Director of Therapeutic Recreation Services
Crescent Park Lodge
ConMed Health Care Group
Welbi Heroes highlights the unsung heroes of senior living communities, recreation professionals, and shares their stories, lessons learned, and insights into their success.
This month, our Welbi Hero is Jolan Taylor, Director of Therapeutic Recreation Services at Crescent Park Lodge, a ConMed Health Care Group long-term care community in Fort Erie, Ontario. In this interview, Jolan discusses how he prioritizes resident and staff wellness and keeps up with changing resident interests at Crescent Park Lodge.
Jolan began his career in long-term care after graduating from Niagara College with a degree in recreation therapy. He has worked at ConMed Health Care Group seniors’ communities for the past 9 years, beginning at Millenium Trail Manor. He has held his position as Director of Therapeutic Recreation Services at Crescent Park Lodge for over a year. Jolan is also currently filling in for his sister Shannon during her maternity leave at Maple Park Lodge, where she holds the same position.
Jolan was drawn to a career in recreation therapy because of his desire to work with people and to help others. When he was in college, he expected that he would one day work with children or people with disabilities. But his career goals changed after he had the opportunity to do a placement in a long-term care home.
“As soon as I started my placement, I found out I love working with seniors,” Jolan says. “To me, if you’re helping any vulnerable population, it’s a positive thing.”
Jolan is also a personal fitness trainer, a guitarist, and a singer. He incorporates his passion for health and fitness into his programs, and he enjoys sharing his love of music with his residents by performing for them.
As Director of Recreation Services, Jolan’s job is to assess how well the recreation program is meeting the needs of the residents and where the team can improve. When he’s evaluating the success of a program, he relies on program evaluations as well as feedback from staff meetings and the community’s Resident Council.
“I trust my staff to give me honest feedback,” says Jolan. “They really care about the residents and if a program is working for them or not. They’re also open to trying new things and bringing new ideas to me.”
As a manager, Jolan is not only interested in resident engagement — he strives to keep his staff motivated and excited to come to work as well. To do so, he encourages staff to take charge of running their favourite programs.
“I try to keep staff engaged by having them run programs they like to run, as long as the other staff are in agreement. If people are going to run an art program and they love art, the residents are going to benefit twofold from the facilitator’s passion. So it’s definitely something I try to encourage with my staff,” Jolan explains.
He adds that it’s important to let staff have the flexibility to own their work.
“It’s about finding passionate people and letting them have the freedom to run the program as they see fit, even if it’s not how you would have envisioned it.”
At the end of the day, for recreation professionals, it’s the well-being of their residents that motivates them most.
“We’re here for the residents,” says Jolan. “The most rewarding thing about the job is those moments where you see them improve.”
While rewarding, a career in recreation also comes with its fair share of challenges.
The hardest part?
For Jolan, it’s keeping up with the interests of his ever-changing resident population so he can create a recreation program that accurately reflects their hobbies, interests, and needs.
“You can get into a routine with the recreation programming, but your population can change in a short amount of time,” says Jolan. “Suddenly, you might have 20 new residents and none of them are coming out to programs. One of the bigger challenges is reaching these residents in new and unique ways.”
As he’s also finding while filling in for his sister at Maple Park Lodge, resident interests can vary a lot between facilities. “There are a few activities that are standard in every home, but a lot of programs that are successful in one community won’t work the same in another.”
How does the team address the ongoing challenge of tailoring their programming to match resident interests? To ensure that their program calendar has something for everyone, Jolan uses Welbi to automatically add recurring programs like bingo or entertainment nights to the calendar. Then, he determines which programs to add to open spots in the calendar based on the domains of wellness.
“We do calendar audits quarterly to see what domains we’re lacking in,” Jolan explains. “For example, I noticed that we have a lot of cognitive games because the residents love them, but there’s not a lot of physical or social programs, so I’ve been trying to get more of those in.”
Recently, the recreation team launched a new social program that turned out to be an unexpected success. The team started a Breakfast Club where residents meet on the patio for a continental breakfast. Thanks to the recreation team’s efforts, the residents at Crescent Park Lodge have something new to look forward to every morning.
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by recreation professionals like Jolan who go above and beyond to engage their residents. Thank you all for the remarkable work that you do! Recreation professionals play an incredibly important role in senior living communities keeping older adults safe, healthy, and living life to the fullest. Your hard work deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.
If you’d like to read more stories from exceptional professionals like Jolan, sign up for the Welbi recreation newsletter - a monthly digest for senior living professionals with inspiring stories, activity ideas, and tips and tricks delivered straight to your email inbox.
Want to get articles like this one fresh in your inbox when they’re published? Sign up for our newsletter and join the Welbi Family today.
Join our mailing list to get our latest newsletters straight in your inbox.