Long gone is the nurses’ station that was the focal point in the great room at Village on the Green’s health center.
In its place is a cooking demonstration area that looks like something from a TV set. Team members take turns each week preparing recipes in front of a packed crowd at Lifespace’s Longwood, Florida, community. Residents love sharing their own favorite recipes — and sampling the finished product.
“It’s a great social time and gets people mingling together and talking,” says the administrator, Gail Wattley.
It’s just one sign of the community’s commitment to person-centered care.
In this model, the community treats older adults as whole people. Residents and team members work collaboratively, and resident choice and freedom is paramount. The philosophical shift is often referred to as “culture change.”
In the health center at Village on the Green, residents set their own schedules, decide what they eat, and make decisions that affect their care – a far cry from the more traditional setting where one-size-fits-all policies and employee habits dictate care.
At Village on the Green, residents “self-determine what is best for them,” Wattley says.
The community’s approach earned it the Gold Seal, a Florida-based quality care distinction. Of 671 skilled nursing centers in the state, only 18 are Gold Seal-certified. And Village on the Green is one of only two communities honored with the prestigious recognition every year since the program began in 2002.
“Our approach is important for quality of life,” Wattley says. “We want residents to live to their highest potential. Every day is a gift, and that’s how we want residents to look at it, too.”
That resident-centered philosophy is found throughout Lifespace’s 12 campuses.
At Friendship Village of Bloomington, the community newsletter includes a long list of upcoming events – everything from computer classes to guest presentations like “Science and Aging.” Bright yellow stars appear next to most programs on the list – meaning they are led or originated by residents.
Jenny Barlow, program lead at Friendship Village of Bloomington, says residents play a vital role when it comes to program planning. The Bloomington, Minnesota, community surveyed residents last year to determine what programs to deliver in 2017. Barlow relies on resident feedback and ideas to develop theme-based curriculum.
For example, Barlow and other team members organized a class to help participants avoid falls after residents expressed interest. The series ends with a visit from Dr. David Gobble, a wellness expert with Masterpiece Living, Lifespace’s successful aging partner.
“There is a lot of person-centered planning that is really subtle and behind the scenes,” Barlow says. Residents also take surveys after classes and events to offer feedback, which leads to program improvements.
Barlow says residents appreciate the opportunity to voice their opinions and that she’s proud of the ideas they act on. Some residents volunteer to partner with team members to lead classes. Many design and deliver their own events or courses.
Resident Bill Barker says the programs at Friendship Village of Bloomington provide valuable experiences that help residents improve their well-being.
“It’s an interesting concept and it’s right on the cutting-edge,” he says.
Barker used his own passion for classical music to introduce Friendship Village to a long-running organization that supports young musicians and introduces people to the beauty of classical music. The community now sponsors several students through monthly concerts for residents.
Barker, who serves as president of the community’s resident council, also plays an important role in soliciting and addressing resident feedback. When residents have ideas or questions, Barker and the rest of the council work with team members to provide answers. He says that relationship is especially important as the community prepares to undergo a redevelopment.
“Team members are extremely adaptive to answering questions and resolve things in a very pleasant manner,” he says.
Barlow says that open communication is part of Lifespace’s commitment to creating communities that are focused first on residents.
“It’s incredibly important that we take in the feedback that we get and not take it personally,” she says. “There is a natural gap between those serving and those living here, so I always keep that gap in mind. I want to serve them well and be able to come up with smart, best practices."