By Jenna Carson
Take a moment to think of something special in your life. Maybe it’s the smell of a favorite dish cooking. Maybe it’s your weekly card game with lifelong friends. Or maybe it’s a song you first heard with someone special.
These are the things that give our lives meaning; things that remain with us no matter what age we are. In fact, just because we are growing older doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying the things that are important to us.
In senior living communities, that’s what “life enrichment” is all about: finding sparks of joy that make our residents feel connected and alive. Talented senior care professionals can find ways to ignite those sparks by learning about residents’ interests and helping them experience that joy again. Bringing a paintbrush to an artist’s hand, the smell of fresh basil to a lifelong gardener, or the taste of homemade sauce to a home cook — the life enrichment coordinator creates opportunities that encompass all facets of an individual’s physical, social, intellectual, artistic and spiritual well-being.
At St. Ann’s Home, we did that recently when we created a St. Joseph’s Table at the request of our residents. An ancient Sicilian tradition, it is a means of honoring St. Joseph and expressing thanks for life’s blessings. For many of our residents, the custom has been part of their lives since childhood.
Staff, residents and family members worked together to prepare huge loaves of bread and other foods for presentation at the altar. Savoia Pastry Shoppe provided the bread in traditional shapes including crosses and hearts. Working as a team, we formed an assembly line to wrap the loaves in plastic. As is often the case, the process was as important as the end result — it involved laughter, the sharing of memories and plenty of pats on the back.
This seemingly simple task made a huge impact. We had tapped into a meaningful tradition in our residents’ lives and enabled them to partake in it once again. The looks of happiness on their faces said it all. (The celebration also involved the collection of non-perishables for the House of Mercy, broadening our impact).
A similar spark was ignited with St. Ann’s first resident fashion show, held in April and supported by our own Annie’s Angel Fund. As one resident put it, “Let’s show that our generation still has style!”
What began as a playful idea between a resident and a nurse became a full-blown red carpet event. Ten residents accepted the invitation to be our models. Stein Mart graciously loaned the fashions and accessories, selected with our models’ personal styles in mind. St. Ann’s Beauty Salon did the hair styling, family and friends served as nail technicians and makeup artists, and staff ensured our models were safe and comfortable as they walked (or wheeled) the red carpet. Refreshments, music and door prizes added to the festivities.
The show was a success on many levels. Perhaps the greatest was the feeling of empowerment our residents got from knowing they came up with an idea — something meaningful to them — and those who care about them came together to make it happen. For those of us in the field of life enrichment, that’s what it’s all about.
Jenna Carson, board-certified music therapist, is a life enrichment advocate who has been serving seniors at St. Ann’s Community for seven years. She can be reached at(585-697-6424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.