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Residents' lives enriched through activities

Residents have the choice of activities, outings and events

[caption id="attachment_6406" align="alignleft" width="1166"] Life enrichment team members from left to right: Gladys Conner, Haury Place; Tim Clark, Utz House; Riley Rodriguez, Claassen House; Melinda Ebersole, Director of Life Enrichment and Alex Ramos, wellness director. We are in the process of hiring a new assistant for Anderson Place.[/caption]

This month we’re celebrating the dedication and hard work of our life enrichment staff at Newton Presbyterian Manor. Nationwide, Activity Professionals Month is observed as a way to appreciate the people who plan and provide activities within senior living communities. Their work is key to helping our residents stay healthy. They help residents keep doing what they enjoy and encourage residents to try new things. Our life enrichment staff also helps residents cultivate relationships new and old.

Melinda Ebersole, director of life enrichment, said her staff’s mission goes well beyond planning parties or performances.

“My staff is great. I can’t say enough good about them,” Melinda said. “They’re compassionate, they’re caring. It’s really hard to explain just how caring they are. They become part of the resident’s family.”

According to the National Association of Activity Professionals, this is a job that emerged in health care centers about 50 years ago. According to the NAAP website, “It was during these early years that the activity professional became known as the bingo, Bible study and birthday ladies. As the profession grew ... the activity professional discovered quickly there was more to activities than the three Bs.”

At Newton Presbyterian Manor, we still love the “three Bs,” and we enjoy so much more. We have two buses to transport residents to special events and outings. There are trips and restaurant visits planned every month in all levels of care.

Melinda said she and her staff rely on residents to suggest destinations, and they happily oblige.

“They’ll cut out articles and bring them to me. It’s really helpful,” she said.

Life enrichment staff also realizes that each individual has different tastes and desires. Some people prefer activities they can do alone or with an activities staff member one on one. The goal is make sure residents are free to engage in as much, or as little, as they like, while also ensuring no one is isolated.

Melinda recalls a few times she was able to treat residents to something special while they were out and about for other reasons. Once she picked up a resident from a hospital stay, and they spotted a car show on the way back, so they pulled over to watch for a while. Another gentleman who doesn’t join many of the group outings, had a doctor’s appointment one day. On the way back he told Melinda he was in the mood for a shake.

“I said, ‘OK, let’s go to Sonic,’ she said. “That just made his day. I told him anytime we can make that happen, we will. We really try to hit those one-on-one experiences in different ways.”

Newton Presbyterian Manor also focuses on connecting residents with the community at large through many events on campus. Events like the Apple Blossom Festival and a Flag Day ice cream social for first responders show off our community to the people of Newton, and help residents make vital connections. The same is true for our Apple-a-Day Preschool, Melinda said.

“These special events give our staff a chance to get to know families, too,” Melinda said. “We have a lot of family members who will go on our outings. Sometimes they’ll tell me, ‘I never thought I would be able to go to a movie again with Mom,’ because transportation can be a challenge.”

Executive Director Marc Kessinger tipped his hat to our life enrichment staff for their dedication and creativity.

“We recognize how important it is for our neighbors to connect and enjoy so much of what our community has to offer, from dining to exercise to the arts,” he said. “I’m also proud of how our staff incorporates physical, mental and spiritual wellness into a great variety of our programming.”

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