Community members at Anthology Senior Living know when Jessica P. is at work.
“I’m that overly exuberant ray of sunshine walking through the community,” Jessica said. “Thankfully, residents respond very well to that!”
Jessica P’s official job title is Director of Elements at Anthology Senior Living of Troy, Michigan. The position utilizes Jessica’s sunny disposition while nurturing the spirit and aspirations of the community’s residents through daily engagement activities. “I wear many hats,” Jessica said. She keeps the community inspired and entertained with social groups and creative activities tailored to the unique interests of each resident.
Jessica has techniques to engage the entire community, including those who may be less inclined to participate. “I like to leave things out – painting supplies or other materials – in a nonchalant way,” Jessica said. She might place an intriguing activity on an activity table, waiting for a resident to notice it. It was through this method and a well-placed paint-by-numbers kit that Jessica was able to unlock a resident’s latent artistic talent.
The resident, who goes by the name of Mr. R, told Jessica he had been feeling a bit bored. “I bought a paint-by-numbers kit and left it on the table,” Jessica said. Out of curiosity, Mr. R picked up and opened the kit. Since that time, Mr. R has completed more than 20 paint-by-number canvases, many of which have been prominently displayed throughout the community. “Someone asked him how long he had been painting, and he said three years,” Jessica marveled. “The paintings are so good people want to buy them.”
“I love finding new ways to inspire my residents,” Jessica added. The Director of Elements role is a natural fit for Jessica’s educational background, having earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Recreational Therapy. “The philosophy behind recreational therapy is improving quality of life for people through doing something that they love,” Jessica explained. Recreational Therapy is a field of study utilizing community-based interventions, activities and techniques to address a person’s physical, cognitive, emotional, social, and leisure needs.
From organizing the community’s Walking Club, exercise classes, book club and art activities, Jessica puts her recreational therapy background into practice every day at Anthology Senior Living. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys painting floral studies in acrylics, oils and watercolors. She said it’s a privilege sharing her love of art and creativity with the community. “You can build relationships from a shared love of creative activities,” Jessica said.
In honor of World Art Day on April 15th, Jessica is planning an art showcase at Anthology Senior Living. Within the community are residents who studied art or worked as art directors at advertising agencies, but all residents are welcome to contribute creative work to the inclusive event, regardless of their art background or training. “The exhibition will include quilted blankets, graphic design, doodles, and other artwork our residents and team members want to share,” Jessica said.
The celebration and exhibition will take place in the Bistro, a casual gathering space within the Anthology Senior Living community. “I will bring in easels to display our work. I’ll post or hang their pictures on the wall, and pottery will be displayed on tables.” The event is one of two or three art shows Jessica plans at the community each year. “It’s really flattering for residents to have something on display that they made,” Jessica said. “All of their friends at the community can see that side of them.”
Knitted pieces will be among the work on display, thanks to a group of passionate knitters within the community. “We have a really intense knitting club right now!” Jessica said. The community’s group of avid knitters has their own special name, “The Unraveled Knitting Club.” The club enjoys knitting and chatting together in the activity room at Anthology Senior Living while sipping a cup of hot tea or coffee. A hobbyist knitter herself, Jessica often picks up her knitting needles and joins the group.
“From a recreational therapy point of view, knitting provides an opportunity to work on fine motor skills,” Jessica said. While knitting is often seen as an independent activity, Jessica uses it as an opportunity for social engagement. “Our knitting club gives residents a chance to do something they like to do, with the added social benefit of being around other people,” Jessica said.
For community members with less finger dexterity or knitting knowledge, the community owns a knitting machine. “Simply hook the yarn up to the machine and it can knit a hat in 20 minutes,” Jessica explained. “It allows a variety of residents to be involved, regardless of their ability.”
During an average month at Anthology Senior Living, Jessica might take residents on a Detroit river cruise, or visit a chocolate factory, museum, or public garden. “We’ll plan a meal and cruise along the Detroit river,” Jessica said, “We also love our shopping trips, and we can’t wait to get out there again!”
Walking Club is another popular activity among Jessica’s Anthology Senior Living community. “We always include physical activity and daily exercise classes,” Jessica said. Walking Club takes advantage of a foot path circling the community. “I’ve measured the distance and four times around is one mile,” Jessica added. The group enjoys visiting a dog park next door and people-watching along a small bike trail.
Resident readers stretch their minds in the community Chess Club, or through a lively discussion about the latest bestseller or classic novel. “We have a very successful book club right now,” Jessica said. The Book Club is currently reading Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. “We have some avid readers who always have new ideas of what we should read next,” Jessica said. “It gives them a strong sense of purpose.”
For those who don’t have the benefit of an engaged community like Anthology Senior Living, Jessica said, “If you’re working in a high-stress workplace you need to go home and decompress.” Whether it’s going for a walk, knitting, painting, writing poetry, or doing Sudoku puzzles, “No matter what age you are, engagement is important for your mental health,” Jessica said. “It’s never too late to embrace your hobbies and what you love to do.”