To say that volunteers matter in our Assisted Living communities is an understatement. We rely on people with good hearts to contribute to creating the type of environment where seniors can feel a sense of belonging and share an emotional connection. Many times, the grown son or daughter of a resident offers to help out. In other cases, we hear from performers or those who simply want to do what they can.
It takes a very special person to put selfish pursuits aside and work toward improving the lives of others, but volunteering offers surprising benefits while providing a sense of purpose. There’s so much bad in the world today. Volunteers restore a balance, even with simple gestures of kindness, making a statement about maintaining our humanity to one another and changing things for the better.
Monique Dykstra, Regency’s Activities Director at Regency Retirement Village in Huntsville, said the benefits of volunteering are many. These include:
It feels deeply fulfilling to know you’ve made a difference in the quality of someone’s life. One does not have to follow Hinduism or Buddhism to comprehend the concept of Karma. That is, believing that good things come to those who are good people. In essence, everything we do creates a corresponding energy that comes back to us in some form or another. In Christianity, this may be expressed as following the Golden Rule, treating today’s seniors in the way we hope we are treated when the day arrives to be in the same situation.
A person does not necessarily have to be religious to volunteer, but a spirit of volunteerism is central to the tenets of most theologies. Volunteering is the act of expressing our belief in a greater good, and many of the people who join us in our mission share a devotion to this cause. It is, thus, a joyful opportunity to worship with our senior residents. Stepping up to help is testimony through action.
Our volunteers know that seniors are precious to society and offer great wisdom. Time spent with them is an education. Our volunteers form personal relationships with residents and each other. Committing to shared activities cures loneliness and creates a chance to make new friends.
Younger people who want to work in programs that serve seniors gain a more complete understanding of the circumstances that they encounter in their daily lives. Being around them regularly deepens this comprehension of how to best serve aging people.
The manner with which a city or town treats its senior citizens speaks volumes about it. When visiting an unfamiliar city, one simply grasps when the people who live there genuinely care about aging populations. Volunteering at Regency or another Assisted Living community enhances the quality of life for the seniors who reside within. It may be entirely unspoken, yet this community pride shines through when people visit. It is a piece of the puzzle that forms to complete a vision of a place people want to live.
Often, our volunteers are performers who visit to entertain our residents with their talents with music, magic shows, or other presentations. Receiving praise and handshakes from an appreciative audience does wonders for self-esteem.
Particularly for youth who volunteer at Regency, this action gives them opportunities to step up and take charge that reap rewards later in life in a variety of situations. On a purely utilitarian level, volunteering looks great on a resume and demonstrates to prospective professional references that you are a person worth vouching for when the time arrives.
At Regency, we make a special effort to recognize our volunteers because we love and appreciate them. The least we can do is bring attention to their good works, express our gratitude, and enjoy some fellowship.
Dykstra said the Huntsville community enjoys a strong base of volunteers, including groups involved in weekly, monthly or quarterly activities.
“Our volunteers range from members of the Huntsville Symphony doing live performances in the dining room and Ascension Lutheran with church service to Huntsville Dream Center showing up to help us serve over 400 people for Christmas, and Donna, Kathy or Tom (all residents’ family members) calling Bingo on the weekend. Of course, we also have four or five live church services each weekend, all performed by various churches from the local community. This doesn’t count the irregular volunteers such as the HSV Youth Symphony, art classes, pop-up concerts and more,” Dykstra said.
Volunteering as a family also gives children a firsthand opportunity to experience how good it feels to help other people and enact change for the better. Stress, anger, and anxiety fade when we become part of a solid support system, and researchers find that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Plus, children are more likely to grow up with a positive view of life and a sense of pride and identity. When those kids grow up and their parents are the ones in Assisted Living, they will understand the importance of giving back and staying involved. To learn more about becoming a volunteer or resident at one of our communities, contact the local Executive Director or dial (615) 598-0245 to speak to one of our community contacts for Regency Senior Living.
Photo: © Goodluz / SOURCE
Blog © 2019 Regency Senior Living Ooltewah TN 37363
Many older Americans look forward to relaxing after retiring from a job and seeing their children all grown up with little ones of their own. For some, the prospect of peace and quiet can feel dull and leave them with the feeling their lives have lost a sense of purpose. Ironic that life is about more than punching a clock forty hours a week, yet some feel lost without a workday grind. It’s also unhealthy and potentially depressing to settle into a sedentary lifestyle. Without much to do, life starts to feel pretty empty.
