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They’re working outside of the box, pushing the envelope, staying a step ahead, coloring outside of the lines…they fit virtually any cliché about not fitting into a mold. The life enrichment duo of Kathryn (Kat) Schumpert and Emily Abrahamson are charmingly alike…energetic, enthusiastic and funny, sometimes dressing the same and often finishing each other’s sentences; definitely sharing a deep commitment to active and engaging senior living.
Keeping the residents at GreenFields busy is good, but not enough. “I love being innovative and pushing what normally people think seniors would be interested in. I love when they’re shocked and amazed at what we do here,” said Kat, who as life enrichment manager is celebrating her second anniversary at the retirement community, and eleventh year in senior living. “I love making residents feel good and have a great day!”
Emily’s background is in donor relations in higher education, but her heart has always been with older adults. She was inspired, she said, by her grandmother who moved into a retirement community and found that she was able to pursue hobbies and develop new interests. “Seeing that happen with my grandmother was really powerful,” said Emily. “Each week she’s excited to talk about all of the activities with which she is involved. I knew I wanted to create that for other people.” Emily joined GreenFields as life enrichment coordinator six months ago, jumping into her new career in senior living with both feet.
“We knew when we interviewed Emily that she was the one. She had so much excitement for this and was not afraid to be innovative. This is something you can’t learn…it has to be inside of you,” said Kat.
The philosophy of the life enrichment team at GreenFields is to take great ideas to a new and better level. Case in point: Kat and Emily have launched a program called Exploring the World Our Way (eWOW). “Many retirement communities offer video travelogues. This is great but very one-sided. eWOW provides virtual visits featuring real-time interaction with docents, tour guides or reenactors at fabulous destinations including an elephant sanctuary park in Tennessee, underwater at the Great Barrier Reef, the Boston Tea Party Museum and more. We hold a program monthly and different departments participate including dining feature related themed meals. The program really engages the residents; they’re very excited by it,” said Kat.
Of particular value are the programs for residents with dementia. “If activities are especially engrossing and promote connectedness, the residents will sometimes retain what we did, and it will change their whole day,” said Kat.
She admitted that she’s very driven by her competitive spirit. “I like to see what other senior living communities are doing and compare their calendars to ours. They’re still doing things that are comfortable. We like planning things that residents will really look forward to.”
“I like to change the paths of our residents’ days,” said Emily. “We do a lot of brainstorming. We stay current with the industry and what’s innovative in senior living, and then take a step ahead of that. And most of all, we really listen to what the residents want.”
Additionally, Emily said, “We think of programming differently. We make things engaging and interactive rather than mindless. All our ideas are at least worth a try. If something reaches even just a few residents and changes their day for the better, it’s worth it. We work hard but enjoy every minute of it. Each day is different, each thing we do is a new, fun, a challenge. It’s really great.”
Jim Holbrook, executive director at GreenFields gives the life enrichment team rave reviews. “They are so dedicated and innovative. I am so proud of them and the way they consistently engage our residents,” he said.