It sometimes becomes difficult for seniors to pursue their long time interests and hobbies. "When it starts to get challenging to do the things they used to like to do, they sometimes feel like giving up," said Erin McCart, activities coordinator for Willows Assisted Living, Reflections Memory Support and Briarwood Health Care at GreenFields of Geneva. "I really enjoy finding ways to bring the joy of doing things they love back into their lives, while also introducing them to new hobbies."
McCart, who began working at GreenFields this summer, said that at one time, she thought she'd become a children's psychologist. After volunteering at retirement communities however, she changed her mind and pursued her Masters degree in gerontology. "I learned that I have a passion for the elderly. They're a lot of fun; they have challenges, but they have so much to offer," she said. "I love learning from their wisdom and experiences."
McCart schedules six or seven programs each day, and while she's always happy when residents bring her ideas and suggestions, she most often surprises them by what she has planned for the day. Simple adaptations and modifications help residents to cook, create art, participate in drumming circles, exercise and cognitive programming and more. Some of the residents have stopped cooking or baking because it's difficult for them to manage some of the tasks. McCart finds ways to cut back on steps and substitute utensils to make the process easier and thus more enjoyable.
One of McCart's favorite activities is laughter yoga. "Our bodies don't know the difference between real and fake laughter. We can fake our way into being happy," she said. "We do different laughter exercises which are silly, but really beneficial. Our bodies release endorphins and other healthy chemicals. Residents come away from class laughing. It helps to relieve pain and stress and just makes you feel great." McCart said that they hold a laughter yoga class on alternating weeks, but really incorporate the practice into every interaction. "There's one resident who greets me every day by saying 'ho ho ha ha ha.' It totally makes my day."
McCart said that helping residents to discover and rediscover engaging activities is rewarding. "I go home with a smile on my face. Every day," she said.
GreenFields is an exceptional LifeCare community offering an ideal location, a retirement lifestyle you'll love, and the most comprehensive plan available for long-term care if ever needed. Sponsored by Friendship Senior Options, GreenFields is a sister community to Friendship Village, the largest retirement community in Illinois and the first to become accredited. GreenFields is located at 0N801 Friendship Way in Geneva. For additional information, visit www.GreenFieldsOfGeneva.org.