By Steve Moran
I belong to several senior living activity director/life enrichment director groups on Facebook, and fairly frequently, group members will post their monthly, weekly, daily calendars for others to learn from or make better.
I was looking at one today that went something like this:
10:00: Morning coffee
10:15: Chair exercise
11:00: Reading activity
11:30: Word puzzles
11:30: Jigsaw puzzle time
1:15: Piano entertainment
2:15: Free time
2:30: Drive around town activity
3:00: Snack time
3:15: Wii bowling
Shoot Me Now
I am not at all critical of the activity director; this person is doing their best. They are doing what is expected of them and what they are taught. But if that is what I have to look forward to, if that is the best senior living has to offer, then I want no part of it.
Just Shoot Me
It Can Be Better
I know that this calendar was designed to give people options and that not everyone is going to do everything.
But it also looks nothing like my life today. Not even a little bit. Not even on the weekends or days off. This list is too structured; it is all so hedonistic (pure self-indulgence). There is zero on this list that actually asks me to make the world a better place, to be creative, to expand my mind. It is all simply about biding time until I die.
As Ordinary and Extraordinary As Possible
I want my senior living experience to be both as ordinary and as extraordinary as possible. I want it to be ordinary in that I want to get up when I get up. I want to plan my own activities with friends and family. I want variety and options, similar to what I have today.
I want it to be extraordinary because I have time, wisdom, and money that I never had before. I want to be able to use those talents to create, to give back, to make a difference in the lives of others. What if there were a way that I could even contribute to the lives of frontline workers in my own community?
In mid March 2022, we published a piece by Jack Cumming, titled simply “A True Story,” about tipping in senior living — or more accurately about residents “giving back” to staff. It is an article that continues to haunt my mind. We have in senior living two distinct classes of individuals.
Residents, who have been successful enough to afford senior living and who often want to have great last acts.
We also have frontline workers who are doing the most noble and hardest work that can be done in senior living and for a wage that does not provide a high quality of life.
Then we have all kinds of “rules” that make it near impossible for residents and their families to have a real impact on these hard-working heroes.
When I Am Old Enough …
When I am old enough to move into senior living, I want to continue to create and contribute. I don’t want that activity calendar above to be my life, my last act. I bet that is not what you want either.
It is for this reason that we are hosting Evolve 2022 as a way for the industry to reimagine life enrichment, to turn it into something that you and I would be proud to live out. I hope you and your team will join us.