Interview with Brenda Hunt
VP of Fun for Spectrum Retirement Communities
Spectrum Retirement Communities, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is a leading developer, owner and operator of retirement, assisted living and memory care communities in the United States. Formed in December 2003 by managing directors Jeffrey D. Kraus and John M. Sevo, Spectrum today has a network of 24 communities in 11 states. Spectrum’s goal is to exceed residents’ expectations while providing the highest level of choice, dignity, privacy and respect.
Brenda Hunt began her career in the senior living industry in 2009 as a volunteer in a Spectrum community where her mother and father live. She found the work so rewarding she applied for and was hired as the community Director of Fun. Within nine months she was promoted to the position of Vice President of Fun. She has 30 years of corporate experience in training, event planning, marketing, public relations and sales. Brenda is passionate about creating programs, events and activities for residents that inspire laughter, learning and engaging experiences every day.
Q. Needless to say your job title is unique. Can you share your responsibilities?
I have three primary responsibilities:
- To translate the company’s vision of positive, supportive and respectful communities into meaningful, resident-centered programs.
- To oversee the Directors of Fun at our 24 communities, including training, teaching, coaching and supporting efforts to create positive, happy environments. Aging individuals can easily lose their sense of purpose and this often leads to unhappiness and depression. Our intention is to create programs that give back a sense of purpose. Residents can try new things, engage in new projects and activities, and regain the focus that made their lives successful and happy.
- Most importantly, my job is to listen. All of Spectrum’s programs are customized to the pulse of the residents in each community. Listening is an organizational imperative for success. We listen to our residents, understand their life stories—who they were, who they are now and who they are growing to be. Our Directors of Fun are trained to listen and are chosen for their compassion and empathy.
Q. What is Spectrum’s overarching philosophy of resident activities?
Our commitment is to create an environment and atmosphere in each community that embraces a sense of joy, enrichment, respect and kindness. Within this framework we are committed to offering residents a choice of activities and honoring their preferences. Not surprisingly, the majority of Spectrum residents participate in some activities every day to stretch their minds, bodies and spirits.
Q. Is the approach to resident activities the same for independent living, assisted living and memory care?
Our philosophy and commitment are the same for independent living, assisted living and memory care. We develop activities that reflect the desires of each community and its residents. For example, we develop annual and monthly “themes” at the national level, but each individual community customizes the activities and programs that reflect the theme.
We deemed the year 2012 “A Year of Most Living.” In the context of Spectrum and our residents, “most living” means experiencing something to the greatest amount, degree or extent in our life. Each month has a theme designed to celebrate the “most” of something. Whether it’s the most beautiful locations, the most magical experiences, or the most inspiring sights and sounds, the communities will be focused on the “most living” possible in any given area.
I have to emphasize how strongly we believe in community integration and inclusion. All of our residents are encouraged to join in the fun. For instance, at a musical event you’ll find residents from independent living, assisted living and memory care tapping their toes and swaying to the melodies; neighbors enjoying an event together. We understand memory care residents need individualized care and structure but we believe they should not be completely removed from socialization.
Q. Please share your thoughts about the Directors of Fun at the communities.
They are an extraordinary group of people. They listen to residents and work closely with other community staff members, especially dining staff, to create activities and events that invoke laughter today and memories tomorrow. All of the directors see a world of possibility and never shy away from ideas that could lead to a great event. Their minds seem always to be in search of a new and different ways to engage our residents collectively and individually. They try to find one thing a resident would enjoy and create something around that. They don’t say “no.” Instead they think: “WOW that’s something new and fun!”
Q. Can you share some examples of activities appropriate for independent living, assisted living and memory care?
Music is a great example. It lifts everyone’s spirits. It connects people and is enjoyed by everyone. We’ve also recently introduced Xbox/Wii bowling and it has proven to be a big hit. Communities have bowling tournaments and the competitive spirit is second only to the laughter, fun and high fives. In memory care we’ve begun using Xbox Kinect because it does not require a hand-held device, just one’s body movement does the trick. This has been a huge success in terms of fun and fitness.
Spectrum has developed specific programs that are adapted by each community, such as: Spectra Fitness Classes, Marvelous Mind, Spectrum Travel Adventures, Great Moments in Entertainment, Rhythms of Spectrum, Just for Laughs and Aging with Grace.
Q. Are there activity trends you are seeing or residents are requesting? How are activities changing to meet the desires of residents?
Music and entertainment remain popular, and bingo is a special favorite. On a regular basis we seek feedback from residents at each community about the activities they would like to see. Games, intergenerational activities and now Wii dancing are increasingly popular. We’ve also recently introduced inter-community programs like bowling tournaments and we’ve just had our first pen pal day where residents write to residents at other Spectrum communities. One of our communities did a flash mob at a mall in Oregon and others started annual Kentucky Derby days.
Most importantly, our Directors of Fun listen carefully to feedback and are not shy about jumping on ideas to expand community laughter and engagement.
Q. To what do you attribute Spectrum’s success with activities?
Spectrum’s commitment to fun, laughter and engaged residents begins at the top and is embraced by employees throughout organization. Every member of our team starts and ends each day with a positive attitude, a spirit of generosity and lots of laughter. It is part of who we are as individuals and as a team.