In this series I am exploring event calendars in senior living communities. This is part two in the series. You can read part one on the Overscheduled Grandma here. 

5 features of an event calendarEvents calendars are important tools for communicating things to do within a facility. Generally, there is a pattern that also provides structure to the week – Bingo on Wednesday evening, exercise on weekday morning, etc.  The events help distinguish one day from another.

While it may not seem like a big deal, there REALLY is a LOT of work involved in putting together a calendar. In addition, it is important that as events are added and subtracted as the month goes along, these changes are reflected in the filed copy. (Surveyors may ask to look at these.)

In addition to all the “events”, the staff and families do their best to support personal solitary interests. Imagine there is a resident  who is a loves to crochet afghans while listening to soap operas. To support this, you need to be sure they have access to yarn and their regular scheduled programs.  Supporting this solitary activity is important but it is not an event.

Just because something is on the calendar doesn’t mean it is really an event in my book.

Events involve one or more of these 5 features.

Events involve interactions. If an event is just a floor staff member starting a movie then leaving the room, that does not equal an event in my book. Watching the movie can involve conversation about the story line, the dress, and sharing memories related to the movie.

Events support “normal” interests and lifestyle. In my current community, men gather in the mornings at the doughnut shop. There they visit about events while sipping coffee and enjoying a treat. In another community, it might be afternoon gathering for a beer and peanuts. Living in a senior living community should NOT be the end of “normal”. It may bring a change to normal. (A medical condition may call for the coffee to be decaf or the beer to be “near-beer”.)

Events reflect the unique interests of their residents. Maybe your crowd is into classical music. The facility down the street may have a growing group of “Dead Heads”.  One facility may have a group that loves to play poker while another facility has those who play bridge. No matter the interests that connect the people, those are the ones that matter. What is scheduled and what is shared should relate to the interests of those who live there. It should change as the people who live there come and go.

Events can just happen. Eggs may hatch in the tree outside the window. Everyone would rather gather and watch than do the “planned” event. A family member arrives to visit. They sit at the piano and start singing with their grandma. Soon, others join the chorus.

Events are fluid in time.  One day a group can be very peppy. Exercise group may last 45 minutes and everyone is invigorated. Another day, they are tired after 15 minutes. Events need to have flex time. Yes, there are times the staff leading an event must bring it to a close.  Maybe the bingo cards need to be put away so the dining room can be prepared for dinner. Maybe the staff member needs to go lead another event or attend a meeting.

A positive from corporate driven event planning

Corporations are trying to promote a range of experiences for those they serve. The materials they create add greater depth and variety to what is offered. They take a lot of time figuring how to spin a theme for a year, what types of experiences they can create (food, music, information) for event focus. They create a great starter resource. They are working to support a healthy lifestyle which includes new experiences.

A fear from corporate driven event planning

The result is senior living communities within a corporation are listing the same events. They may happen on different days of the week or month, but they all have the same things listed. This makes me question whether the unique interests of each facilities residents is truly being honored. (As with the last post, this is not a slam of corporate owner facilities. It is just an observation.) 

There is often little time allotted for planning and preparing “normal” events let alone “new” materials. Trust me, to properly plan and carry out an event isn’t as simple. Bingo is more than pulling out the bingo cards and calling the numbers. You have to be sure you have cards and that meet the special needs of some of your residents. Prizes need to be gathered. You need time to set-up the room, gather the group, time to clean up and put away after the event. To say nothing of dealing with personalities during the event. (Let’s just say, not everyone is nice to everyone.)

When an event covers a less familiar topic, the staff needs extra time to understand, to personalize to the residents and to make preparations for the event. Sometimes the recommended resources may not be available in all communities (especially those that are rural.)

Where does this lead into over-scheduling?

It all boils down to time and approach. There has to be enough staffing time to plan, to prepare and to carry out the events while still leaving time to address those personal solitary needs of many. There needs to be an honoring of the time each resident wishes to sleep or carry out a personal solitary interest.

Staff must have time to assess the interests of each person. That information is used to inform what is offered and to communicate who to invite to what. (It is so easy to have too much for one person and nothing of high interest for another person.) That information must then be shared with floor staff in a way that informs them who to invite to which events. When someone is constantly knocking on the door inviting people to events it becomes an interruption.

There also needs to be the space and time for the normal activities, the “hanging out” over a cup of coffee, the sharing of grandchild photos, the reminiscing ….the things we all (yearn to) do. If the public spaces are always busy, these normal things get moved to rooms or stopped. The fact is, surveyors and facilities don’t like people to be shuttered in their rooms all the time unless there is a medical reason warranting such action.

It is a vicious circle of “too”s: Too little – too much; too early – too late; …

What the answer? I’d love to hear your thoughts!