For those who want their golden years of retirement to be infused with higher meaning, Regency offers a few tips:
Identify what makes you happy
Experts point to the power of questions to discover our purpose. Ask some questions and be honest with the answers. What has always made you excited to wake up in the morning? What have you always wanted to do when you had the time and resources? What did you enjoy or find satisfying about full-time work? If it is the work itself, many seniors can find part-time work, which can help to make retirement savings go further. If it is the fellowship of colleagues or the sense of mission, these are intangible things we can often find through alternative channels than just a workplace.
Break Out of a Routine
Someone struggling to adjust to retirement living may simply feel comfortable following a daily routine. We are creatures of habit, after all. As scary as change may be, doing the same thing, day after day, becomes boring. Changing things up can lead to greater happiness and life satisfaction. We adapt to new places and faces by reassuring ourselves that the novel will soon become familiar and strangers will soon become friends. All it takes is repetition and being bold enough to start a conversation to discover common interests. Within a matter of days, seniors can try new hobbies, check out new restaurants, visit new places, travel, and more.
Stay Active (Doing the Fun Stuff You Never Had Time for Before)
While everyone enjoys taking periods to rest, some people scoff at the idea of slowing down completely. Working kept us busy, but there are plenty of ways to keep in motion, from helping others to finding joy in recreational activities. After a long life of taking care of others, seniors can let the staff at an Assisted Living community take care of things like laundry, cleaning house and cooking. Their time is better spent on doing the enjoyable tasks rather than these chores. Exercise equipment and game areas keep the body and mind sharp. “Fun” means different things to different people: For one senior, it will mean hunting or fishing; another, reading books or writing a blog.
Creativity finds outlets in the form of painting or drawing, creating music, writing a journal or a blog, cooking, etc. Don’t get too hung up on whether people like something you create. Praise feels good, but creation is its own reward. At Regency, we offer craft classes for residents to indulge their imaginations and try new things.
Focus on Others
We can explore the art of conversation and develop relationships and with family and friends once life is not so hectic. For many, this can mean spending quality time with grown children and grandchildren. Even the person who has everything he or she could possibly ever need can find purpose in doing things to benefit others and the community. Volunteering for a charity, becoming active in politics, mentoring a young person, becoming an advocate for a good cause, or serving on a Resident Council are all ways to serve others. Use new-found free time to reconnect with old friends on Facebook or make new ones in a senior living community, like Regency.
Consider Retirement Living Options
If aging in place in the home leaves a senior feeling bored and lonely, family should consider a Senior Living Community that offers activities to fill time and new friendships to be made. Beyond the safety and convenience this offers, we all yearn to spend time with people our own age. Support and involvement matter greatly when it comes to finding happiness and purpose in later years.
Indeed, there is a lot more to life than collecting a paycheck. It’s never too late to reinvent oneself and regain a sense of purpose, wherever we find ourselves in retirement days.
To learn more about Regency Senior Living, call (615) 598-0245.
Written by: Steven Stiefel
It’s never too early to plan holiday celebrations that take the needs of your senior loved ones into consideration. The holidays can be a tough time for many seniors as they may feel lonely, isolated, or extra aware of health issues that they didn’t have in years past. With a little preparedness, you can help them beat the winter blues and create a wonderful holiday season.
Make sure that you senior loved one has plenty to look forward to, even when you’re busy handling other aspects of holiday planning. Perhaps they can be in charge of special outings or activities with the grandkids, or can handle some meal prep or shopping. Elderly people, especially those with memory care issues, need to have plenty to anticipate and focus on. You may not be able to share quality time constantly during the hectic holidays, by try to schedule a little something as often as possible. One on one conversation might be less stressful, and there’s no better gift than your undivided attention.
You can also use this time together to ensure your loved one is doing well and that his or her needs are being met. Just as the comparing this holiday to previous years’ might be a point of sadness for seniors, it can also be a point of comparison for you to see how their health and mental wellness really are. If you see your loved one struggling with mobility or find you are having to make adjustments for him or her so they can get around, manage basic tasks, or remember things, you might want to consider a retirement community.
Senior housing and assisted living are great options for seniors who need a little extra help but don’t want to lose their independence. They can also help seniors avoid stress and depression by providing plenty to see, do and look forward to and plenty of social interaction. Retirement facilities also help residents stay healthy by providing well prepared, nutritious meals, exercise classes, and opportunities to garden, walk, and more.
This holiday season, celebrate the seniors in your life, and check in to ensure their quality of life is the best it can be as we say farewell to 2013 and begin a new year. By planning ahead for the holidays, you’ll better be able to anticipate your loved one’s needs both at family celebrations and in the months to come.
