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Live With Purpose: How Programming Enriches Daily Life at Sunrise

At Sunrise, we design programs and activities that help enrich the mind, body, and spirit. Since we first opened our doors, programming has played a huge role in daily life in our communities. Read more from our senior vice president of Memory Care & Program Services, Rita Altman, on how we’ve evolved and what the future may hold.

What was programming like when the first Sunrise community opened?
When founders Paul and Terry Klaassen opened the first Sunrise community in 1981, they lived at the community for several years. Sharing the same space as the first Sunrise residents helped to evoke a sense of family and community. They ate meals together, participated in activities together and enjoyed spending time together as you would in your own home with your family.

This sense of family extended to all areas of community life, including activities. Music and intergenerational activities were always popular choices, and residents were encouraged to share their interests and hobbies so that they could enjoy these activities at the community or on outings. For instance, if a resident had always kept up a beautiful garden at her home, she could continue to do so at the community. If another always enjoyed going to musicals, arrangements could be made to attend the local theatre.

How has programming evolved over the years?
Throughout our years, we’ve always designed activities and programming around what our residents enjoy doing, and that will never change. We continue to place a high value on resident feedback, and look to the latest evidence-based research to help us design programs that are meaningful and purposeful.

One of the ways we do this is through Sunrise Live With Purpose™, our carefully designed programming offered at all of our communities. Sunrise Live With Purpose consists of eight Signature Programs which bring together a sense of community meaning, purpose, engagement and activity. We know that each resident brings something unique to their community, and Sunrise Live With Purpose seeks to learn from them to help them to engage, express, learn and grow every day.

We also know our residents come from diverse backgrounds with rich life experiences, which is something we explore deeper when developing each resident’s Individualized Service Plan (ISP). This is our opportunity to hear from the resident and their family, what their hobbies and interests are and design programs around those. I’m a firm believer of doing more of whatever it is that makes you happy. And that’s exactly what we aim to do in our programs—doing more of what brings joy every day to our residents.

In Reminiscence, Sunrise’s memory care neighborhood, our person-centered approach to programming has also evolved through the addition of the Life Enrichment Manager (LEM) who has a very unique role at Sunrise. The LEM is responsible for creating a very personalized activity or offering for each and every resident that we ensure happens every day. For example, a resident who always threw parties and entertained in her home might be involved in preparing for socials and parties at the community.

Another way that our programming has expanded is through our proactive approach to promoting brain fitness through our Terrace Club neighborhoods and Live With Fulfillment programming in assisted living. Both are inspired by our commitment to championing quality of life for all seniors. By combining current research on social engagement and brain health with practical recommendations from those who know our residents best, Sunrise is able to offer additional structure and support through specialized programming for residents living with early-stage memory loss that is stimulating, success-oriented, and failure-free.

How does programming complement senior care?
To me, programming helps to round out care because the goal is to improve the resident’s well-being. We take a holistic approach, by combining the physical care and wellness needs of our residents with tailored programming. In this way, we are helping to take care of the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—which is so beneficial to their quality of life.  

Programming helps to stimulate the mind by improving cognitive brain function, communication skills, attention span and memory skills. For our bodies, programming helps to improve physical skills such as motor skills, range of motion, endurance, strength and flexibility and promotes independence with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing and changing clothes. And, for our spirit, programming improves emotional well-being and social engagement, which can evoke a renewed interest in life and higher self-esteem.

What do you see in the future of programming?
We’ll continue to further personalize our programs. We’ll do this by continuing to explore ways to help our residents stay connected using technology, such as through our award-winning therapeutic music technology, SingFit. And, we'll maintain open dialogue between residents and their families and the outside community/world, helping to ensure each resident is involved in programs of their interest. I’m certainly excited for what the future has in store!

Learn more about Sunrise programming. And, to see our programming in action or to participate in an activity, call a community near you to set up a tour!

Article By: Sunrise Senior Living

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