Creating a New Perspective on Senior Living Communities
Senior Living communities host events to cultivate intergenerational friendships
Seniors and children, two groups that typically interact infrequently, have much to be learned from one another.
Research has proven that the health of seniors improves when they spend time with children. According to a study from University of California San Francisco, isolated elders had a 59 percent greater risk of mental and physical decline than their more social counterparts.
Kids also experience a number of benefits from spending time with seniors. Studies indicate that children who spend time with the elderly develop higher self-esteem and better emotional and social skills, among other benefits.
Leading PMCs are making strides to bring these two groups together, changing the negative perception many have of senior living communities and showcasing them as pleasant, welcoming places.
Case in point: the hundreds of kids who masqueraded about Whitley Place Assisted Living for an early trick or treat on Halloween.
Residents dish out the candy at first trick or treat event
Elderly residents sitting outside their apartments seemed thrilled to dip into their candy buckets and dish out kindness.
Parents brought infants and older children to the community’s first Halloween trick or treat. The doors opened at 6 p.m. and a steady stream of families passed an impressive fall display of hay bales and pumpkins to wind their way down halls where residents waited with candy. Soon after opening, cars overflowed from Whitley Place’s small parking lot into the neighborhood across the street. About 40 minutes into the event, staff frantically looked to refill residents’ buckets with cookies or other sweets from the kitchen. Four large tubs of candy were all but gone.
But candy bars, suckers, and other bite-size sweets didn’t seem that important. Many of the people from nearby subdivisions were happy to have a safe place in Keller, Texas, a community of about 39,000 neighboring Fort Worth, to bring their kids for a treat.
“Whitley Place said they needed more bags of candy, but our kids are too young to care, so we just enjoyed saying hello to the residents,” said resident Dennis Cather, who along with his wife, Shawn, brought their 10-month-old son and 2-year-old daughter.
Social media posts spread the word
The event was an unofficial celebration of the fresh remodel to the community, which caters to senior adults and memory care residents. Whitley Place, owned by Capital Senior Living, recently got a fresh coat of paint, new carpet, an expanded library and coffee shop and an upgraded TV room.
Executive Director Corrie Wells, who took over Whitley Place about a year and a half ago, organized the event in mid-September. She had orchestrated similar Halloween outings at each of the three Capital Senior Living communities she managed prior to arriving in Keller.
Wells said the event caught wildfire after the City of Keller posted it on Facebook as a place to bring the kiddos for an evening that’s “sure-to-be a heart-warming experience.” The event also got mileage from notices at area churches, as well as emails to the residents’ family and friends. Families were asked to donate candy, but Whitley Place purchased some of the goodies when making supply runs leading up to the event.
Staff was caught a little off guard when trick or treaters showed about 10 minutes before the doors opened. About 10 minutes after the opening, the parking lot was jammed. Inside, visitors were directed one-way down the main corridors to apartments. Smaller groups were taken to the memory care unit where residents painted in whiskers and kitty noses greeted children.
Experience changes perspective of assisted living communities
And the evening wasn’t just for the kids. Residents and parents got in on the fun. The Blackwell folks had a ball; dad wore his paper card-playing fedora and enjoyed handing out candy and my usually quiet mother grinned from ear to ear. She particularly enjoyed the hug from the Blue Ranger.
“It’s really something for the residents,” Wells said. “We know they can’t go out and enjoy Halloween and the grandkids don’t always come. It’s something they can enjoy, and I think the kids get a kick out of seeing the residents.”
She said the event is a great way to get the community involved and offer an inside look into today’s assisted living lifestyle.
Cather said the experience changed his perspective on assisted living communities, which were uncomfortable for him when visiting family while growing up in Oklahoma. Whitley Place, he said, was clean and appeared updated and welcoming.
“It was really a nice experience,” he said. “It was fun. Too bad the idea was so popular.”
Wells wasn’t sure how much candy was on hand but said staff will start accepting donations and securing more sweetness earlier for next year’s event.
No matter the season, senior living communities can always find a way to enhance the living experience for residents and engage the community.