More than ten years ago, June and Bob Swanson of Naperville were watching as Monarch Landing was being built. "We came to a meeting here early on and liked what we saw and heard, and decided to put our names on a priority list. I asked how long we could stay on the list because we weren't yet ready to move," Bob said. "In 2008, we decided that it was time. Not because of any issues, but because we were tired of taking care of the house. We moved within a month and have enjoyed it ever since."
Because they moved to Monarch Landing during the community's early days, the Swansons have been very involved with a number of different clubs and activities including the bike club, woodworking program, political awareness committee, computer club, the library and more.
More recently, they became involved with the Monarch Club. June had started exhibiting early signs of Alzheimer's shortly after their move. Medications seemed to help slow the advancement of the disease for several years, but it did progress. Bob decided to enroll her in The Monarch Club, which provides companionship and meaningful staffed activities for residents with challenges that might limit their socialization.
Until June started in the Monarch Club, Bob noted that she'd become increasingly sedentary and lonely. "I could see that she was getting benefits from the Monarch Club almost immediately, and the feedback I got was that she was participating in activities. We did that for a couple of years," he said. "The Monarch Club definitely helps participants to have more social interaction which in turn improves their happiness and outlook on life."
This past fall, June moved from the couple's shared independent living apartment, to a memory support assisted living suite in The Springs at Monarch Landing. "Having been in the Monarch Club helped to ease the transition," Bob said. "She'd made friends at the Monarch Club and she's kept them over in assisted living. The continuity helped with the change."
Equally important was the fact that the presence of the Monarch Club enabled Bob to keep June with him in their independent living apartment for longer. Married for 60 years, this was extremely important to both of them. The Monarch Club provided some respite for Bob's caregiving responsibilities, and a chance for him to continue to pursue his own interests. "One's spouse needs some time to themselves. It's important that they can have their loved one in a safe and comfortable environment where they are kept busy," said Claudette Schmied, adult day program coordinator for the Monarch Club.
Criteria for participating in the Monarch Club can be any number of changes in one's life that are stopping them from participating in activities. "This can include cognitive, vision, hearing, or social skill changes. These might be causing people to isolate themselves," Claudette said.
Activities are designed to enrich cognition as well as promote social skills. "We try to meet everyone's unique needs," said Corrine Bellafiore, Monarch Club assistant. The group will work on puzzles, trivia word jumbles, worksheets, geography and more. As a result, the Monarch Club has proven to actually improve abilities. "We've noticed that the more a person participates, the better their social skills and ability to communicate are," said Corrine. "One participant who wasn't able to say complete sentences now is talking more because there's constant communication going on. Often times they know their cognition is changing which is very scary. But in the Monarch Club, they become more engaged and less fearful. They see that they can fit in and participate."
In addition to activities on campus, Monarch Club is increasingly venturing out, going on field trips to places including the Morton Arboretum. A recent service project took them to Feed My Starving Children where they labeled food packets. "Right now we're working on a project for a shelter in Aurora for families who are looking for work. We're making alphabet books for the kids. It's a way of doing something beyond ourselves," said Claudette.
The benefits of the Monarch Club are clear. "To emerge and engage residents is very positive," concluded Corrine.
Monarch Landing is a Life Plan Community located on a scenic campus in Naperville, Illinois-named "one of America's best places to live and retire" by Modern Maturity, and "the best city for early retirement" by Kiplinger. Monarch Landing offers independent living, promoting a vibrant life style for active seniors. The Springs at Monarch Landing offers assisted living memory support, enriched living, respite, rehabilitation and skilled nursing services, thus providing complete continuing care for seniors. Monarch Landing is owned by Senior Care Development and managed by Life Care Services. For additional information visit www.WelcomeToMonarchLanding.com or www.TheSpringsatMonarchLanding.com.