Meaghan McMahon, MSW
Research Director, Linked Senior
Often when we think of strength, we think of it in the physical sense. A person is strong if they can run a long distance without a break, lift something heavy with ease or endure a certain level of pain without complaint. People who display these extra ordinary abilities are considered exceptional in our society and worthy of praise.
This definition of strength is of course accurate but it also leaves out the people who display what is known as quiet strength. This kind of strength can be characterized as unwavering resilience, boundless empathy, abundant kindness, and persistent optimism. It is the strength that has been shown so clearly in the activity and life enrichment professionals at senior living communities across the nation since the beginning of the global pandemic. These individuals go to work each day to defend the basic human right of every older adult to live purposefully each day. The life enrichment/activities department in senior living communities is a major enabler of person-centered care.
As we enter this season of gratitude, let’s each take the time to reach out to and thank these individuals who have set a shining example for each of us of what it means to be truly strong. As a way to honor their quiet strength, Linked Senior began its #ActivitieStrong Initiative in March. Since that time, we have learned a lot from these professionals about how they are weathering this storm including:
- 93% believe that their engagement program will be the same or stronger coming out of COVID-19 (July 2020 Linked Senior Survey)
- 54% are now receiving help from other departments in providing engagement to older adults in their community (November 2020 Linked Senior Survey)
- 41% believe that the most positive discovery personally at work due to the pandemic has been the adoption of new products/solutions that assist with meaningful engagement (October 2020 Linked Senior Survey)
Not only are activity and life enrichment professionals optimistic about the future of engagement, they are also embracing technology and interdisciplinary work so that they can optimize person-centered and purposeful engagement for older adults. They know the stakes are so high especially as loneliness and isolation continue to demolish health and well-being in all communities. In a survey conducted by Altarum last month of 365 older adults living in nursing homes in 36 states, 76% of respondents reported feeling lonelier under the new restrictions and 64% also reported that they no longer leave their rooms to socialize with others.
Unfortunately, the quiet strength of activity and life enrichment professionals continues to be an asset underutilized in this industry and without support from executives in their communities, they are not set up for success. Since the beginning of the pandemic, most engagement has to be done in a one-to-one setting for safety and this can be particularly difficult with current budget and staffing restraints. A Linked Senior survey last month found that 75% of activity and life enrichment professionals feel that insufficient staffing is preventing them from meaningfully engaging all residents. Furthermore, another Linked Senior survey found that more than 1/3 of staff report that they are not doing enough one-on-ones and that the impact of COVID-19 requires the work of at least another 1.2 FTE (517 respondents on April 28, 2020).
As the holidays quickly approach, let’s not forget to embrace the power of quiet strength. If you live near a senior living community, consider “adopting” a resident during this season and connect with them by phone and through letters. If you love to cook or bake, drop off a meal or baked goods to the employees of a nursing home in your neighborhood. Have a talent you would like to share with older adults virtually? Sign up to be a #HolidayStrong entertainer this month through Facebook Live in the #ActivitiesStrong Facebook group.
“Real strength has to do with helping others.”