Fam­ily is the Best Medicine

Area se­nior fa­cil­i­ties invit­ing all ages to join ac­tiv­i­ties, events

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - PETS - BY JEFF LY­TLE

Alo­cal TV com­mer­cial a few years ago set a vi­sion­ary tone. The ad fea­tured a pre­teen boy learn­ing how to dance like a gen­tle­man, de­spite teas­ing by his sis­ters. The big re­veal of his tal­ents came when, at a fam­ily re­union din­ner party, he crossed the pa­tio and asked his grand­mother to dance—at Shell Point, a re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in Fort My­ers. That heart-tug­ging spot was fol­lowed by ads fea­tur­ing a Shell Point grandpa with a huge white mus­tache teach­ing his grand­son about fish­ing and boat knots. To­geth­er­ness and shar­ing are big buzz­words in an in­dus­try once as­so­ci­ated with sep­a­ra­tion and lone­li­ness.

As se­nior liv­ing cen­ters evolve into com­pre­hen­sive com­mu­ni­ties of­fer­ing ev­ery­thing from in­de­pen­dent and as­sisted liv­ing to skilled nurs­ing and mem­ory care, fam­i­lies of clients fig­ure promi­nently in the so­cial and busi­ness plans. Area se­nior com­mu­ni­ties that re­sponded to our queries proudly say that res­i­dents’ adult chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and other fam­ily mem­bers are warmly in­vited to meals and so­cial events at and be­yond their re­tire­ment fa­cil­i­ties’ grounds.

Bruce Rosen­blatt of Bonita Springs, owner and op­er­a­tor of Se­nior Hous­ing Solutions, brings more than 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence ad­vis­ing fam­i­lies on se­nior hous­ing and has a fin­ger on the pulse of a grow­ing lo­cal in­dus­try. “Dur­ing the re­search stage, ques­tions about guest poli­cies, guest fa­cil­i­ties, pri­vate din­ing op­tions and if grand­chil­dren are al­lowed do fre­quently get asked,” says Rosen­blatt. “Fam­i­lies want to know that their par­ents’ new home can still be a place for fam­ily gath­er­ings.’’

Rosen­blatt goes on to ex­plain a core sig­nif­i­cance. “No one wants to live with one age group. Ac­tiv­i­ties that in­clude chil­dren in­ter­act­ing with res­i­dents helps res­i­dents feel young,

and chil­dren learn to ap­pre­ci­ate an older gen­er­a­tion with much to share. We find this es­pe­cially true when chil­dren teach res­i­dents about com­put­ers, smart­phones and even Face­book and Twit­ter.

“There are some com­mu­ni­ties that or­ga­nize ‘se­nior proms’ that in­clude res­i­dents and chil­dren. These are usu­ally a big hit for all. There are other com­mu­ni­ties that will en­gage their vet­er­ans or Holo­caust sur­vivors to share real-life war sto­ries with chil­dren. These al­ways make a last­ing im­pres­sion on every­one,’’ he notes.

Sara McDonald, life­styles man­ager at Bent­ley Care Cen­ter at Vi at Bent­ley Vil­lage in North Naples, says par­tic­i­pa­tion by fam­ily mem­bers is en­cour­aged. “Our life­style depart­ment sends in­vi­ta­tions out when we hold ma­jor events such as hol­i­day and theme par­ties. When we meet with new res­i­dents or have fam­ily meet­ings, we re­it­er­ate that fam­ily is in­vited to par­tic­i­pate in any res­i­dent group ac­tiv­ity. … It’s im­por­tant for our res­i­dents to main­tain a sense of con­ti­nu­ity in their so­cial life with their fam­ily.’’

She adds, “Hav­ing fam­ily mem­bers meet with their loved ones in a so­cial venue sets the stage for qual­ity in­ter­ac­tion. As fam­i­lies and res­i­dents meet each other in our life­style pro­grams, they make friends and de­velop a sense of com­mu­nity. Be­ing so­cial and ac­tive at ev­ery stage of life is a strate­gic way of main­tain­ing health … and a higher qual­ity of life.

“Our most pop­u­lar ac­tiv­ity is our Fri­day af­ter­noon so­cial hour. We of­fer cock­tails, soft drinks, snacks and live mu­sic, with a dif­fer­ent theme and cloth­ing color each week. Some of these fam­i­lies sit to­gether reg­u­larly and form last­ing friend­ships.”

McDonald says vet­er­ans’ events are pop­u­lar. “When we es­tab­lished a vet­er­ans’ wall for our res­i­dents who have served our coun­try, many fam­ily mem­bers were in at­ten­dance. We also hold reg­u­lar com­mu­nity church ser­vices in the Bent­ley Care Cen­ter, where fam­ily and res­i­dents can par­tic­i­pate to­gether.’’

Dana Eiken­berg, di­rec­tor of life­styles at The Ter­races se­nior liv­ing com­mu­nity in Bonita, says fam­i­lies are in­vited to all on- and off-cam­pus ac­tiv­i­ties and more emphasis on that is forth­com­ing. To help get the word out, The Ter­races is us­ing closed-cir­cuit TV and is de­vel­op­ing an on­line app so fam­i­lies can prod par­ents to sign up—or fam­i­lies can make reser­va­tions for them­selves.

Fam­ily-friendly ac­tiv­i­ties run the gamut from shows at the Bar­bara B. Mann Per­form­ing Arts Hall in Fort My­ers to out­ings at gourmet restau­rants and brew pubs, con­certs at Bonita’s River­side Park and tours of the Shangri-La Springs Re­sort & Spa in down­town Bonita, she says.