If you find yourself wishing you could interact more with your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, you might consider exploring the possibilities offered by modern technology. All across the world, people are using things like Skype and social networking to connect with family and friends from whom they are separated by great distances.
It only makes sense that seniors would tap into the power of such technology to be involved in planning holiday get-togethers and simply having conversations about shared interests to pass the time. There's no reason why you can't watch some of the same TV programs as friends and add your opinion and reactions to plot twists.
Here are 5 ways to stay connected to friends and family using technology:
As great as a phone call is, texting is where it's at these days, especially with teens. Quick and concise, a short message typed on a smartphone may be more enthusiastically received than a voice call that requires us to be in a quiet place and focus all of our attention on listening/speaking. That probably sounds cold and impersonal, but just think of the luxury this gives family to read your text and discreetly respond while they are sitting at work or shopping in a noisy store.
Use Email for times when you have more to say than you can convey in a simple text message. Setting up email is as easy as opening a Yahoo or Google account and finding out what your loved ones' email addresses are so you can send them a message. Very few people take the time to sit down and create a handwritten letter anymore. Email allows us to quickly express what we need to tell others, so bear that in mind when emailing loved ones. Keep it brief if you want to have your message read. The longer, more detailed conversation you want to have can flow from a back-and-forth dialogue this opens in follow-up responses. Email's also great for sending photos or other files. These days, you don't even have to own a computer to send and receive email – just a mobile phone.
SKYPE OR FACETIME
Imagine spending 10 minutes making silly faces with your granddaughter or reading a picture book to your grandson. On the website Grandparent.com, author Barbara Graham writes, "Seeing the kids on a computer screen is not the same as hugging, snuggling, tickling, or kissing them, but it is an enormous improvement over mere phone calls, especially when the little ones can't yet carry on a conversation.
People today love sharing their lives on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and other platforms. Even if you don't talk directly to someone that often, you can typically get a sense of what's going on in their life as the channel broadcasts their written thoughts, their photos, even what music they are listening to. Some social networks include chat components that function similar to texting. Even if you don't have personal accounts, many Regency facilities have Facebook Pages that allow family to see what activities are going on.
If your grown children are regularly taking photos, they can create online galleries and invite you to view them at any time. You can add your own photos to the shared family gallery, creating a virtual scrapbook. On the website Grandparent.com, author Sharon Lovejoy writes, "When you ask your grandchildren to show you what their lives are like by taking pictures of their friends, pets, schools, or trips, you will surely get a response. The next time the kids visit, you can talk about the pictures together." Photo sharing is a way to passively connect with people even if you aren't directly exchanging back and forth messages that often.
These are 5 of the ways you can use modern technology to have a larger presence in the lives of loved ones when they can't visit you in person as often as you'd like to see them. If you have grown children who accommodate your desire to look into their family life and you aren't too intimidated by technology, there's no reason why your interactions can't extend beyond that all-too-precious time when you get to see them in person.
About 12% of Tennessee seniors suffer from Alzheimer's disease, which took 2,440 lives in the state in 2010. That represents the fifth highest Alzheimer's death rate in America and a 138% increase in Alzheimer's deaths since 2000.
Nationally, one in every 3 seniors who dies each year has Alzheimer's or another dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Coming to grips with an Alzheimer's diagnosis from a doctor can be pretty terrifying. Some may be in denial or fail to recognize the early stages of the disease. But the sooner reality is accepted, the sooner the senior can share his or her wishes for future decisions and put legal, financial and care plans in place while still able to participate in dialogue with loved ones.
At Regency Senior Living, we let families know they are not along in their struggle, offering memory care services. Our memory care residents enjoy all of the benefits of assisted living at Regency to receive help they need with daily activities, but the caregiver-to-resident ratio is greater to give the senior a more personalized level of care.
We form the care strategy after talking with the resident's family to learn what is important to them. We believe that guided independence helps a person in memory care treatment maintain their dignity. We focus on helping them retain their skills through personalized activities and respect their privacy.
Regency works hand-in-hand with the local Alzheimer's Association to assist in continued education of our staff, hosting support groups for our families, and educating people in the Chattanooga area.
The association is organizing the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer's in Chattanooga on Sept. 20th at the Tennessee RiverPark. A walk event in Cleveland will be Sept. 27th at the Cleveland Greenway. The event raises money to help advance Alzheimer's support, care and research. To donate and/or participate, visit http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/TN-MidSouth?fr_id=5421&pg=entry or volunteer with Cindy Lowery at (423) 265-3600.
