In divergent ways, both government policy and care home practices influence the everyday life of older people living in English care homes. The rhetoric of choice for care home residents may be in conflict with the reality of government policy-driven service delivery. The aim of the article is to examine the role of organised activities in facilitating choice and active ageing among care home residents. Findings from a study of ten care homes in South East England exemplify the conflict between government policy rhetoric and the reality of care home life. The indication is that the formality of the ‘‘activities of daily living’’ support procedures restricts residents’ involvement in the organised social activities.Within the general provision of services, the organised ‘‘social activities’’ offered failed to meet the interest, cognitive and physical abilities of residents. The reality of ‘‘choice’’ is therefore questionable. Policy needs to support a transformation in the delivery of care to ensure it addresses the actual needs and expectations of older people experiencing care home life.