On Active Senior Living: A Conversation with Wendy Switzer, Activities Director
As you may have noticed, there is always lots to do at
Heritage Place. We strive to make Heritage Place an active senior living
community where residents feel engaged, challenged, and happy. This month, we
interviewed our Activities Director, Wendy Switzer, about how she found herself
in the role, her process in choosing activities, and some of her favorite resident
How long have you
worked at Heritage Place?
I’ve been with
Heritage Place since June 2015, and the experiences I’ve had and the
friendships I’ve made in that short time is nothing short of phenomenal.
How did you find
yourself as an activities director?
It all started about
four years ago. At the time, I was a host for a local television program and
also worked as a guest lecturer for several trade exhibitions. After just a
short six months as an activities director, I forged a strong connection with
the senior living communities in Bountiful. I felt such a special rapport with
the residents that I resigned from my work in television.
What’s your favorite
thing about working with seniors?
I love listening to
their stories. Every member within the active senior living community has a
unique story to tell. This includes fond childhood memories and milestone life
achievements. What’s even more gratifying is that I get to be a part of these
people’s stories moving forward. Heritage Place, after all, is a foundation for
How do you choose
activities to include on your calendar each month?
Our active senior
living community is comprised of residents from all walks of life. I frequently
speak with the residents to get to know their interests and backgrounds and use
the information I gather to come up with events where these diverse skillsets
can be put to good use. If one resident enjoys knitting, for example, and other
members indicate an interest, then we may hold a knitting class with that
resident leading the group. We have actually done this many times with our own
residents leading the class for a variety of subjects, such as yoga, cooking,
painting, and scrapbooking.
Do you take
suggestions from residents?
Absolutely! After all,
the events are for them, so their input matters a great deal. In our active
senior community, here in Bountiful, UT, we have many residents who are still
in their vibrant 20s at heart. One member actually suggested skydiving a la
George HW Bush (who skydived to celebrate his 90
th birthday), and I
honestly couldn’t tell whether he was joking. Others have suggested equally
dare devilish activities like scuba diving. These are things I would never
think of doing, and I’m half their age!
What are some
favorite activities or hobbies amongst residents that surprised you?
I was surprised at the
artistic backgrounds that many of them came from. One resident created art
pieces that were featured in a gallery. Another was an illustrator for numerous
Many residents also
love playing various types of card games, and I’m not talking about poker or Go
Fish, I’m talking about games I’d never even heard of and had to quickly learn,
such as pinochle. Needless to say, I’ve lost almost every time I’ve played.
What’s been your
favorite program to put on?
Many of the residents
indicated that they would love to go on a cruise. Of course, as much as we’d
love to take everyone on vacation, there would be too many safety issues to be
able to bring this to fruition. I decided then that we would instead bring the
cruise to Heritage Place. For an entire week, our
assisted living community in Utah became a ‘cruise trip’ around the world.
Each day the cruise
would stop by a different ‘port’ at a select destination, and we would change
the community to reflect the customs and culture of that place. It was a lot of
work, and my department worked overtime to make it happen, but it was worth
every effort. The look of awe in the faces of the residents when they saw their
assisted living community transformed into a new country was priceless, and I
would do it again in a heartbeat.
I can’t stress enough
how important such activities are for the health,
memory, and well-being of the community members. Such events are also not
possible without the collaborative effort of a dedicated staff.
It’s clear how much consideration and effort Wendy and other
staff members put forth to make Heritage Place the engaging community that it
is. Stay tuned for more staff features and insights about our community.
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