ENGAGEMENT Company: Senior Living Communities Program: Joining Older and Younger (JOY)

Spending time with children and young people can lift the spirits, boost mood, and raise energy for aging adults. In November 2017, Senior Living Communities launched its Joining Older and Younger (JOY) pro- gram to bring the two generations togeth- er in unique ways. The program partners with outside youth organizations to plan intergenerational activities both within and outside the communities. JOY focuses on social and wellness ac-

tivities that are equally rewarding for both older and younger participants. Shoot for the Birdie is a wellness activity that partners residents with members of a high school girls’ golf team for a bimonthly miniature golf competition. Other wellness activities include monthly pickleball games with mid- dle school students and a Nutrition 101 se- ries presented by college undergrads. Social activities in the JOY initiative in-

clude SAGE (Successful Aging and inter- Generational Experiences), which paired college students with residents who have the background to mentor them in their chosen career fi elds. Many of the relation- ships continued after the offi cial seven-week mentoring period was over. In another JOY social activity, residents read to preschool students while dressed as characters from the books they were reading. The increased interaction with younger

generations has enlivened the culture in the communities. Residents are invigorated by the energy and enthusiasm of the children and youth who participate. Those who rarely get to see their own grandchildren or great-grandchildren appreciate the chance to spend time with kids. This has proven to be eff ective in wellness and social pro- gramming, resulting in higher attendance, healthier lifestyles, and the fulfi llment of Senior Living Communities’ goal of pro- moting a “Weller Life.” As the program has grown, resident participation remains strong. Involvement of partner organiza- tions has also increased as word spreads about the initiative.

46 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE MARCH/APRIL 2019 In turn, the young people have become

more appreciative of older adults and more comfortable with the senior living environment. They’ve also seen that old- er people–including those in senior living communities–can still be active, vibrant, and fun-loving. Overall, JOY has left a lasting positive

impact on participants at both ends of the age spectrum. The initiative has helped res- idents and young people form strong bonds that benefi t everyone. It also helps engage residents with the wider community around them. In some cases, the parents of young participants have gotten involved in the pro- gram as well. “There’s nothing like seeing different

generations interact, grow, and learn from one another,” said Aimee Simmons, vice president of programming and training for Senior Living Communities. “We’ve seen connections formed that have changed the lives of both the younger generations and our residents and members. The JOY pro- gram has grown tremendously both with

our social programming and our wellness programming and we can’t wait to see how it continues to evolve.” Key to the program’s success is its focus on long-term partnerships rather than one- time events. Spending time together on a regular basis forms the bonds that build last- ing relationships and can change lives and outlooks. To achieve this goal, wellness and social directors at each community are en- couraged to develop long-term partnerships with local youth organizations. Each com- munity chooses its partner organizations to suit its specifi c needs. Plans are to continue expanding the pro-

gram by growing participation from both residents and youth organizations. Specifi c plans include growing the wellness side of the initiative with an extensive aquatics pro- gram. Aquatics are very benefi cial in help- ing older people improve balance, strength, and appetite. The search is on to fi nd new organizations to partner with in order to keep residents and young people connected and engaged across generations.


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