What Is Life Enrichment in Senior Living?
April 02, 2018
By Jackie Pope-Ganser, Life Enrichment Director, Welbrook at Bloomington
As a person ages, it is important to know that no matter where you hang your hat, you are always part of something greater. We all live our lives hoping to be an inspiration to others, wanting to make a difference in the world around us, joining together within our communities to make an impact. In the aging process, there will be those moments when we realize that we cannot connect as we once did. Losing the right to drive because one’s hearing, sight, or cognition declines can limit independence. Losing loved ones and friends in the normal aging process can limit social interaction. Leaving the workforce or giving up volunteering opportunities can create disconnect with the community at large.
In senior living communities, the goal of life enrichment is to create an environment where residents are able to continue to live life fully. The moments of success center around the relationships that are built when one moves to a senior living community. It is vital to offer activities that do not focus on one’s limitations, but rather celebrate residents’ strengths. In life enrichment, we provide opportunities for seniors to experience the best quality of life possible in their golden years. It is about continuing to have opportunities to connect and share their stories. In sharing their wealth of knowledge, their life experiences, their laughter, and their common bonds, seniors truly continue to thrive. It is through the activities in life enrichment that we offer opportunities for socialization and watch new lifelong friendships blossom and come to life.
In practical terms, you might wonder what that looks like. In a senior living community, we encounter different levels of capabilities within the resident population. Some will have higher levels of independence, some may have challenges with sight or hearing, some will have mobility challenges, while others may be experiencing cognitive decline. For an activity to be successful for all residents, we plan for integrated participation among all the levels of care needs.
One of the best things a resident can do when the weather warms is enjoy the fresh air. The life enrichment team may want to plan a picnic on the patio and build activities around that event. If you have a picnic, you need food. On the activity calendar, the day before the outing, we would plan a cooking club activity for residents to make pasta salad. We’ve gathered the ingredients, so now it’s time to get cooking! This is an activity that is viable for all residents, provides teamwork, allows for social interaction and offers pride in success of a finished product that can be shared. Higher functioning residents can chop vegetables and measure ingredients. Others can compose ingredients and mix ingredients together. Residents with lower cognition and dementia can still wash vegetables and help divide into individual containers. Everyone can taste along the way. Once that dish is completed, everyone can look forward to the special meal the next day, celebrating their team success with the community.
While this is a very simple activity, it supports many dimensions of wellness that we use in programming in senior living. As life enrichment professionals, this is the ultimate success. We have supported emotional wellness by allowing residents to reminisce about their cooking years, cognitive wellness with following directions and measuring, physical wellness by stirring and chopping, environmental wellness by using garden-harvested ingredients, and most importantly social wellness because people have joined in an activity together and built connections that can continue to grow in future activities.
In order for residents to live life fully, we want them to live life in a vibrant, connected environment. It is in those connections that residents will develop trust, growth, and friendships that truly represent life enrichment in a senior living community.
Welbrook at Bloomington is a new, state-of-the-art Senior Living Community offering independent/assisted living and memory care. “Living Life Well” at Welbrook means having the support, care, and compassion to continue a lifestyle with just a change of location. Welbrook at Bloomington is located at 1402 Leslie Drive. For additional information, contact Allison Fisher, Community Relations Director at 309-603-2500 or visit WelbrookBloomington.com.
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