On Active Senior Living: A Conversation with Wendy Switzer Activities DirectorFebruary 17, 2016 | Heritage Place
As you may have noticed, there is always lots to do at Heritage Place. We strive to make Heritage Place an active senior living community where residents feel engaged, challenged, and happy. This month we interviewed our Activities Director Wendy Switzer about how she found herself in the role, her process in choosing activities, and some of her favorite resident moments:
How long have you worked at Heritage Place?
I've been with Heritage Place since June 2015, and the experiences I've had and the friendships I've made in that short time is nothing short of phenomenal.
How did you find yourself as an activities director?
It all started about four years ago. At the time, I was a host for a local television program and also worked as a guest lecturer for several trade exhibitions. After just a short six months as an activities director, I forged a strong connection with the senior living communities in Bountiful. I felt such a special rapport with the residents that I resigned from my work in television.
What's your favorite thing about working with seniors?
I love listening to their stories. Every member within the active senior living community has a unique story to tell. This includes fond childhood memories and milestone life achievements. What's even more gratifying is that I get to be a part of these people's stories moving forward. Heritage Place, after all, is a foundation for new experiences.
How do you choose which activities to include on your calendar each month?
Our active senior living community is comprised of residents from all walks of life. I frequently speak with the residents to get to know their interests and backgrounds, and use the information I gather to come up with events where these diverse skillsets can be put to good use. If one resident enjoys knitting, for example, and other members indicate an interest, then we may hold a knitting class with that resident leading the group. We have actually done this many times with our own residents leading the class for a variety of subjects such as yoga, cooking, painting, and scrapbooking.
Do you take suggestions from residents?
Absolutely! After all, the events are for them, so their input matters a great deal. In our active senior community here in Bountiful, UT, we have many residents who are still in their vibrant 20s at heart. One member actually suggested skydiving a la George H.W. Bush (who skydived to celebrate his 90 th birthday) and I honestly couldn't tell whether he was joking. Others have suggested equally dare devilish activities like scuba diving. These are things I would never think of doing and I'm half their age!
What are some favorite activities or hobbies amongst residents that surprised you?
I was surprised at the artistic backgrounds that many of them came from. One resident created art pieces that were featured in a gallery. Another was an illustrator for numerous children's books.
Many residents also love playing various types of card games, and I'm not talking about poker or Go Fish, I'm talking about games I'd never even heard of and had to quickly learn such as pinochle. Needless to say I've lost almost every time I've played.
What's been your favorite program to put on?
Many of the residents indicated that they would love to go on a cruise. Of course, as much as we'd love to take everyone on vacation, there would be too many safety issues to be able to bring this to fruition. I decided then that we would instead bring the cruise to Heritage Place. For an entire week our assisted living community in Utah became a "cruise trip" around the world.
Each day the cruise would stop by a different "port" at a select destination and we would change the community to reflect the customs and culture of that place. It was a lot of work and my department worked overtime to make it happen, but it was worth every effort. The look of awe in the faces of the residents when they saw their assisted living community transformed into a new country was priceless and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I can't stress enough how important such activities are for the health, memory and well-being of the community members. Such events are also not possible without the collaborative effort of a dedicated staff.
It's clear how much consideration and effort Wendy and other staff members put forth to make Heritage Place the engaging community that it is. Stay tuned for more staff features and insights about our community.
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