The independent living lifestyle is all about empowering residents to pursue their passions and create a retirement they love. Independent living communities are designed to give residents back their time by handling life’s day-to-day chores for them. These communities also make connecting with neighbors more convenient, which makes life a bit more interesting and a lot more healthy.
Although residents are the cornerstone of the independent living community culture, there is also a lot happening behind the scenes with the team members who support them. Working in an independent living community means many busy days, finding new ways to provide exceptional service, and getting to know the residents who call that community home.
We had some time to sit down with a Cedarhurst independent living team member to learn more about what it’s like to work in independent senior living.
Falling in Love with Independent Living
Some people are just born to serve seniors. For our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member, she grew up as an only child and found herself in plenty of conversations with adults when she was growing up. Her grandmother lived with her and was an active part of her life, as well as all of her grandma’s friends. It was only a matter of time before she began to look for a way to serve seniors as her career.
Our team member actually started by looking to volunteer at an independent living community—but there happened to be a Life Enrichment position open at the time. As soon as she accepted the position, she knew that the independent living community was just as much her home as it was for the residents she served.
Independent living residents are fun, wise, insightful, and hilarious. According to our Cedarhurst team member, the residents she serves are quite active, interesting, and always up for telling her a good story.
As a Life Enrichment Director, our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member describes herself as the Cruise Director from the popular television series The Love Boat.
“It’s my job to bring the residents in, find them friends, and connect them with someone they’ll match with based on shared hobbies and interests.” She continues, “I’m going to find out how they want to spend their day, and then I’m going to make that happen.”
Independent living residents often gravitate naturally to making new friends with their neighbors. Typically, this happens over shared meals in the dining room or over shared experiences like live concerts, social groups, or trips around town. This means that the Life Enrichment team and the events they facilitate are a cornerstone of the independent living experience.
Our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member takes her role seriously. “We’re that support system to get residents connected and feeling great.”
Breaking Old Stereotypes
Even the most forward-thinking residents and family members come to independent living with some antiquated stereotypes about senior living in general. For example, people are often surprised to hear that our independent living residents drink alcohol (only if they want to, of course) or that they date one another. However, we love it when people are pleasantly surprised to see residents living their best life in an independent living community, whatever that might mean to them.
Our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member loves surprising residents and family members with unexpected independent living programs and amenities as well. For example, her community features a saltwater pool, gardening beds, and regular “block parties” where residents with certain interests in common can gather to get to know one another better.
She has found ways to connect residents based on current hobbies as well as past interests. For example, she found residents who wanted to gather and play mahjong, and the gathering quickly transformed into a regular occurrence where neighbors became fast friends.
Focusing on Connection
Because connection is such an important part of the independent living lifestyle, the Life Enrichment team often takes the lead in creating ways for residents to find one another. As soon as residents move in, for example, Life Enrichment team members are there to say hello and welcome, as well as start a conversation about their interests and hopes.
But the process of getting to know a new resident goes well beyond those first few days. “Once someone has settled in and invites you into their home,” says our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member, “you can get to know more about them by looking at their collections of art or knickknacks.”
She gets to know her residents by making regular stops to check in, as well as inviting new residents to a monthly Meet and Mingle where new residents can get to know one another. Even better, our Cedarhurst team member has an open-door policy with her office. She wants residents to know they are always welcome to stop by the Life Enrichment office to ask a question, give a suggestion, or just chat.
It’s important to note that while there is always something happening in an independent living community, residents have the final say on how they spend their time, and in choosing the activities they do or don’t do. “They always have options,” says our Cedarhurst team member. “We always personalize our approach and interventions to what they want.”
Loving Her Independent Living Community
Independent living team members typically are proud of the community where they serve, and they work closely with both teammates and residents every day. For our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member, she loves that her coworkers grow together personally and professionally, sharing successes and milestones.
She’s also proud of her residents for always being so welcoming to new residents and team members. “Whether they were here from day one or if they are brand new, you can’t tell the difference in our dining room or at our events,” she says. “Everyone is so welcoming and engaging. We have a real ‘come sit with me’ culture here.”
So, what’s life like at an independent living community? It’s busy, but in the best way possible. If you have a love for serving older adults, value connecting with others, and want to find ways to bring joy into the lives of those you serve, independent living could be your best career move.
According to our Cedarhurst Senior Living team member, “It’s all about relationships. These relationships matter. You share your lives together every day.”
If you’re ready to share your life with seniors, explore the career possibilities in a Cedarhurst community near you.