My dad’s “senior living community” held an open house about a month ago. It’s one of several ‘big’ events they hold each year. This particular event showcased a newly remodeled recreation room in the assisted living area, which is at the extreme opposite of the nursing home wing my dad lives in.
Dad is notoriously balky about wanting to do much of anything, so I used an old trick. I showed up an hour before my usual visiting time and checked out the festivities. My nefarious plan, of course, was to pop down to Dad’s room and let him know all he’d missed — at which point I figured he’d want to see for himself.
The staff made it so easy. There was a handout in the main lobby that looked like a sleek version of a pirate’s treasure map. Colorful triangles dotted the page; each one indicated some point where food, music, or entertainment could be found.
Dad’s home isn’t really very large, but it’s arranged with three wings, each with a separate ‘living room’ area. There are a couple of other common areas, the lobby, a recreation center, and additional lobbies and the new rec center over on the assited living side. It’s designed quite intentionally so that there are lots of little ‘pods’ everywhere — open but intimate rooms that feel very home-like.
Every one of these held something interesting. The dining room staff made sure that different foods were featured all through the building, and kept the goodies coming for hours. A piano was rolled into the main lobby; upstairs in the new rec room entertainment (musicians, Irish dancers) was scheduled all through the afternoon. You really couldn’t help but go from point to point — there was something new around every corner.
I had all the ammunition I needed inside of ten minutes. Did Dad realize that there were jumbo shrimp right outside his door? That I’d seen musicians upstairs? That there were crabcakes in the next wing over? Smoked salmon hors d’oeuvres in assisted living? Asian tidbits in the small conference room? A new show every half hour in the rec room? That I’d grazed my delicious way to Dad’s room?
Dad thought he ought to do a little grazing himself. An hour and a half later, he’d sampled everything in the place, watched the Irish dancers, and become a full-fledged member of the happy throng. Choosing to scatter food and entertainment all through the building was a sure-fire prescription for success. Everyone was revelling in the treasure-hunt like ambiance; tips were exchanged about which goodies were where, and enthusiasm renewed as soon as each corner was turned.
It was a beautiful set-up, perfectly planned to inspire maximum participation and social interaction. Even Dad couldn’t resist.
All photos from flckr: