Cornell Trace Thrivers: Sharpen Your Tools Here
Suddenly, It’s Personal
Five years ago I took a part time job at Cornell Trace Senior Independent Living to tide me over until my free lance graphic design business got on its feet. I had a lot of unpleasant concepts about retirement homes floating around in my head, and I had no intention of lingering long, but here I am, now on a mission to reshape the understanding of what thriving, independent seniors are and what works best for them. It is even more important to me, personally, to have clear, positive concepts, goals and strategies since I just had my 62nd birthday, the age when folks become eligible to move into one of our patio homes.
Senior living models are categorized two ways: medical and non-medical. Independent living and assisted living are examples of the non-medical model. Independent living is designed for individuals who can manage Activities of Daily Living including, but not limited to: preparing meals, personal hygiene, managing medications, completing household chores, driving/coordinating transportation, and maintaining personal finances. For folks who are still comfortably handling these responsibilities, adjusting to a maintenance-free lifestyle at Cornell Trace is a pleasure. But there is more to consider when we become seniors, and information about services and resources is not always at our fingertips. I observed three circumstances that I chose to address though developing the Thrivers program at Cornell Trace:
- Over all, residents were not sharing practical information, particularly about the benefits of in-home care.
- No forum existed for discussion of issues of aging.
- The healthiest and longest-lived individuals at Cornell Trace tended to be actively and regularly involved in community life at Cornell Trace and beyond. Conversely, isolation and inactivity tended to negatively affect an individual’s health
In 2012 when I first went to work at Cornell Trace, there were several resident-led events each month, and one management sponsored event: the Potluck. Scheduled for the last Wednesday of the month, Potluck is the best-attended community function. It is, however the wrong venue for information, education and discussion. Additional resident-initiated activities are dedicated to promoting fellowship, mental stimulation, and exercise. They are successfully achieving those purposes and I didn’t want to “fix anything that wasn’t broken”. It was clear to me I had to come up with something new.
I suspected that there were people who had no curiosity to be awakened about aids to aging gracefully, and I would need to offer them a tantalizing incentive to come and listen. BINGO!–I hit on an idea popular to folks from nine to ninety: yep, BINGO. Each month there is a Birthday party for everyone born in the given month followed by BINGO (with an infomercial from a senior services provider tucked in the middle!). In-home care agencies now visit that can prolong independent living by pitching in to help out with Activities of Daily Living. Housekeeping services, specialized pharmacy service, mobile dog-groomers and so much more, come with arm-loads of BINGO prizes to help residents remember them. The top prize is furnished by Baptist Homes Inc. management: a $25 Kroger gift card awarded to the winner of the final, cover-all game. It’s so much fun nobody realizes how much they are learning! My favorite part is the calls I receive later asking about how to take advantage of the services. Many times they can keep a community member living safely, independently in their Cornell Trace home.
Soon I realized there were subjects too complex to be presented to my captive BINGO audience in under 15 minutes, so I took a chance on offering Thrivers Info Friday, featuring a half-hour guest presentation followed by a question and answer period. Topics have ranged from macular degeneration, fall prevention, and preventing crimes against seniors to Derby Dinner Playhouse and Miller Transportation Tours. A recent guest, Christopher Clements, Director of Retired and Senior Volunteers Program (R.S.V.P.) spoke about harnessing the energy of seniors for volunteer work (Look for an upcoming blog on the personal benefits enjoyed by volunteers). His visit has inspired me to follow up on an idea attendees came up with: offering monthly meetings for volunteer projects we can do right in the clubhouse.
A Changing Community
These programs pay dividends to our residents, expanding their network of specialized resources, and sparking their curiosity and willingness to communicate their needs and concerns–to me and to each other. New residents, spared the awkwardness of introducing themselves at social events, can share in activities with their neighbors that comfortably help “break the ice”. New leaders have stepped forward and organized community activities armed with information provided in Thrivers meetings. I know I can count on the help of our community as I look for new ways to renew and enrich our fellowship here at Cornell Trace. Come be a part of our growing, thriving Independent Senior Living community!