Cathy Reese
Cathy Reese

Participating in the International Council on Active Aging’s Active Aging Week is a welcome tradition at The Holmstad, a Covenant retirement community. We’re always looking for opportunities to come together as a community and we believe in what Active Aging Week promotes to our residents: a celebration of the positivity of aging.  

The Holmstad went big this year. Last year’s participation in Active Aging Week brought such momentum and positive energy to our campus that we decided to celebrate for the whole month this year. The 2015 theme, “Live Your Adventure,” was a natural extension of our existing LifeConnect® approach to whole-person wellness. We simply added “adventure-themed” activities and trips to our already packed programming that includes creative and performing arts, educational lectures, exercise and wellness activities, service projects, spiritual enrichment and volunteer outreach.

Our residents certainly embraced the “adventure;” they strapped on goggles for an indoor sky dive; experienced life at a dairy farm in Indiana; got lost in the beauty of a Monet at the Art Institute of Chicago; treated their senses with a trip to Madison, WI, to visit the largest farmers’ market in the United States; and felt the wind on their face as they journeyed along the Chicago River for a rich history and architectural boat tour. In the photo at left, Holmstad resident Betty Samundsen visits with Arianna, 2, at Mooseheart Early Childhood Center, Mooseheart, IL. In the photo in the lower right, Holmstad residents Jamie Weaver, 69, and Linnea Root, 76, strap on goggles and suits for an indoor skydiving experience at iFly in Naperville, IL.

To pique residents’ interests, we described a comprehensive menu of activities in our quarterly resident newsletter and offered residents a punch card to fill throughout the month when they participated in activities. The punch cards were turned in at the end of the month to be entered into a prize drawing for gift cards to a local restaurant, shoe store, bowling alley and orchestra concerts.

Crossing the generational divide

For the first time, we offered intergenerational programming to our Active Aging Week itinerary and visited Mooseheart Learning Center in Mooseheart, Ill.  While there, our residents participated in some good old-fashioned playtime with the little ones and then quieted down with one-on-one reading.

“The visit was as enjoyable as I had expected,” said resident Betty Samundsen. “We read three books and then went to the kitchen, where two-year-old Arianna and her friend served me invisible food!”

According to the Journal of Urban Health, this intergenerational interaction is good for seniors’ health. The journal cites that seniors who volunteer regularly with children have a higher weekly caloric burn, fewer falls, less reliance on canes and better performance on memory tests than their peers. Of course, the experience was simply fun and rewarding. Children have a way of bringing out the kid in all of us.

Our adventures also brought residents to beautiful Lake Geneva, WI, to enjoy a boat tour and get an update on the ministry of our sister organization, Covenant Harbor; river walks along the Fox River highlighting our local area; and participation in the Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

We wrapped up our Active Aging celebration with a musical extravaganza. Residents grabbed a partner and danced to their favorite tunes from the 50s and 60s and we celebrated the lives and relationships within our community by acknowledging residents with September birthdays and anniversaries.

Catherine Reese is the Resident Services Director at The Holmstad in Batavia, IL, one of 12 continuing care retirement communities administered by Covenant Retirement Communities, the nation’s fifth largest non-profit senior living provider.