Introducing Welbi’s Hero of the Month, Robyn Heaney! Robyn is the Activity Coordinator at Marina Point Village, an Autumnwood community in North Bay, Ontario. Robyn has held her position at Marina Point for twelve years.
Before she got her start in senior living, Robyn had always worked with children and youth. It was while she was visiting her son in Calgary that she decided to take a job at a retirement home for the first time. She started out as a PSW but found herself intrigued by the activity department.
“I watched the activity people quite a bit and I kept thinking, that’s what I want to do!”
The team was supportive of Robyn and encouraged her to help out with the activities. As soon as Robyn tried it out for herself, she knew it was the job for her. She’s been an activity professional ever since.
On her days off, Robyn loves to unwind by baking and spending time with her three-year-old grandson.
There’s a lot for Robyn to love about her profession as an Activity Coordinator. When we asked her what her favourite part of the job is, Robyn said “it’s getting to know the residents through the activities and watching them rediscover fun.” She especially loves helping residents with low participation become more engaged in their community.
“It’s great to see them start to truly enjoy the activities. That’s the biggest reward for me.”
But making sure everyone can get involved is part of the challenge. One of the most important things Robyn has to consider when she’s planning her activity calendar is accessibility.
“My biggest thing to overcome is how to accommodate the huge variety of abilities, because we go from independent to assisted living, and some of the residents are at the end of assisted living and are going to move into more care. You want it so that everyone can do something on the list.”
Robyn says she gauges the success of her programs through “attendance in combination with smiles and enjoyment.” She’s always looking to improve her programming, so she says it’s important to stay positive even when activities don’t work out as planned.
“The first thing you have to remember is that there’s no way you can please everybody all the time. Certainly, not every event goes off without a hitch. You have to be open to the criticism, not taking it personally but just learning from it. Then you apply what you learned next time.”
When we asked Robyn what she wants the world to know about activity professionals like her, she said, “I want everybody to know that most of us do it because we love it!”
As an Activity Coordinator, Robyn has facilitated incredible events and experiences for her residents.
For Robyn, the stand-out experience is Marina Point’s annual fish fry, which is the community’s biggest event of the year. We asked Robyn how the tradition started.
“It came from our sister home Red Oak Villa, which was the first Autumnwood Home. It was their original activity coordinator that decided they should have a fish fry because this was something she did with her family.”
Now, the Autumnwood communities look forward to their signature event every year. At Marina Point’s Fish Fry, residents played games, danced to live music, and of course, had a delicious fish dinner. Even though friends and family couldn’t join this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was still a blast.
We asked Robyn to share another one of her favourite experiences she’s had on the job.
“Several years ago, we used to have the Big Bike come to North Bay for Heart and Stroke, and we would always put a team in. I just loved the Big Bike!”
Robyn recalls that one year, their Big Bike team was made up of staff members as well as a few athletic residents who wanted to join in. The team dressed up in a Gilligan’s Island theme and came up with their own songs and cheers. To make things even better, the route they biked passed Marina Point twice.
“We had a whole big crowd outside that would yell and cheer us on. That was a lot of fun. It was such a nice opportunity to get all of the staff and all of the people who live here involved. We won a spirit award for it, too!”
We love to hear about the amazing events our client communities hold! These are the moments we strive to facilitate with Welbi by supporting activity professionals like Robyn and her team.
We asked Robyn to share how Welbi has changed her daily operations.
“Before Welbi, doing our attendance and reports was really quite cumbersome and time-consuming. So now, it’s easy and it’s much more efficient.”
The time that the activity team has saved using Welbi has been especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. Robyn says that the time she would have spent on reporting before Welbi has been reallocated to ensuring that health protocols and disinfection measures are met. With Welbi, Robyn can focus on what matters most — keeping her community and her residents safe.
We asked Robyn what she would tell someone who is considering using Welbi.
“I would highly recommend it. I would tell them that it’s very user-friendly and efficient. It saves so much time and it lets us be more productive. There were some challenges in the beginning because I’m not very techy. However, I have to say the Welbi team is extremely helpful, easy to get a hold of, and very patient. The help team is terrific.”
Thank you so much for your feedback, Robyn!
To close our interview, Robyn discussed the value of recreation and the many ways it’s helped her residents live healthier and happier lives.
“I think that recreation is extremely important because inactivity contributes to health problems,” she explains. “A reasonable amount of activities has been shown to contribute to optimal health.”
Robyn has been running all of Marina Point’s exercise programs herself for the past two years, so she sees the health benefits first-hand. One of her favourite ways to get active with her residents is through the dance classes she teaches.
“My love of dance is really something that I share with them a lot. I do a sit-and-dance class and a line dancing class, and we dance at our social hour to live entertainment. It’s really improved their balance and their mood. It’s a great thing.”
And it’s not just physical health that recreation improves. “What I really notice the benefits in are the people who have cognitive impairments.”
Studies show that social engagement, mental stimulation, and a healthy lifestyle can prevent or slow the progress of cognitive impairment. Activity professionals like Robyn work hard every day to provide all this and more for their residents. Robyn tells us about a resident with Alzheimer’s whose quality of life was greatly improved with recreation.
As the woman’s disease progressed, she could not participate in as many programs as she used to. But Robyn always made sure to invite her to her favourite activity, the sit-and-dance class. “When she got there, she was animated and social, and she would enjoy herself so much!”
For Robyn, the benefits of recreation are undeniable.
“Recreation improves their mood, it improves their concentration, and it improves their stamina. I think those are the things it really speaks to. It provides more happiness and a higher quality of life.”
At Welbi, we’re inspired every day by activity professionals like Robyn who go above and beyond to ensure their residents enjoy an excellent quality of life. Thank you all for the remarkable work that you do! Activity 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 would like to get support from Welbi in your everyday operations like Robyn, chat with us or book a demo of the Welbi platform. We can show you first-hand how Welbi can save you countless hours on administrative tasks so you can focus on what matters most — spending time with your amazing residents.
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