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Never a dull moment for residents

Patricia Stanley enjoys a mystery trip to the Medicine Lodge Stockade Museum.

This month, we’re celebrating the dedication and hard work of our activities staff. Nationwide, Activity Professionals Month is observed as a way to appreciate the people who plan and provide activities within senior living communities. Their work is key to helping residents stay healthy, keep doing what they enjoy and trying new things.

According to the National Association of Activity Professionals, this is a job that emerged in health care centers about 50 years ago. “It was during these early years that the activity professional became known as the bingo, Bible study and birthday ladies,” the NAAP website reads in part. “The activity professional discovered quickly, there was more to activities than the three Bs.”

At Manor of the Plains, residents have far more choices than past generations in senior living. Jacque Soltero, director of activities for health care, said it’s important to offer both variety and freedom.

“I think activities are important because when people move-in here, they may have an idea in their head that it’s going to be boring — that they’ll sit around in their room and not much else,” Jacque said. “Activities give them something to look forward to every day. It makes their day a little more exciting.”

Together with Lisa Montoya, activities director for independent and assisted living, Jacque is constantly looking for ways to personalize celebrations and focus on what residents want to do.

A few years ago, Jacque launched a monthly event that has become one of our most popular activities — the mystery trip. Every month, our adventurous residents climb aboard the bus for a trip to unknown day-trip destinations that have included Salina, Oklahoma and even New Mexico and Texas. There’s a regular mystery trip crowd, Jacque said, but most months they also get a few first-timers to join them.

Normalee Konecny takes in the sights of the Santa Fe Trail trip to Larned.

The men’s group meets once a month for pizza or burgers and beer — unless there’s a special reason to change it, as they did for National Spaghetti Day last month.

All year long, health care residents also enjoy surprises from their secret pals. The pals exchange small gifts and tokens for birthdays and holidays. Sometimes they will pay for their pal to have a special outing with Jacque, like going for dinner or a movie.

“The secret pal program is big, mostly because with their birthdays it’s personalized,” Jacque said.

Residents in independent and assisted living prefer the community birthday parties that Lisa organizes every month. It’s just one way our residents get to exercise their freedom of choice. No one is ever required to participate in group activities, but it wasn’t always that way. Jacque, who has been at Manor of the Plains for 17 years, said some longtime residents will remark that it seems like fewer people come out for bingo or parties. They respond that some residents prefer not to engage in large group events.

That doesn’t mean they’re isolated, however. Activities staff and volunteers, along with some nursing staff, offer one-on-one time and assistance for residents who like to sew, read, use their iPads and smartphones, or visit with family. Some also choose to have manicures done in their own rooms.

Marketing Director Kurt Lampe praised the creativity and dedication of all of our activities staff.

“Jacque Soltero is always going above and beyond with her residents. From her mystery trips to celebrating a resident’s birthday in their special way, she will do whatever it takes,” he said. “And Lisa Montoya has been giving her talents to our local Art is Ageless® program. From assisting residents with their art projects to setting up the beautiful display for our annual show, her touch does not go unnoticed.”

Please take a moment this month to show your appreciation to our fantastic activities people.

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