How Samaritas Senior Living Helps Keep Minds Active

Stimulating your brain is very important for your health. Some ways to do so are; social interaction, learning new skills, playing challenging games and doing other activities that require an engaged mind.

At Samaritas Senior Living of Traverse City, we value the importance of social interaction through intergenerational experiences. We have two different groups of children who come to visit us on a regular basis. First, we have Jacqui Stremlow’s kindergarten class from Eastern Elementary in Traverse City. Secondly, we have Carrie Saunder’s first grade class from Lakeland Elementary School in Elk Rapids.

Jackie’s class was here on Valentine’s Day. The children divided up into groups, with the residents from our Assisted Living seated among them. One of the stations was cookie decorating, one was beading, several others offered various Valentine’s Day crafts. The children worked on their project with the help of the residents. The engagement of the residents with the children was just fascinating. One little boy found out that a resident at his table was 99 years old, turning 100 this year. He was fascinated!

Carrie’s class did something different this past visit. They sat in a big circle with the residents spaced out among the children. Each resident brought with them an artifact or photograph, and told the children either a story or something about themselves. Then the children would ask questions. Sometimes, we would have to cut off the questions, just so we could move on to another resident.

This type of rich storytelling and intergenerational experience is of great value to both child and senior. We are excited to introduce more rewarding experiences with the children. Look forward to a new project including a collaborative piece of art that both the children and residents will work on.

We also like to engage our minds here at Samaritas Senior Living of Bloomfield Hills with intergenerational interaction. Each Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. our main lobby is teeming with happy, smiling faces among visitors, residents and family members. That is when story time occurs with three to five year old students from the nearby Montessori School.

For nearly ten years, Samaritas Senior Living of Bloomfield Hills has had residents volunteer to lead story time by reading age-appropriate books provided by our local library. Everyone enjoys this time, especially the children who visit each week and think of our residents as their extra grandmas and grandpas.

“Our residents love story time,” says Kelli Cronin, the Activity Director at Samaritas Senior Living of Bloomfield Hills. “I think it’s a great way to include intergenerational programming into our services.”

Samaritas residents, such as Mable Collins clamor for the opportunity to visit with the tots. Mrs. Collins says this is her favorite activity. Periodically, her own great-grandchild also stops by for a visit while the other children are here.

Mable says she originally intended to be an elementary school teacher but instead got married. It’s hard to gauge who’s smile is the biggest each Friday, Mable’s or the children, or the other residents who enjoy being around the youngsters.

The Academy at Samaritas Senior Living of Grand Rapids encourages social interaction and lifelong learning, both of which promote mental health.

Sue and Gordy Johnson are residents in our community who benefit from the Academy. Gordy was recently diagnosed with Dementia, but that hasn’t stop him from learning and the Academy has been a big part of this.

Gordy grew up loving photography. He started a camera club while in school. When he was stationed in Korea he always had his camera on him, it was his way to capture the moments he was experiencing. As soon as he got home, he upgraded to a bigger camera and the passion continued throughout most of his life. He was always the photographer of his family, even his grandchildren knew his love of photography.

The Academy offers many classes, one of them being photography. Gordy thought this class was something that he would really enjoy. He wasn’t used to the new technology of cameras, so naturally he didn’t pick up his camera as much anymore. In the class, he was retaught basic camera functions and basic photography including how to take a picture, frame it and how to change the angle to enhance the subject matter.

Because Gordy has dementia and sometimes forgets, his wife Sue joined him in the class. She learned the materials alongside Gordy so she could encourage him in case he forgot and maybe she’d remember what they’d learned. Sue didn’t know how to use a camera before the class. Although Gordy did buy her a camera years back, she never used it. Since taking the class, she has gained confidence to use it.

“You really need to push yourself to keep your brain active,” Sue shares. “Learning something new or furthering something you’ve learned before are the best ways to keep your brain sharp.”

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