Life Enrichment Coordinator
Holland Home Raybrook Campus
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, Nancy Venema, Life Enrichment Coordinator at Holland Home, explains how activity programs have changed over time and why she’s still passionate about her career after more than thirty years in the field.
Nancy has worked at Holland Home, a senior living and care organization in Michigan, for an impressive thirty-three years. She began her career at the community as a social worker but found that she wanted to spend more time with the residents instead of sitting in an office. At the time, Holland Home was just putting together its first activity program. Nancy’s career in life enrichment began when her manager suggested that she could help plan and run these new activities for older adults.
Now, Nancy spends most of her time interacting with residents through programs and activities that brighten their days. Her favourite part of the job is getting to have fun with her residents and seeing them come to life.
“I’ve been doing it for thirty-three years, and I still love it every day!”
Throughout her career, Nancy has worked at each of Holland Home’s campuses, which offer a full continuum of care.
Nancy’s Director, Marenta Klinger, describes her as “one of the most passionate and caring people I have had the privilege of working alongside across the entire senior living industry. She pours her heart and soul into the residents she serves and it is so evident that they are more than residents . . . they are her family members.”
Over the course of her career, Nancy has seen first-hand how life enrichment in senior living communities has evolved. Thirty years ago, life enrichment programs had few requirements and weren’t expected to run around the clock. Activities in the past were often limited to the three B’s — bingo, bible study, and birthday parties.
But as the recreation therapy field continued to grow, more and more people came to recognize the value of life enrichment programs in senior living. Life enrichment is no longer about offering generic activities to pass the time — Coordinators like Nancy are designing person-centred programs that encourage their residents to live life to the fullest. Life enrichment is now viewed as a full-time commitment because of its impact on resident well-being and quality of life.
“There’s a lot more respect for the job, the work that we do, and what we try to accomplish,” Nancy shares.
As program offerings became more complex, the expectations that older adults have for their retirement years also changed — especially when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle.
“I see more active seniors than ever,” Nancy says. “They want to stay active, and they want to stay engaged. They’re asking for more exercise programs and intellectually stimulating programs like trivia or discussing current events.”
Throughout the years, one thing that has never changed is that Nancy’s residents love to volunteer their time to help others. “They want to be involved and stay connected to the community,” says Nancy, adding that her residents recently made blankets for Ukraine.
In all, the work of a Life Enrichment Coordinator has become much more complex over time. Activity programs are now constantly evolving to meet the unique needs of the community’s residents. But the work has also become more exciting, says Nancy.
“I love having the challenge of something new and getting to be creative.”
A career in life enrichment allows Nancy to have fun, take on new challenges, and be creative — but what has made her love her job for over thirty years? It’s her passion for helping seniors realize the exciting possibilities that this new chapter in their life holds for them.
“They’re not always in the best place when they come to us,” Nancy shares. “Many of our folks had been homebound before they got here. But if we do our jobs well, they thrive. They start making new friends, engaging in life, and getting out into the community.”
Having the support of the life enrichment team helps seniors regain confidence that they can overcome their limitations. Nancy has seen the life enrichment program at Holland Home inspire residents to stay active by stretching and strengthening so that they can participate in more activities.
“It’s amazing to watch that transformation in people. And what better way to help them find that than through what we do? Now they end up actually enjoying life and doing better physically and mentally because they came here.”
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by recreation professionals like Nancy 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 Nancy, 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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