By Steve Moran
I have a reader who keeps pressing me to write this article. And since the first time I got the suggestion, I knew I should. But have been reluctant, not wanting to come across as a jerk toward good people who are doing their best.
Not What I Want When I Grow Old
Way too often when I scroll through posts from senior living organizations about residents doing activities or seeing results of resident activities, I want to cry out in frustration, anger, and embarrassment. I see residents doing crafts and activities that I do with my 5th and 6th-grade kids at church.
Crafts made from painted popsicle sticks; tossing “cow chips” at staff members walking around the residents wearing a sort of cow costume; painting plaster of paris objects and art that, if hung on a refrigerator, no one would know wasn’t created by a grade school kid.
Shoot Me First
I cringe at the idea that in another 25 years, when I am 91, I will be offered these things as the best way to live out what might be the last year of my life. I am embarrassed to think that my 93-year-old retired emergency room doctor-father might be asked to do this if he lived in a senior community. Oh, the indignity of it all.
Just Because They Show Up
Just because some residents show up and appear to have a good time does not mean it is a good idea. Some will show up just because they are supposed to. Others will show up because even a stupid activity is better than boredom.
Think about it, how many times have you watched a TV show or a movie that you were not all that excited about because you were bored and didn’t know what else to do?
I often hear about how in many communities bingo is the resident favorite and that if bingo were eliminated, there would be riots in the hallway. Very well true, but is it possible that it is their favorite only because other activities are even less appealing?
The Marketing Killer
I find myself wondering how many sales have been lost. How many people are completely turned off by senior living because when they see older people engaged this way, they think “Shoot me, first!”. I believe these photos and videos that are so proudly posted are, for consumers, a huge turn-off. I mean really, how many times have you heard a family member say their loved one can hardly wait to move in so they can start playing with popsicle sticks, paint, and glue?
Life Enrichment Is the Low Hanging Fruit of Senior Living
We will get this right when our life enrichment leader is the highest-paid person in the community and they have a budget big enough to create meaningful, purposeful programming that is worthy of the residents living in the community.
I do see lots of photos and videos of activities that make sense: music, dancing (grown-up dancing), cocktail parties, educational events. Here is one of my favorites:
My simple question for you is this: Would you want to do the activities that are happening in your community? Would you be pleased if your mom or your dad were doing those activities?