Caption: Debbie MacLean with residents at the 2019 Marjorie P. Lee Art Show.
For older adults living with cognitive disorders like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, staying engaged plays a crucial role in outlook and quality of life. Every week, our Life Enrichment team plans fun and engaging activities that help our memory care residents live well into the future.
Recently, we sat down with Marjorie P. Lee’s Director of Life Enrichment, Debbie MacLean, to learn how our events and activities support positive aging — not just for memory support residents, but for everyone at Marjorie P. Lee.
Q: Can you describe your current role at Marjorie P. Lee?
Debbie: I serve as the Director of Life Enrichment. I plan life-enriching events and activities to engage residents across our neighborhoods, including memory care.
Q: What was your experience before starting at Episcopal Retirement Services?
Debbie: I went to college for Park and Recreation Administration with an emphasis in Therapeutic Recreation. After graduation, I started working at a for-profit retirement community where I had the opportunity to continue to learn and develop my skills. That community had me overseeing resident activities, a corner store, transportation, beauty salon, barbershop, and an adult daycare they operated on campus.
Later, I joined ERS and have been here for 23 years. Working here has given me even more opportunities to learn, grow, and change with the organization.
Q: What first inspired you to pursue a career in elder care?
Debbie: I always loved spending time with my grandparents. I had many part-time and volunteer experiences in college with both older adults and children. I found both incredibly rewarding.
However, I realized that working with older adults allowed me to have more of a work-life balance. Also, being older, this group is genuinely appreciative of the work I do — which I find rewarding.
Q: How does engagement improve aging adults’ quality of life, particularly for those in memory care?
Debbie: Human connection is important for everyone at Marjorie P. Lee, especially for our memory support residents. Just hearing your name and feeling included in a group can help you feel stimulated and engaged.
Q: Do activities differ between Marjorie P. Lee’s different households? (ex. independent living vs memory care) If so, how do they differ?
Debbie: Yes, all the households have different individuals with different interests and abilities. We do our best to meet everyone where they are.
Q: How have activities and events at Marjorie P. Lee changed in response to COVID-19?
Debbie: They’ve changed dramatically — especially before the vaccines. A lot of things we do on an individual basis with residents in their rooms. We have been able to do some small group activities with masks and social distancing, but we don’t serve food or drinks.
We’re still unable to have outside speakers and entertainers in the building. Luckily, some of the speakers and musicians have been able to adapt to a virtual platform so we can show their performances on our in-house television station.
We have been offering carry-out dinners and lunches to support local restaurants and maintain some connection with community comforts outside of Marjorie P. Lee. In August, some of our residents were able to go out to dinner for the first time!
Q: What has been the most fun activity to plan during your time at Marjorie P. Lee? Alternatively, which activities do residents respond to most?
Debbie: The most fun, challenging, and rewarding was probably having our community be a host site for the World Choir Games in 2012. It gave our residents and their families the opportunity to see some amazing musicians in the courtyard and be part of a larger community event. It also allowed others to experience our community.
Q: Do you have any tips for how to stay engaged and enrich your life during the pandemic?
Debbie: Taking advantage of technology is a big one. Older adults often aren’t comfortable with these tools — especially our memory care residents. But, with our team’s assistance, technology has helped a lot of our residents connect with loved ones and stay engaged throughout the pandemic.
Q: What do you like most about your role at Marjorie P. Lee?
Debbie: I love that the job is different every single day, but my favorite part is really getting to spend time with the residents. Whether I’m hosting a party, going to a Reds game, or taking them on a picnic, I just love spending time with them.
Do you have more questions about our events, activities, or memory support households? Fill out our information request form. We look forward to hearing from you!