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A Month in the 1940s: Staying Active and Engaged in a Personal and Memory Care Community

by The Heritage of Green Hills

A Month in the 1940s: Staying Active and Engaged in a Personal and Memory Care Community

The calendar may say January 2021, but for the residents of the personal and memory care neighborhood at the Heritage of Green Hills, a healthy life plan community in Shillington, Pa., it’s been the 1940s all month long.

“Every month, we base many of our group activities on a central theme,” explains Heritage’s Arts and Entertainment Coordinator, Heather Setley. “Throughout January, we looked back at that richly historical time when many of our residents were children.”

Through crafts, games and fun discussions, the residents have explored the decade’s fashions, trends, famous boxers, architecture and other topics, often while listening to music from the period.

“Most of our programming has a musical component,” says Setley. “We can access memories of the songs we grew up with, tapping our feet and singing along, even when there’s a level of dementia.”

Setley, a certified activities director, brings more than 20 years of experience in elder care to her work at the Heritage.

Engaging all the senses is important to Setley, too. “We held a tasting of retro candies that were around then, like York Peppermint Patties and Almond Joys,” says Setley.

Of course, residents are kept up to date on today’s headlines, too. “Every morning, we gather together to talk about the news headlines, with a strong focus on the positive. And we did take a break from the 1940s on Dr. King’s birthday to talk about his legacy and read the historic Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

The personal and memory care neighborhood offers its residents plenty a variety of different things to do every day no matter the month’s theme, including daily gentle exercise classes and clubs. Simple cooking classes, parties, games, movies, sing-a-longs and art activities are all regularly offered. Eagles and Phillies games on the big screen are always a big hit, too.

“Getting out is important, too. We take a weekly scenic drive for a change of pace and explore the area,” says Setley. “Sometimes we’ll go to a nature-filled setting, while other times we’ll head out to someone’s old neighborhood. Our bus driver is retired from PennDot — he knows all the routes, he can’t get lost and he takes requests.”

Personalization and Respect for the Individual

Self-determination is an important part of life for residents in the personal and memory care neighborhood at the Heritage. “We always leave it up to our residents as to whether they want to join us for any activity. If they prefer to be alone, we’ll check in on them, and offer them materials for self-directed activities, like yarn for knitting, reading materials and art supplies. But our residents are adults. The choice is theirs.”

Setley gets to know each resident and their family as they move in as part of a formal assessment. One such assessment led to the weekly live-streaming of services, allowing a resident couple to worship with the congregation of their home church.

“We work hard to meet each of our residents’ emotional and social needs and preferences,” explains Melissa Oley, the community’s Marketing & Admissions Liaison. “We respect their individuality.

Both the independent living and personal & memory care neighborhoods enjoy The Heritage of Green Hill’s signature Well By Design program. This mind, body and spirit initiative offers activities, classes, events and services focusing on eight dimensions of wellness — social, physical, intellectual, emotional, vocational, spiritual, environmental and health services.


Staying safe and engaged during COVID-19

Though COVID-19 has proven challenging, the staff at the Heritage has gotten creative in order to keep residents engaged and spirits up. Setley says, “we had an outdoor concert series in the parking lot, with all sorts of performers coming in to entertain us, including folk musicians, bands, singers and an Elvis impersonator. And every once in a while, we print out pictures of silly mouths and we attach them to our masks to get everyone smiling.”

Keeping residents connected with loved ones is also a priority. “In warm weather, we had a large tent where families and residents met together safety,” says Oley. “Now that it’s colder, we’ve set up our conference room in such a way that loved ones can visit residents inside comfortably, but still at the recommended distance.”

Resident and employee vaccinations are expected to begin at the Heritage in early February.

February’s theme in the personal and memory care neighborhood will be the beautiful city of Venice, complete with crafts, trivia, Italian poetry and an olive oil tasting.

“We’re also planning an afternoon ‘masked ball’ in honor of Venetian Mardi Gras,” says Setley. “We’ll set up a photo booth and themed props. Our holiday photo booths are always a big hit with everyone.”

January 24-30 is National Activity Professionals Week, a time to honor the diligent, enthusiastic, compassionate workers who plan, organize and run the vital activities programs in geriatric settings.