If you’ve never lived in a senior living community, it might be hard to picture what life is like there. You may be wondering, “Don’t residents just play a lot of cards and bingo?”
Sure, there’s bingo, sing-alongs, and exercise because there are some residents who love bingo, sing-alongs, and exercise!
But Highgate also offers a variety of other activities and outings to cater to the many unique interests it’s residents have. Highgate’s Life Enhancement Specialists have devoted themselves to helping every resident live a life of purpose. This means that the team really gets to know their residents — their stories, their families, their interests and their passions — so that no matter what age or what ailment, they can be supported in living a meaningful and fulfilling life.
"Our philosophy is that we can do just about anything," says Christal Seitz, Life Enhancement Coordinator at Highgate in Bellingham. "It might be heavily adapted, but if it exists and we can get to it, I'm going to try to get it done."
That means the Highgate teams have orchestrated a blend of “old favorites” and “creative new ideas” into their recreation programs. Here are some of the activities and outings Highgate residents have enjoyed in their spare time — now that someone else is taking care of the cooking, cleaning, and laundry responsibilities.
Choir and Music Trivia
Anita loves to listen to music and knows almost every lyric to every song from her era. Libby was a concert pianist and says listening to good music takes her back to happy times. Planning a choir and trivia activity was a no-brainer for the Highgate at Temecula Life Enhancement Coordinator.
“We have entertainers come to play music and together we all sang, ‘You Are My Sunshine,’” Kimberley Jimenez says. “To hear them sing in unison, to see them genuinely happy, uplifted, and socializing together — it is a beautiful thing. We can all join in together — it lifts our spirits and makes us joyful.”
“Roberta says that she needs to walk every day to feel like herself,” Seitz says. “While walking in the halls is better than nothing, it’s always worth it to get out in nature and breathe some fresh air. It’s a great way to start the day, adds to the routine of the morning, and is a good time to get to know people better.”
Reading to Cottage Residents
Years ago, Lonnie had a family member who lived in the Highgate at Bellingham memory care community, known as The Cottage. She had a regular routine of coming to visit him and reading aloud to him, which quickly turned into reading to small groups of residents.
When Lonnie moved into Highgate herself, she was excited to return to reading for Cottage residents.
“Lonnie has had some amazing sessions reading with our Cottage residents and has really made connections and had great conversations with folks who she probably would never have met otherwise,” Seitz says. “She’s not only reading interesting stories, but also serving our community, helping others, and meeting new people.”
Bob, a Highgate at Prescott resident, was telling stories about some of his favorite hikes and lakes when the Life Enhancement Coordinator had an idea: Let’s have a picnic! Kelly Litchfield orchestrated a conversation with management to discuss food options, table decorations, and the time of the picnic. A few weeks later at Lynx Lake, the community hosted a picnic.
“There were so many park guests who approached us and asked about our group and commended us on this activity,” Litchfield says. “One of the onlookers said her mom lives in another community in Tucson and they never do outings like this."
During Lyleth’s younger years, she was a talented oil painter, but it had been many years since she’d picked up a brush.
When she moved to Highgate at Yakima, the Life Enhancement Coordinator knew the collaborative art program would be the right atmosphere for Lyleth to paint again without feeling overwhelmed by a blank canvas.
“Lyleth felt so proud to be painting again,” Courtney Reifel says. “She told me she didn’t think she could do it anymore. The joy that was expressed on her face at that moment was priceless. Many of our other residents have the same response. They often tell me they are not artists, but by only having to work on a section of the art, it gives them a chance to express their creativity while feeling accomplished and not overwhelmed.”
“We held our Afternoon in Vegas event, and Silvia loved playing blackjack,” says Billings’ Life Enhancement Coordinator, Melle Sands-Snyder. “Her excitement had the mood of the whole table elevated and happy. It brought out a new side of Silvia, who is normally quiet and very shy. She even helped several other residents learn how to play. She has really come out of her shell. It was super exciting to see.”
The event attracted over 60 residents, and afterward, many requested a regular poker hour at the community.
“They love the excitement of playing poker, socializing with their neighbors, and playing a game that is a little more of a challenge and chance,” Sands-Snyder says. “Anytime we tap into the interest of our residents, it is such an exciting feeling. We literally hit a gold mine with our event.”
When Ivy’s kids were little, she was a leader for their Boy Scout troop and would have to find different crafts to do with the boys. She also enjoyed working on crafts at home with her kids.
At Highgate at Great Falls, the Life Enhancement Coordinator makes sure she has access to the Crafting Corner.
“She loves being able to make something beautiful that she can display,” Tawna Wittenberg says. “We had a painting class recently that she thoroughly enjoyed. She likes to be able to decorate for upcoming holidays and events with things she creates. This activity is beneficial to our community because we can take a few things and turn them into a work of art. Even when they don’t think they can do something, this proves they are capable of anything they put their mind to.”
Thriving in Assisted Living
At Highgate, we believe the secret to living well, well into old age, is engagement.
Unlike in nursing homes, which cater to frailer, more vulnerable adults in a clinical setting, assisted living is a social setting that provides a calendar that typically offers activities that cover a wide variety of interests.
Highgate residents have ridden in hot air balloons for the first time in their life, gone indoor skydiving, and flown an airplane — just to name a few things.
To learn more about how Highgate, and assisted living in general, can help your loved one live each day to the fullest, download our guide, Is Assisted Living Just Like the Nursing Home?