I Have a Confession to Make
Posted on June 4, 2014 by Chad Adcock
I have a confession to make. I’m an introvert. As an Engage Life Director, whose job entails creating, designing and implementing dynamic social calendars for the residents of Atria at St. Joseph’s, that makes me sort of an anomaly. However, being surrounded by such a vibrant, spirited group of older adults every day has begun to have an impact on me.
I once attended a conference for activities professionals that took place at a large zoo. As an exercise, we were asked to compare our personality with that of one of the animals in the zoo. An overwhelming majority of us self-identified with river otters. No surprise there, right? After all, river otters are social, outgoing, bubbly, life-of-the-party, attention-seeking animals. Sounds a lot like most of the activity professionals I know.
However, there was a very small minority of us who identified as slightly less social animals. Personally, I thought of myself as a lion – relaxed, quiet (most of the time) and always watching and keenly aware of everything going on around me.
When you plan more than 200 community events per month, you have to get really creative. So every day in my community, I do things for my residents that are contrary to my natural, introverted inclinations: things like dancing around and leading a spirited sing-along, throwing on a funny hat and fake moustache and serving drinks at happy hour – or sharing funny stories and anecdotes about my family to encourage group discussions.
Here’s what I have learned since that conference took place some time ago: Having an engaging social life plays an extremely important role in one’s overall health. Simply put, older adults who are active, engaged and involved are healthier than those who are not.
Take this scenario as an example: A new resident moves into the community. One of the family’s concerns is that, prior to moving in, their mom has been isolated in her house without any interaction with other adults. However, after getting settled into her new apartment, she becomes an active member of the community and something changes in her. Maybe she joins an art class and discovers a talent she never knew she had. Or maybe she makes some new friends at happy hour and looks forward to seeing them every day. Or maybe she tries a yoga class for the first time. Inevitably, the family will come back to me and talk about how much better mom is doing since moving into our community and how they wish they made the transition sooner.
The residents in my community inspire me. They live full, active, engaged lives and are never afraid to try whatever silly idea I come up with next. And do you want to hear something interesting? Working with them has actually changed me as a person. I now find that in my life outside of work, I am quite a bit more outgoing and social than I ever was before. Like my residents, I want to live a long, healthy life full of exciting experiences – and a plethora of silly hats.