Anthology of Novi
Jill M. never would have guessed a job serving breakfast at a senior living community in 2008 would have led to her ideal career.
“It was my first job, and I learned a lot on my first day,” Jill said. “I kept forgetting the syrup for Sarah’s pancakes!”
Sarah was a resident in that senior community in 2008. After asking Jill for syrup three or four times, according to Jill, “Sarah finally looked at me and asked me directly, ‘What is the matter with you?’”
It was a defining moment for Jill. “I was a wreck. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t do this, I don’t think this is for me!’” But Jill persisted and forged a strong connection with Sarah. “Once I took the time to sit down with her, get on her level and really connect, we blossomed into inseparable friends,” Jill said.
Thirteen years after meeting Sarah, Jill says she has found her purpose working in senior living. In her role as Director of Elements at Anthology of Novi, Michigan, Jill is responsible for creating a dynamic and diverse monthly calendar that reflects the spirit and aspirations of the community’s residents.
“It’s a role of a thousand hats. I’m the person residents go to when they need help with technology or when they need a pick-me-up,” Jill said. Whether a resident needs exercise or emotional support, Jill is ready to help.
The community spirit resembles a family dynamic, and according to Jill, she brings the fun along with the emotional support. “The way I describe it is, you are part of a family, and you do whatever you need to keep the family together and keep it happy,” Jill said.
Jill credits her own family and a special relationship with her grandmother Nadine for instilling what she describes as a deep respect and appreciation for senior citizens.
Growing up, Jill and her sister spent weekends at their grandmother Nadine’s house. Jill fondly recalls weekends spent together, sleeping in a tent in her grandmother’s living room. When given an option, Jill chose to spend free time with her grandmother. “I liked hanging out with my grandmother’s friends more than I liked hanging out with people my own age,” Jill said.
Jill’s daily work at Anthology Senior Living serves as a tribute to that special relationship with her grandmother. “My grandmother is the epitome of the best grandmother in the world,” Jill said. “I’ve always wanted to be better for her and because of her.”
At Anthology Senior Living, Jill oversees programming in six dimensions of wellness: emotional, intellectual, environmental, physical and spiritual; and she tailors community activities to meet the needs of individual residents. “It’s about finding the meaning and purpose behind each individual’s unique story and continuing to write it with dignity and respect,” Jill said.
The team at Anthology Senior Living takes the time to get to know each resident, past, present and future. “It’s not just finding out what you like to do,” Jill said, “It’s also about finding out what you used to do. What you’ve always wanted to do!”
An encouraging and uplifting approach comes naturally to Jill, but she also acknowledges the challenges that can come along with the aging process. “Getting older isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but as a caregiver, you can be that rainbow someone might need.”
As a relatively new mother of twin toddlers, Jill also reflects on how being a parent has enhanced her ability to care for others, no matter what challenges they may face.
“As a mom, I’ve come to understand people are not coming to you with issues in order to give you a hard time,” Jill said, “they’re coming to you because they’re having a hard time.” When a resident is hurting, Jill said, “Their hurt is my hurt. Their happiness is my happiness.” The relationship Jill forges with residents is never one-sided. “I need them just as much as they need me,” Jill said.
Jill hopes that everyone who enters an Anthology Senior Living community feels welcome, safe and inspired. “Our community at Anthology Senior Living of Novi is absolutely stunning with high ceilings, hotel-like amenities, a full-sized golf simulator and lots of personalized, engaging activities,” according to Jill, “But our difference is the staff.” Jill describes a feeling of genuine acceptance and affection for each resident.
“When you walk into our community you want it to reach out its arms and give you a hug,” She said. That’s because a beautiful building is only a small part of the equation, according to Jill. “You can have the most beautiful building in the world but if it’s cold and you don’t feel at home, what good is it?” Jill said, “I know I’m doing my job if our residents feel genuinely loved for who they are.” She hopes her grandmother and Sarah would be proud.