by Marisa Ray
What do yoga, art, Olympic competition, and volunteering have in common? These activities seem unrelated to some degree. However, when you ask a resident living in a Presbyterian Homes, Inc. (PHI) community in North Carolina, you might hear otherwise.
Ten years ago, under the leadership of then-president Bill Pleasants, the senior living communities of PHI began thinking differently about wellness and older adults. Comprised of residents, staff and others with specific areas of expertise, a steering committee was formed that identified and explored eight dimensions of wellness: physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, nutritional, environmental, safety and community outreach. With such a holistic perspective, it was clear that this new way of thinking would result in much more than just a program; it would be a way of life engaging the mind, energizing the body and encouraging the community. PHI determined that all three of its North Carolina communities: Scotia Village in Laurinburg, Glenaire located in Cary, and River Landing at Sandy Ridge in Colfax would have a focus on wellness. All communities were staffed with experienced and committed wellness directors and enCompass™ was launched.
Tim Webster, current president of PHI, defines enCompass as a vehicle whereby many of the core values of the organization are put into motion. “enCompass provides participants with the opportunity to make choices, to pursue healthy active lifestyles and to maintain their independence,” said Webster.
Wendy Heinzmann, recently retired director of enCompass at Glenaire and steering committee member, notes that diversity is key. “Everyone has a specific dimension to which they are drawn. Because each dimension is featured monthly in each community, there is always something for everyone, whether a participant is a current resident in independent living, assisted living or memory care, or even a ‘resident of the future.’” (PHI builds ongoing relationships with and offers special amenities to “residents of the future,” older adults who plan to move into the community at a later time.) Heinzmann’s survey results a few years ago showed that over 80 percent of residents are involved in enCompass, a good indicator that the initiative has been well received.
Whitney Levens, wellness director for River Landing at Sandy Ridge, confirms these results. “Our enCompass program is unique because of the emphasis that it places on all of the eight dimensions of health, not just physical well-being that generally comes to mind when thinking of wellness,” notes Levens. “Staying healthy in spirit, mind, and body shouldn’t have to feel like work or a chore. It’s easy to incorporate things that improve your overall health when you actually like doing them!” she said. Considering a holistic view of health is innovative and important. “Times are changing. Residents are coming to our community at a younger age and are interested in wellness. They don’t want to come to a retirement community to sit in rocking chairs on the porch. They want to live and give back,” said Ellen Sims, wellness director at Scotia Village. “We are ready for them.”
Faye Simmons, a “resident of the future” at River Landing at Sandy Ridge, said, “Other communities are not talking with me about my health in quite this way.” Simmons enjoys the opportunity to attend the educational seminars offered through enLighten, a distance learning program that connects participants directly to presenters all across the globe. Residents serving on the enLighten committee help to determine the course offerings. This year, the course catalog offers 17 different classes including opportunities to tour the International Spy Museum with a former CIA case officer or analyst, learn about food webs in Alaska with a faculty member from the Alaska SeaLife Center, and examine the life and compositions of Frederic Chopin with the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Participants also can expand their horizons through hands-on activities including art. Mac Doubles, who lives with his wife, Jacque, at Scotia Village said, “Jacque has especially appreciated the support given to the painting activity by the enCompass program. Having enjoyed her water coloring before our retirement and move to Scotia, she has welcomed the instruction provided under the auspices of the program and has been able to apply herself to other media as well. Each instructor has brought something different to the students, and now almost a dozen or so resident painters use the craft room during the week to practice their craft.”
Early in 2014, residents at River Landing at Sandy Ridge and over 200 community volunteers joined with another nonprofit organization to package 100,000 dehydrated meals to be shipped around the world. “We had a lot of people in walkers that were coming in here to work,” said resident Kathy Hoyt who devoted most of her day to help. “We are giving to others. I think that’s the most important thing. I have been given a servant’s heart, so I have to serve,” she added. Kathy and her husband, John, are newer residents and participate in many dimensions of enCompass.
enCompass focuses on an array of topics and ideas such as encouraging residents to be good stewards of our environment by going “green,” day and weekend trips that encourage them to get connected to others and explore, and focusing on their purpose in life and strengthening their faith. The program also addresses ideas and issues that may be more top-of-mind when thinking of health and wellness. Sims offered a fall prevention event recently at Scotia Village that assisted residents with their questions about podiatry, pharmacy, safety equipment, healthy diets and more. Sessions on nutrition and bone health were also offered along with information about in-home safety. Sims made senior fitness testing and hearing tests available to residents as well.
The PHI Olympics is an annual event that generates a lot of excitement and competition for the PHI communities. Residents from each of the three communities train throughout the year and compete against other communities in events such as corn toss, water walk, quiz bowl, bocce, walking relays and chair volleyball. As Levens sees it, “The PHI Olympics gives [River Landing at Sandy Ridge] the opportunity to compete against our sister communities and really take pride in our community by supporting one another. It is a time of fellowship, laughter and, most of all, fun.” Resident Dick Strohmeier won three medals this year at the Olympics; in men’s water walking he placed silver in the age-adjusted category and gold in the overall category. He also won the bronze in the men’s mile relay walking. “I enjoy meeting people from our other communities. The competition provides a goal for fitness year round and camaraderie within your own community,” says Strohmeier.
The Presbyterian Homes, Inc. has more than 60 years’ experience as a leader in senior living. Its mission is to provide older adults with caring and the highest quality services that support their physical, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being. The Presbyterian Homes, Inc. is a non-profit corporation serving approximately 1,100 residents living at its three continuing-care retirement communities located within North Carolina. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through a covenant agreement. To learn more about enCompass, visit one of our PHI communities or our website at presbyhomesinc.org.
MARISA RAY serves as director of development and public relations for Presbyterian Homes, Inc., serving North Carolina.