Why do people seek out senior living?

Some seniors are tired of shoveling snow, cleaning out gutters, and cooking dinner; some need assistance with their activities of daily living or have healthcare needs. Many are interested in the opportunity to socialize and participate in the activities available at senior living communities.

Worship services, movie nights, and crafting do qualify as socialization and entertainment. But seniors today are more youthful than ever and more vigorous in mind and spirit. When they choose to pare down their belongings and sell their homes to move to senior living, they expect a dynamic, enriching environment. As senior living providers, we must continually expand our offerings to meet their expectations. Yes, the quality of the apartments, the cuisine, and the services should be exceptional. But the senior living industry cannot overlook the importance of fulfillment.

At Wesley Enhanced Living, our commitment to enhancing lifestyles in this way is evident in our name. Our activity directors are titled “Directors of Enhanced Living.” They are charged with creating recreational programming that gives residents the opportunity to rediscover their own unique purpose and fulfillment.

What does fulfilling programming look like for seniors?

Karen Doler, the Director of Enhanced Living at our Doylestown community, notes that “fulfillment means something different for everyone.” So, her team provides a host of activities that are as diverse as the interests of their residents.

Wesley Enhanced Living follows the National Wellness Institute’s Six Dimensions of Wellness to address all aspects of fulfillment: spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and occupational. “We pride ourselves on developing a monthly activity calendar that addresses each of these six dimensions,” says Karen. For inspiration in delivering such diverse programming to a senior audience, Karen cites the following tips:

Work as a team to achieve the six dimensions. While Karen focuses on the social, emotional, intellectual, and occupational aspects of fulfillment, she relies on other in-house subject matter experts to help round out the resident experience. Examples are monthly programming from the on-site Chaplain and customized fitness programs by level of care developed by the fitness specialist. And Karen finds that these disciplines build on each other. She has had residents who, having gained more confidence from the fitness program, feel more willing to sign up for zip-lining or climbing the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum!

Watch and listen. Karen says that residents are eager to share with her staff what they like and what they don’t. “We observe resident participation in activities. We engage them to learn how we can continue to enhance our programs,” she says. And all residents should have a voice. At the Doylestown community, residents in every level of care meet monthly with staff to review dining and programming.

Curate a list of paid entertainment and educational resources. Repeat providers should be those who engage the residents and are well-received.

Collaborate with outside agencies and organizations. Wesley Enhanced Living Doylestown has built a network of volunteers and school groups who enhance their activity calendar with music therapy, pet therapy, technology consults, and exposure to the arts.

Create opportunities for residents to lead. “We have several resident-led committees where our residents can co-lead with a staff member,” Karen explains. Some examples of these committees are: library, entertainment, spiritual life, and buildings and grounds.

Set up resident volunteer opportunities. “We are so lucky to have residents who are willing to volunteer their talents and time for the good of their neighbors,” says Karen. “One of our residents plays the piano, another teaches Personal Care residents how to play cards and board games. And we have a resident who enjoys helping us stuff the mailboxes with our internal communications,” she adds. Wesley Enhanced Living Doylestown residents also help the greater community. Residents have managed food drives for local pantries and sewn teddy bears for children in crisis.

Not every senior is ready to fly planes, drive race cars, and zipline like our 98-year-old resident George. But a senior living community should offer the path to each resident’s unique fulfillment. As our Director of Enhanced Living advises our residents: “Don’t let your grandkids be the ones with all the great stories of adventures to share. Show them that you, too, have a lot more living to do!”