Engagement is vital at every stage of life, but especially for seniors. At Deupree House, we believe engagement plays a crucial role in our residents’ abilities to age positively and live purposefully. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, we’ve had to find creative ways for residents to keep their minds sharp and connect with others while also staying safe.
Recently, we sat down with our Director of Life Enrichment, Anna Honerlaw, to learn how she helps residents stay engaged — both during the pandemic and beyond.
Q: Will you describe your current role at Deupree House?
Anna: My role as the Director of Life Enrichment is to help facilitate and encourage residents to participate in various events.
Q: What was your experience before starting at Episcopal Retirement Services?
Anna: I was 18 years old. Fresh out of high school and clueless about what I wanted to do with my life. My older brother worked in the dining room at Deupree House when he was in high school. He got me an interview. I had worked in customer service before then.
Q: What first inspired you to pursue a career in elder care?
Anna: When I started at the University of Cincinnati, I thought I wanted a degree in special education because of my experience with people with disabilities. I also come from a family of teachers. I’ve always had a strong connection with my grandparents but didn't think it could be a career. Then I got a job at Deupree House and fell in love with older adults!
Q: In your experience, how does engagement improve aging adults’ quality of life?
Anna: It’s so important to keep aging adults engaged, so they know they’re valued and not forgotten. I am a huge advocate for mental health. My biggest fear is for people to feel forgotten. I want everyone to feel included and wanted, and showing them different things they can do to keep their mind and body going is a great way to do that. Showing everyone they still have a purpose is key to maintaining a good quality of life.
Q: Do activities differ between Deupree House different households? For example, the independent living neighborhoods versus Deupree Cottages. If so, how do they differ?
Anna: They differ in the amount of activities individuals are capable of doing. DD Farmer is wonderful at showing the residents at the Cottages anyone is capable of participating. Deupree House and the Cottages bounce ideas off each other and try to include each other in events when possible.
Q: How have activities and events at Deupree House changed in response to COVID-19?
Anna: The number of participants and the format of certain events have changed. We’re limited to 10 participants in person (following guidelines), but we’re lucky to be able to use services like Zoom.
I’ve found that Zoom allows us to reach more residents and raise awareness about different events. For instance, residents who’ve never participated in trivia can now join from their apartment. Once we can safely ease guidelines, I’m hoping that attendance will continue, and we’ll have more people participating in person.
Q: What has been the most fun activity to plan during your time at Deupree House? Alternatively, which activities do residents respond to most?
Anna: I did a “Sundaes for Survivors” event in October for everyone to celebrate cancer survivors. I also had a donut social for Halloween. Both were fun to plan because residents love to socialize, and it was fun to have some normalcy back — even while following health and safety guidelines.
I LOVE all holidays, even little goofy ones, so I usually give each resident a little something to celebrate. For example, I gave all residents word search books for National Puzzle Day on January 29th.
I also like to give our residents a little something at the beginning of each month. It's nothing huge, but it is something to show residents I’m always thinking of them. In February, I gave everyone a little bag of veggie chips with a note that said, “You’re all that and a bag of chips.” It might seem silly and insignificant, but it meant something. I had so many responses from residents who were so thankful and thought it was nice I had thought of them. I guess we're all a bunch of “foodies”!
Q: Do you have any tips for how to stay engaged and enrich your life during the pandemic?
Anna: Don’t give up. I have a tough time getting people involved who are set in their ways, but I’m bound and determined to get everyone to participate. I will try any event once — no matter how silly it may sound.
For instance, my favorite show is The Golden Girls. I never thought people would be interested in watching this. I put it on as comic relief one Monday and had a great turnout!
Q: What do you like most about your role at Deupree House?
Anna: The relationships I have with the residents. I know which ones prefer to remain professional and which ones like to banter. Some of them were even at my wedding. They truly make me so happy!
Person-centered at our core, Deupree House goes above and beyond to make sure our residents stay engaged and feel like they’re being cared for by family — not just a professional. If you have more questions for Anna or other team members or just want to learn more about our retirement community’s senior living options, fill out an information request form now.