To learn more about Memory Care at Regency Senior Living, visit http://regencyseniorliving.com/chattanooga-senior-living-options or call (615) 598-0245.
Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/
The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
Alzheimer's Reading Room: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/
The New York Times "New Old Age" Blog: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/
Caregiving can be immensely rewarding, with the knowledge that each day you are helping someone to have a richer, fuller, more pleasant life. It can also be immensely challenging, however, taking up time and emotional energy.
It’s not easy to see a loved one struggling with day to day tasks, or facing difficult medical issues. However, there are several steps you can take to be a better caretaker, and to see your role in a more positive light.
Cut yourself some slack. It’s easy to feel the pressure to do everything and take on too much. After all, you are helping to care for someone you care about and who is an integral part of your family. It can be hard to make tough calls, like when to contemplate assisted living, or to predict how you’ll react to unexpected events.
Don’t demand perfection of yourself, but instead give yourself permission to enjoy patience and grace as you navigate the ups and downs of being a caregiver.
Talk through it now. Go ahead and talk to your siblings, spouse, and any other very important persons who need to have a say in your loved one’s care. Have the difficult conversations now about how you will handle medical emergencies and legal matters. Plan ahead for who will have power of attorney, how to handle any assets that would go into probate, and how siblings who live far away and are not in a caretaking role will provide support, whether emotionally, financially, or otherwise.
By tackling these sometimes thorny issues up front, you can know ahead of time what to do in any given situation, and make decisions while on solid mental and emotional footing.
Plan ahead. How would you take on any other big project at work or at home? Strategize, make a list, and figure out what the best way to tackle the task at hand. Caretaking is no different. Make sure everything will run smoothly by putting items on your calendar ahead of time, making a medication schedule (if applicable), organize delivery of any regularly used supplies like oxygen or diabetes testing strip and lancets. The more you can automate and pre-plan, the simpler life will be!
Communicate clearly. Be proactive and upfront when talking with the many professionals involved in your loved one’s care. Physicians, physical therapists, in-home aids, insurance contacts, medical specialists, and more all need to be coordinated. Touch base with each of them regularly, and take plenty of notes. The more you know, the quicker and easier decision making can be, and the easier it will be to juggle medical appointments, prescription schedules, and more.
By jumping in and not letting yourself get overwhelmed, you can keep your caregiving experience positive and effective. As with any other big project, a little organization can go a long way to reducing stress and making any task manageable.
There’s no denying that tastes in housing have changed in the past decade. The same young professionals who bought rambling suburban homes when they started families in the 80s are contemplating retirement, and often want something totally different for their next place to live. Forbes explains that “Boomers buying for the long haul are looking for good access to transit, medical care and recreation; for high-speed Internet access and security systems; and for energy-efficient appliances.”
That’s often very different, and more urban-oriented, than their needs to be near work, in a good school district, or to have plenty of room for the family during their professional years. This is part of the reason so many retirees contemplate downsizing. It gives them some financial gains, fewer maintenance demands, and the opportunity to live somewhere in line with their new lifestyle needs.
If you are considering downsizing as part of your retirement plan, there’s a few things you can do to make it an easy process. For one, it helps to know where you will be downsizing to. Talk to your financial planners and take a look at your accounts—you might be surprised at what options net the biggest gains. Retirement communities can actually be less expensive when you look at the overall cost of your current home, including utilities, gas to commute to the things you like to do, groceries, and more. By deciding first where you will be living, you can then see how much space you will have to work with and what your actual needs will be. For example, if you’re moving to an apartment, townhome, or condo, you may not need the extra large gas grill or the leaf blower in your garage.
In fact, rooms like the garage can be a great place to begin downsizing. Attics, basements, and garages can accumulate a lot of junk over the years that you simply won’t need at your new home. Take old paint cans, oil, light bulbs, and other maintenance leftovers to hazardous materials recycling—your city website can tell you where the drop off for these items is. Then you can move on to things you rarely use—untouched clothes that no longer fit in the back of your closet, children’s games and clothes you no longer need, or extra dishes and kitchen things.
When you’re left with the things you use frequently or are deeply sentimental, you know you are well prepared to downsize! Think of how pleasant life will be when you are surrounded only with your favorite things in a home that’s perfectly suited to your new lifestyle and day to day activities! Get closer to friends, family, and all the fun outings you enjoy while shedding the stress and cost of so many belongings.