What is Life Enrichment?

Regardless of your age, it is important know that you’re part of a larger picture.  Seniors often live with their family members, and during this time, we observe certain behaviors that lead us to encourage our loved one to seek assisted living.  More often than not, we do this for safety reasons, because our loved one has become a danger to themselves or others.

But in the minds of our loved ones, our move to protect their safety may be perceived as the “end of life the way we know it.” Take driving as an example. Many times, our loved one’s right to drive has been taken away because their vision or hearing has changed.  Cognitively, they are aware that they cannot do or remember the things they used to. Thus, their connection to the community, favorite eateries, and shopping has been weakened.

It is the responsibility of the assisted living community to provide activities that rebuild and strength that connection.

What is Life Enrichment?

Life enrichment is making sure that seniors have the best quality of life throughout their golden years.  It’s keeping them part of a bigger picture.

When new residents come into my community, our first “activity” is to sit down with them and let them know how glad I am that they have chosen to be a part of our community.  My Community Relations Director and I always invest a great deal of time learning about their background.  I take priding in connecting with them on a personal level from the moment they arrive.

It is here that the focus on life enrichment begins.

Your loved one needs to feel a connection to someone who knows them and who is interested in their lives.  They want to know someone who is excited to hear the wonderful stories that each of them brings to the table. My objective through our first activities is to build this foundation, ensuring future friendships and connections are that much easier.

Life Enrichment is Viable for All Residents

Regardless of your stage in life, it’s important to have friends.  Assisted living is no different. While a full activities calendar is important, the socialization between residents is the critical component.  Activities should provide peer-to-peer interaction.

Let’s take the example of a recent event. We frequently offer cooking classes. It’s not what we cook, but the process of doing it. For example, we recently made chef salad. Why did I choose chef salad, you may ask? Because it provides team work and it allows a social environment.  If peeling and chopping doesn’t encourage conversation, nothing will!

We ensured that all of the residents were successful at the event, because there are jobs that everyone can do. By working together, the residents created a wonderful meal using teamwork.  I spoke in a previous article about the need to adapt activities so that all may participate.  Our cooking class was pleased to have some residents participate who had dementia. They enjoy the washing of the lettuce and vegetables.

Aside from the feeling of teamwork, the event also strengthened friendships. The residents complimented each other on their area of salad preparation.  It gave them the opportunity to share stories about meals they used to make and cooking tips.  They created a connection that carried through to future events.

It is this continual growth of trust, friendships and community that serves as the basis for life enrichment.

About the Author: Terri Glimcher is a Contributing Writer at Inside Assisted Living and the Activity Director for Summerville at Oak Park Assisted Living, an Emeritus Senior Living property in Clermont, Florida.

  • Jodie

    Terri,
    Great article. I think you have the right ideas about life enrichment. It is so important for all seniors to remain active and enjoy life. Your programs are so inspiring! Keep it up, thanks and a job well done.

  • Jean Lawry

    It really amazes me how dedicated this woman is to enhancing the lives of the elderly. I have been to many assisted livings and not one has done the activities and life enrichment that I hear from Terri. Does she do training anywhere at the present time?Assisted living communities could really benefit from her teachings. How creative to think cooking would bring seniors together! Brilliant work.

  • http://www.regencypk.com Nestor Eligio

    Terri,
    Great article! You have touched the core of what Life Enrichment programs should be. It is the combination of all the aspects of (ADL)
    Active Daily Living a term much used in our industry. Not only is it an activity but gives the resident a stimulating environment.
    Look forward to more articles like this!

  • Shannon

    Good job Terri! Wow, what wonderful things you are doing! You have inspired me. Keep up the good work girl!

  • Terri Glimcher

    @ Thank you very much for the wonderful feedback. I believe that activities are the core of longevity. We need to remain advocates for seniors, whether we are families or choose to work in the senior living industry. Our loved ones deserve the best and it is up to us to see that they get that. I will continue to make that happen for each and every resident ,each and every day.

  • Janice

    I have read the last two articles about activities on your blog and have been amazed that such creativity goes on in Terri’s community. I have an elderly mother now in an assisted living facility. I have been an activity director as well in my younger years. I know the importance of activities in the assisted living facility. I also know that most of the ones I have toured or worked at,do the bare minimum to get by. There are no requirements that say how much activity is required. I think all family members, and I had to do it as well,should make sure that their loved ones are active all the time. Thank you for writing these articles. It is a sign that the times are changing.

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  • http://tenderlovingeldercare.com Linda Abbit

    I wish the assisted living facility my parents lived in had you, Terri, as the Activity Director. Your articles reflect your genuineness and interest in seniors.
    My parents were warmly welcomed into the community — at first. But when they chose not to participate in the activities exactly as planned, the Activity Director there seemed to ignore or exclude them. I get the feeling from your articles that wouldn’t have happened if they lived in one of your AL facilities.
    But I must ask, what degree of personalization can be done if the residents aren’t keen on the activities offered, or if they are too shy to participate in them? There are only so many staff members to work with all the residents.

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