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Your Residents Don't Live In A Zoo

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By Kent Mulkey

Your residents are not living in your community for the amusement or satisfaction of your staff, family members, and guests. They don’t live in your community for the purpose of enhancing your marketing efforts, as though keeping residents “involved” in your common areas will impress your prospects.

My grandmother moved to a senior community at age 94. She wasn’t interested in playing bingo, winning funny money, shaking a tambourine or making bunny ears at Easter. Not only did she think that most of these things were strange and childish, but she had never done any of these activities for the first 94 years of her life. She wasn’t about to start now.

So ask yourself, are you scheduling activity programs to make you and your residents “look good,” including the “experts” who write books and manuals in No Man’s Land, or have you zeroed in on the wants and needs of the residents you serve?

Here are a few principles to consider when engaging seniors in meaningful and purposeful life enrichment:

  • Most activity programming for seniors is designed to appeal to extroverts with little attention paid to the needs and preferences of introverts, leaving us to wonder why most residents would rather remain in their apartment watching television or reading a book. (Future article ahead on this topic.)
  • Have you taken the time to know their interests, needs, and preferences? Our objective should be clear – to meet the needs of our residents and not stoop to tallying our often mind-numbing and patronizing programs.
  • Life Enrichment programs are often the antithesis of life-giving or enriching. They can often be draining and tiring. I don’t know anyone who can stay engaged and energized all day long, especially someone 90+ years old. Why do you think there should be something going on virtually every minute of the day?
  • The best way to encourage a resident to attend a program on your turf is for you to first spend time visiting theirs. Take a few minutes to visit with a resident in their “home.” The principle of reciprocity tells us that they will likely stop by and visit your turf, and maybe even find something they like to do!

You may be shocked to know that human zoos existed in some parts of the world late into the 20th Century, yet faced sharp criticism as being degrading and humiliating. You think?


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