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Zoom engagement ‘how to’ tips

Creative engagement specialist Maurie Voisey-Barlin has created the following guide to engaging older people using Zoom. It’s suitable for use by art and music therapists or performers who are working with or have a connection with aged care facilities. Maurie advises that the person leading this type of engagement must be outgoing, a natural improviser, not afraid of spontaneity, playful, mischievous, curious, authentic and good at engaging with older people, rather than just entertaining. Musical skills are also a huge benefit.

Maurie Voisey-Barlin with the YES/NO buttons which have pre-recorded spoken versions of YES/NO which he uses for playful quizzes during Zoom sessions

Formats for Zoom visits

  1. Zoom Around The Room: A Quick Fire One-on-One
    The facility team member takes the iPad around and spontaneously gives it to a resident saying “Look who wants to say hello” and there you are on the screen in your bow tie and bowler hat with ukelele (or your signature costume). This is a short three to four minute chat/banter/mischief/comic carry-on/joke or song. The iPad is then taken off again to the next surprised resident. Useful as a catch-up to reach as many participating residents in a session.
  2. Zoom Room Visits: One-on-One sessions
    The facility buddy takes an iPad to the resident one-on-one in their room or private space, ie a lounge area. If the person is unable to hold the iPad/tablet, set up the device on a stand placed on top of a trolley or table.
  3. Hot Seat One-on-Ones: Managing a small group session
    Participants sit in a small group (physically distanced) of four to five people in a semicircle around a large TV screen if an iPad/device can be connected. A focus resident is positioned in a chair – the Hot Seat – in front of the group facing the screen. This person is the subject and focus of the one-on-one interaction whilst the rest of the group members passively participate (or actively if that’s the character of the group – they might even heckle!). To finish the interaction, farewell the focus person and invite the next resident to join you in the hot seat with the assistance of the staff member buddy. This format allows the group to participate in the session and are engaged whilst they await their turn.


Note: If the iPad/device is connected to a TV, the residents will be looking at the TV screen above and not directly at you on the laptop. Be prepared for this as you lose the eye contact. Ask your facility buddy to show you what it looks like before you start your first session so you can see where the participants will be looking and get a feel for it.


Zoom activities

Show & Tell: A resident is nominated for the next session to share with the group a prized or meaningful possession, keepsake or photo. Good for the Hot Seat format.

Let’s Go For A Walk: Take the resident for a walk around your house or garden, to view renovations, or the bush. Be aware that your connection may drop out with distance from the modem. I use my mobile phone hotspot for this.

Share My Screen: I’ve found screen sharing works very well if you can move through different images quickly and smoothly. I load my images on PowerPoint for the session. Ensure the images are sharp, simple, display good contrast and work best when limited to a maximum of three people.

Pics From Me: Photos, pictures and images can be used as an alternative to screen sharing. Prior to each session, email some images on A4 documents to the aged care facility’s Lifestyle/Activities buddy to print out A4 size for the session. These are given out to the focus resident, or all participants if running a small group. Ask your buddy to keep them until you ask for them to be given out. Use comic images from the internet, photos of old Holden cars, fuel stoves, Arnott’s biscuits adverts etc, or personal photos with an update on your week.

Pass It Here: Hold up an object to the laptop camera (ie, a tea cup) and pass it over and above the laptop as if to hand the tea cup to the resident. Have your buddy take the object from behind their laptop camera and hand it to the resident. They then reach forward and pass the object back to you. The humour is in the fact that as they pass you the object, you then pick up a different object. Repeat back and forth. I find a toilet roll is always a prop that gets a laugh. As does a can of beer!

Finish The Quote/Saying/Tune: Read out the first part of a quote or saying or sing the line of a song. Have the participating resident either finish it or make up the rest.

Songs & Singing: Be aware when people sing along with you via Zoom, you will experience a delay. Keep on your timing and don’t let the delay put you off.

Note: Singing may not be allowed, depending on COVID-19 restrictions at the aged care facility.

Quick Quiz – YES / NO Button: These buttons have pre-recorded spoken versions of ‘YES/NO’ which I use for playful quizzes. First, share your screen showing an image of a subject relating to the resident’s individual interests (ie, legendary Australian Olympian, garden implement etc) for 15 seconds (or a time appropriate to cognitive processing), then switch the screen back to you. Ask the resident to name the athlete or object in the image. Your buddy can join in to assist where appropriate. Push the ‘YES’ button if correct or ‘NO’ button if the answer is incorrect.

Try this ridiculous variation; ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ Example: the resident answers “Blue. As quiz master I reply, Incorrect. Your favourite colour is purple. One resident retorted, Oh heavens, you know me better than I do”.


An additional resource

Meaningful Ageing Australia recently teamed up with Maurie Voisey-Barlin to produce a practical guide to meaningful engagement over Zoom, as part of its COVID Quick Guide series. Titled Elder & Dementia Engagement Using Zoom, the guide is designed to be effective with people who are living with dementia in residential aged care environments. It’s free to download from the Meaningful Ageing Australia website at https://meaningfulageing.org.au/product/dementia-engagement-zoom/

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