By Felicia L. Niven
It was time for Tai Chi. The group of seniors formed a circle, some in wheelchairs, others settling comfortably in chairs. Activities leader Cindy Weinraub walked around, warmly welcoming each person by name and clasping their hands in greeting. “Only do what’s comfortable,” she reminded them, as she led the group through a series of gentle movements accompanied by a video and music.
The residents tapped, stretched and swayed in graceful motions. When asked to mimic the up-and-down motion of bird-like wings, one quipped, “This is how the Wright Brothers started, you know!” Another equated the group’s kicks to the Rockettes. “That’s right, we’re going on tour,” Cindy joked back.
The easygoing banter, the frequent smiles, and the opportunity to exercise mind and body are plentiful at Seashore Gardens Living Center (SGLC). When the weather is cold outside, residents
especially enjoy the fact that they have so much activity right in their own home.
“I used to live in Pennsylvania and the winters were brutal,” said Mary Hood, age 86, president of the Resident Council at SGLC. “I would go out despite the weather but now it’s nice that I can stay active right here at home.” She notes that bowling is her favorite activity at SGLC because of the laughter and conversation. She also enjoys floor scrabble, trivia, and singing in the Seashore Songbirds Choir. She attends nearly all of the activities, including the Tai Chi session described earlier. “It keeps me busy and out of trouble,” she joked.
Residents can choose from a daily calendar packed with different types of activities from exercise to games to music and entertainment, and seasonally themed gatherings. “Mr. Klein and the administration have created a special place here,” said Missy Rundio, Director of Recreation and Volunteers. “It’s not just somewhere to go and spend your last years. This is living. We try to make every day a happy one for our residents and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
Missy and her team plan the activities for the residents. For holiday celebrations and special events, they meet months in advance to determine a theme. Last year, New Year’s Eve was “out of this world,” and featured a homemade spaceship and starry décor. Other events are seasonal, and often feature staff in entertaining roles. Executive Director Janice Cambron is known for dressing up, and has appeared as Marilyn Monroe, the flower girl from My Fair Lady, and Shirley Temple, to name a few.
Missy works with Food Service Director Jill LaBoy on weekly cooking and baking demonstrations. Some resident favorites included fake shrimp for this kosher home, and bananas foster.
Mildred “Rusty” Evans, age 90, loves the baking sessions because it reminds her of home. “It’s very interactive, and it’s always a treat to taste the finished product,” she said. She also participates in some of the exercise programs, and enjoys spending time on the ItsNever2Late computer, where she keeps in touch with friends and family via Facebook. In addition, Rusty looks forward to the monthly birthday parties, which feature professional entertainment, cake and ice cream.
“Yesterday, it wasn’t a birthday party but we had a comedy show here,” she said. “The staff and some of the residents got up and told jokes, and it was just fantastic. This is the kind of thing that keeps your mind working, and you really enjoy the day. Before you know it, the whole week’s gone.”
Kay Higgins, age 83, concurs that there’s plenty of activity at SGLC. “They find things to teach you, and it’s always a lot of fun,” she said. She especially enjoys the crafts. “We made a gate out of tongue depressors, and put a face on it. I put my smile upside down just to be ornery,” she said with a knowing grin.
She also enjoys the visiting entertainment. “Every Wednesday, Joe comes to play piano and sing for us,” she said. “He tells stories. People call out the names of the songs they want, and everyone sings along. It’s a great time.”
Kay reflected on her time at SGLC, which she says has been very fulfilling. “They make you feel so welcome, and they do so much for you,” she said. “I’m happy to be here. It’s not home, but it’s damn close.