Conversation Starter Boxes Start More Than Conversations


Author: Carolyn Lookabill, Brand Ambassador

Activity and Life Enrichment professionals are familiar with memory boxes, most often used in programming for Dementia patients or for new admissions.  But the same concept can help bring increased opportunities for engagement and programming for all residents of a senior living environment, senior center, adult day program, etc.  A conversation starter box provides an opportunity not only for engagement of participants, but engagement of volunteers, staff and the community.  Launched with a simple shoebox, a conversation starter box is based on a theme such as baseball, WWII, baking, elementary school, boy scouts/girl scouts, fishing, etc. The goal is to collect about 10-12 items that represent the theme.  Items are often readily available and this is what makes it an easy project for volunteers, community groups (churches, youth groups, etc.) and even family members)

An example of a theme for a conversation starter box would be baseball.  Easily accessible baseball items include:

  • Used baseball
  • Baseball cap (from Little League, high school, college or professional baseball team)
  • Tickets to a game
  • Box of Cracker Jacks
  • Box of Bazooka bubble gum
  • Baseball cards (do not need to be vintage)
  • Bobble Head from a Major League Baseball (MLB) game
  • Pennant
  • Photos of people attending a game
  • Mini baseball bat or baseball bat pen
  • Baseball game program


Conversation starter boxes can be used in 1:1 engagement between participants and staff, volunteers or family.  They are great for small group discussions including those involving children.  In this example, the baseball themed box could be the springboard for additional programming such as watching a baseball game on TV, attending a local game, viewing a baseball themed movie (Field of Dreams, Jimmy Piersall Story, Ball Four, The Jimmy Stratton Story, etc.), baseball trivia games, virtual tour of any MLB baseball park, baseball food day with hot dogs, Cracker Jacks, beer and near beer, etc.  Combining any of the above makes a perfect theme for an entire week. Invite your staff, residents and volunteers to wear a baseball shirt or cap and you have an entire week of fun on the calendar!  Is there a Little League team in the area?  Go watch a game and/or invite the players to stop by for some victory ice cream after the game.

Download a conversation starter box theme sheet here. 

You can provide this sheet to staff, volunteers, community and church groups to get them engaged in creating other theme oriented boxes.  It is important that the Activity Department staff review all items, ensure that they are clean and safety proofed.  For instance, with a fishing box, all lures should have the hooks bent over.  All food containers such as spice bottles, perfume bottles, etc. should be sealed.

Items can remain in shoeboxes or placed in clear plastic boxes or other similar containers that are readily available at “Big Box” stores.  Putting together a conversation starter box is an ideal activity for families and a great project for students needing to complete a “community project” or “community hours”.  With direction from the Activity/Life Enrichment staff, it won’t take long to amass a collection of conversation starter boxes.  Be sure to share a photo with us along with your story of success.  Send an email to  If we feature your experience on our social media, we will send you an American Senior tote bag!



American Senior magazine has developed a Program Enhancement Package subscription designed specifically for senior living communities containing activities that correspond directly with the magazine content, thoughtfully crafted to entertain, educate, empower and engage seniors.