Geriatric Activities Director: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

Geriatric activities directors work in nursing homes and senior centers planning and facilitating activities for seniors. They require either an associate's or a bachelor's degree. Some states require these workers to be licensed.

Essential Information

Geriatric activities directors coordinate recreational and therapeutic activities in various facilities including nursing homes and senior centers. While educational requirements vary by employer, most positions require at least an associate's degree and often a bachelor's degree or higher. Geriatric activities directors should possess excellent communication skills and basic medical knowledge, and those employed in therapy positions may need state licensure. Geriatric activities directors generally find careers that focus on strengthening senior participants' mental and physical abilities.

Required Education Associate's or bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure depending on state requirements
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 8% for recreational therapists*
Median Salary (2020) $47,710 recreational therapists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties of a Geriatric Activities Director

Geriatric activities directors plan and facilitate games and sports, create arts and crafts projects and organize entertainment events like concerts and plays. Directors coordinate with facility managers to develop activities that are suitable and enjoyable to the residents. For example, residents of independent living housing or senior center may like to dance or go on trips, while patients of a nursing home or long-term care facility may prefer listening to live music or interacting with animals.

Geriatric activities directors are responsible for all aspects of preparation for activities, including taking attendance, ensuring facility rules are followed, informing participants of safety guidelines and managing incidents of conflict or medical emergencies. Activities directors that work as recreational therapists will also monitor patients' progress in their rehabilitation and design activities that will complement their medical treatment.

Requirements to Be a Geriatric Activities Director


Geriatric activities directors need to be confident and friendly so they can encourage participation and establish relationships. They need to be comfortable working with the elderly and able to lead groups of people. Activities directors should be physically fit and healthy so they can participate in the activities and help others to take part. They need communication skills and patience so that they can work with other professionals to organize various activities, explain activities to the participants and comprehend the needs of the individuals and groups with whom they work.


Education requirements vary. The minimum for geriatric activities directors is usually a 2-year degree, such as an associate's degree in recreation studies. More advanced positions may require a bachelor's degree. Students usually obtain a bachelor's degree in parks and recreation, or a related field, often with a therapeutic recreation concentration. Degree programs in recreation studies may include courses such as:

  • Business administration
  • Needs of the elderly
  • Anatomy
  • Psychology

Licensure and Certification

Some states require recreational therapists to be licensed. Therefore, a geriatric activities director employed in a therapy position may need licensure. Medical boards administer exams and applications in states that require licensure.

Geriatric activities directors may decide to earn voluntary certification through the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation Certification (NCTRC). Applicants must prove their professional eligibility through work experience and higher education. The certification process includes a written examination.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In May 2020, recreation workers earned a median salary of $28,440, while those working in nursing care facilities earned $30,840 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That same year, recreational therapists earned a median of $47,710 annually while therapists working in nursing care facilities brought home $45,480 annually, per the BLS.

During the 2019-2029 decade, jobs for recreational therapists were predicted by the BLS to increase by 8%, with some of the best prospects going to those wishing to work in nursing and residential care facilities. Within that same time span, employment for recreation workers was projected to increase by 10%, with many new opportunities expected for part-time or seasonal positions.

Geriatric activities directors can earn voluntary certification. Licensing is required in some states and may include passing an exam along with other requirements. The median annual salary for recreational therapists is about $48,000 and the job outlook is much faster than the market average.

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