On the grounds of The Ter­races, fam­ily-primed events in­clude per­form­ers such as ma­gi­cians, and lec­tures, birth­day par­ties and daily meal­times. That is de­signed, Eiken­berg ex­plains, for to­day’s clients and fam­i­lies as well as prospects for the fu­ture.

Dr. Ron­ald T. Garry, a ge­ri­atric physi­cian in Naples, says con­nec­tiv­ity is sim­ply good medicine. “I think it’s es­sen­tial to in­clude fam­i­lies in all as­pects of ag­ing, more im­por­tantly in se­nior hous­ing such as as­sisted liv­ing and skilled nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties. The na­ture of these fa­cil­i­ties leads to more in­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion.

“A sim­ple ex­am­ple is meals be­come very struc­tured such that break­fast is at 8 a.m., lunch at noon and din­ner at 5 p.m. These types of rigid sched­ules don’t al­ways work well with fam­i­lies who

THERE ARE SOME COM­MU­NI­TIES THAT OR­GA­NIZE ‘SE­NIOR PROMS’ THAT IN­CLUDE RES­I­DENTS AND CHIL­DREN. THESE ARE USU­ALLY A BIG HIT FOR ALL.” —Bruce Rosen­blatt, owner and op­er­a­tor of Se­nior Hous­ing Solutions

may still be work­ing. When se­niors are [still liv­ing at their] home, fam­ily mem­bers might be run­ning er­rands—to the su­per­mar­ket, pick­ing up meds—for them that might lead to short but mean­ing­ful vis­its. Most fa­cil­i­ties don’t dis­suade fam­i­lies from join­ing meals but don’t ac­tively pro­mote it as well.’’

The physi­cian ad­vises, “Ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the day can eas­ily in­cor­po­rate fam­ily mem­bers. A good ex­am­ple would be tai chi, which is not age spe­cific. When it comes to de­men­tia care, this be­comes so much more im­por­tant. The Alzheimer’s pa­tient who might be ag­i­tated be­cause he or she doesn’t fully un­der­stand what is go­ing on, might be im­me­di­ately com­forted by see­ing a fa­mil­iar face—even if the pa­tient can’t re­call the per­son’s name.’’

Garry is es­pe­cially sup­port­ive and com­pli­men­tary of the work done by the lo­cal Alzheimer’s Sup­port Net­work Inc. The non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion helps all care­givers, in­clud­ing fam­i­lies who choose in-home care.

Shell Point mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Lynn Sch­nei­der re­ports a dif­fer­ent twist: Rather than be­ing planned, most fam­ily-friendly con­nec­tions hap­pen spon­ta­neously. “Our res­i­dents have grand­chil­dren, great-

grand­chil­dren, even great-greats, scat­tered all over the coun­try and it is dif­fi­cult to plan around that many sched­ules and var­ied in­ter­ests,’’ she ex­plains.

“We pro­vide a beau­ti­ful com­mu­nity in a won­der­ful wa­ter­front lo­ca­tion that is filled with ameni­ties that at­tract fam­ily mem­bers to visit dur­ing their hol­i­days and va­ca­tions. We have an al­most 90-year-old res­i­dent who plays ten­nis ev­ery day. His son and two grand­sons come play ten­nis with him sev­eral times a month here at Shell Point,’’ Sch­nei­der notes.

“An­other ex­am­ple is a pair of twin boys who at­tend Cy­press Lake High School and play on the golf team. They prac­tice here at Shell Point ev­ery af­ter­noon af­ter school. Our res­i­dents en­joy see­ing them and talk­ing to them out on the driv­ing range, etc.’’

One more in­stance of cre­ative con­nec­tiv­ity is with staff mem­bers’ chil­dren. This sum­mer, a Shell Point Va­ca­tion Bible School will be held for them and put on by res­i­dents. It will of­fer a fun-filled week of recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties, Bible teach­ings, games, movies, snacks, dance, arts, crafts, sci­ence ex­per­i­ments and much more.

Mean­while, con­cern­ing an­other fam­ily theme, Shell Point cur­rently has nu­mer­ous res­i­dents who had fam­ily mem­bers from pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions at the re­tire­ment com­mu­nity in the past. “In other words, they moved to Shell Point be­cause their grand­par­ents, aunts and un­cles, or per­haps par­ents lived here be­fore them,” Sch­nei­der says.

“They re­called years of vis­it­ing Shell Point to see these fam­ily mem­bers and fell in love with the com­mu­nity. Of­ten, these multi-gen­er­a­tional fam­ily mem­bers would be liv­ing here at the same time.

“In fact, my mother has lived here for more than a decade,” Sch­nei­der adds. “She lives in­de­pen­dently and has a full and in­ter­est­ing life, filled with fun and friend­ships. Ev­ery Christ­mas and birth­day, she writes on her cards to us, ‘Thank you for bring­ing me to Shell Point.’ ”

Panoramic view of The Is­land at Shell Point. Above: Lo­cal TV ads for Shell Point a few years ago fea­tured mem­o­rable im­ages of ac­tors por­tray­ing a pre­teen boy dancing with his grand­mother and a grand­fa­ther teach­ing his grand­son about fish­ing.

Shell Point’s aquatic cen­ter is a big hit for res­i­dents and their fam­i­lies and friends.

One of two out­door pools at the Vi at Bent­ley Vil­lage in North Naples. Be­low right: A golf game gets un­der­way at the con­tin­u­ing-care re­tire­ment com­mu­nity. RosBer­nublceatt

The Ter­races, a se­nior liv­ing com­mu­nity in Bonita, boasts stylish ar­chi­tec­ture, ten­nis courts and a lush court­yard.

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