Welbi Heroes highlights the unsung heroes of senior living communities, recreation professionals, and shares their stories, lessons learned, and insights into their success.
Do you ever feel like your programming has gotten repetitive?
This month, Lisa Moorhead explains how she develops innovative activities for Comox Valley’s award-winning recreation program.
Lisa Moorhead is the Active Living Manager at Comox Valley, a Berwick retirement community in British Columbia. The Comox community has been an important part of Lisa’s life in the sixteen years she’s held her position.
“The residents got to watch my children grow up,” Lisa says. “In a sense, we’re all family here.”
Lisa holds a diploma in Recreation and Leisure Services. She returned to college for her Developmental Service Worker diploma.
Lisa is not running your typical senior-centre programming. The recreation team at Comox has received multiple awards for their innovative program design. Lisa and her team are always on the hunt for new and trendy activities that anyone would want to try, regardless of their age.
“What excites you is probably going to excite the residents,” Lisa explains. “If you’ve found something cool and interesting, then why wouldn’t someone in their 80s and 90s enjoy it too?”
For Lisa, staying trendy means taking advantage of technology, which can offer exciting new ways to explore familiar hobbies. “Someone who likes knitting might want to try 3D colouring on an iPad,” she says. “That’s something that hasn’t been around long, so how would they know if they like it yet?”
Lisa brainstorms with her team to come up with activity ideas. They take inspiration from Pinterest, magazines, the local recreation centre, and anything they’ve heard about and want to try.
Lisa also holds Active Living meetings with residents to get their feedback on programs and learn what they want to try next.
“We try to give everybody what they need with programming,” she says.
The recreation team at Comox Valley turns their activity ideas into college-style programs that run for eight to twelve weeks. They think of themselves like teachers, doing prep work and creating lesson plans. One of Lisa’s staff, Ashley, is currently running a ‘semester’ of Art History programming.
“The residents and their families love the college programs,” Lisa says. “I create a booklet for the residents explaining the course and who the instructor is, and they get to sign up. It makes it more interesting for the residents and the staff.”
Planning twelve weeks ahead may seem like a daunting task. But Lisa says this schedule helps her plan seasonal programming. “We depend on seasons for our activities. Our programming looks different in December than it does in summer, when we do more outdoor hikes, picnics, and walks.”
During the planning stage, the team decides who is going to prepare, run, and evaluate each program.
“If someone is passionate about an idea, let them go for it!” Lisa says. “You’ll get a better program for your residents that way.”
Lisa recently launched a brand new Lego Imagination program at Comox. She tried Lego Imagination at a work-related course and knew right away that she had to show her residents.
“I gave the residents a bag of each Lego brick colour and challenged them to make something. The following week, I gave them instruction books to build an object. It was interesting to see who was more right-brained and who was left-brained. My creative residents wanted to do their own thing, and the residents who didn’t like the first project loved following the instructions.”
A program like Lego Imagination does more than engage residents — it also targets important wellness metrics.
“You need three to four dimensions of wellness for a program,” Lisa explains. “With Lego, there’s imagination, meditation, and creativity. It’s actually hitting multiple dimensions of wellness because I’m asking them to think outside the box, to play, and to problem-solve.”
In the future, Lisa wants to hold a semester of health and fitness education for her residents. “It’s part of my job to make sure the residents are as healthy as possible so they can stay independent,” Lisa says.
To start planning the health and fitness course, Lisa collected data with her custom Welbi Fitness Assessment. She tested residents for endurance, balance, and grip strength to determine what areas the community can work on.
“With the data we collected from Welbi, we came up with two balance and strength programs, an advanced yoga class, and a walking program,” she shares.
She also showed the residents their results so they can start setting their own fitness goals. “It was interesting for them to see what they did better on and what they need to work on,” says Lisa. She plans to encourage her residents to set a new wellness goal each month.
When you’re trying new programs, there’s always a chance they won’t be a hit. Lisa’s advice?
“Don’t take things too seriously and have fun with it! If a program touches a couple of residents and they’ve grown from it, that’s great. If not, that’s okay too.”
It’s easy to stick with activities that are a safe bet, but Lisa says it’s important to try new things.
“Change it up because it makes the residents excited to come out to programs. Recreation is always changing, and we have to embrace that change.”
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by recreation professionals like Lisa 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 Lisa, 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.
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