Here is an excerpt from a recent interview with Brenda Hunt, VP of Fun for Spectrum Retirement Communities. Spectrum Communities, headquartered in Denver, Colorado, is a leading developer, owner and operator of retirement, assisted living and memory care communities in the United States.
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. 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. 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.