If we take a moment to think about all of the change and new experiences our seniors have gone through since the times they have lived before us, it’s remarkable. Not only have most of them experienced the loss of a spouse or loved one, but they have also left the comfort and reality of their own home and most of their precious belongings. Most of us spend our whole lives collecting wonderful things and memories, building great relationships and creating meaning out of our lives. Often times, we aren’t prepared to face phases of change.
Our challenge, and I believe our mission as activity professionals, is to reach beyond providing leisure and structured programs for our seniors and to wholeheartedly build a community of life. Our purpose is to help create the foundation for relationships that will inspire and encourage a longer, healthier life.
We can do this by simply paying attention to the conversation that sets the dynamic of the group. Open dialogue that includes everyone’s opinions and individual experiences creates a conversation that deepens the relationship and connections with one another, creating a place where past success, fond stories and future dreams reaches a common and fulfilling bond. Great ways to encourage open dialogue are using tools such as Table Topics (http://www.tabletopics.com/) and Chat Pack (http://www.amazon.com/Chat-Pack-Questions-Spark-Conversations/dp/0975580167)
Another idea is to include some of our residents and their senior friends in various activities or programs outside of their current care facilities. Not only does this create social connections with others in the community, but by doing so, we are reaching out to others that could be isolated in their own homes and need that human connection. It’s also a great marketing tool to bring others into your facility or center and share the great things that you do and provide on a daily basis.
As stated in the New York Times, our social connections foster a long life, “In study after study cited by Mr. Robbins, people in loving relationships with spouses or friends were healthier than those lacking this intimacy, even when the latter had healthier living habits.”
Happy living and connecting!