male residents?” Because of the success of our Green Hat Society, several area facilities have started their own groups. Some call the group the “Black Hat Society” or “Ball Cap Society.” It does not matter what you name your society. The name chosen can reflect your facility, local area, or state.

The Green Hat Society was presented during the National Association of Activity Professionals Annual Conference in 2007. The program was enthusiastically received and several fellow activity professionals around the country also have started their own societies. Many family members and the public have raved about this program and believe that it instills self-esteem and true quality of life.

We are all trying to find ways for our residents to enjoy the best quality of life possible. This program will provide your men with the opportunity to forge new friendships and to renew fond memories as they come together in the Green Hat Society.

A poem was written for the Green Hat Society and is used with permission from Steve Petty of Hixson, Tennessee (see sidebar).

The ombudsman that visits this facility enjoys seeing the men take part in this special time and to see them relive memories and smile when they tell a joke that they have not told in a while. Ask your residents what they would like to do, but please do not tell them what they are going to be doing for entertainment—let them tell you. This is their group and their time and they need to be the ones who make the decision. This is a great way to ensure that each resident is empowered and that they are happy with what they are doing.

Long-term care residents may live in our facilities because they are unable to take care of themselves at home, but they still enjoy making decisions and feeling that they are still in control of some parts of their lives. Laughter is good medicine, too—and what better way to enjoy life? Most people think that a resident goes to the nursing home to die, but that is not the case anymore, thanks to OBRA '87. The activity professional is putting life in extended care facilities. With our assistance and encouragement, people often do things for the first time in their lives. We make dreams happen and lives richer. I tip my “hat” to the generation of men and women who have made this country great. I thank each of them for what they have done.

Enjoy your life and live in laughter and good times.

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