The arrival of the solstice this week not only welcomes in the warm months of summer, it symbolizes the even warmer welcome received by every newcomer at Sunshine Retirement communities. Thanks to Sunshine Ambassador Programs in place at every community (and highlighted in an article in May 2017), it’s safe to say that nobody moves into a Sunshine community unnoticed and virtually everyone makes several new friends within a few days.
But the Ambassador Program is really only part of the story. A lot of other ice breaking and friendship building happens through a combination of tried and true practices, some interesting variations on successful themes, and a few off-the-wall activities that you most likely won’t see at any other retirement community.
The warm languid summer days are perfect for ice-breakers centered around some form of cool refreshment. So it should come as no surprise that Sunshine communities know how to make hay when the sun shines, so to speak.
All of our communities host welcome parties/socials at least every other month – and sometimes every other week – to welcome the new residents and build new friendships. Brook Ridge and The Gardens – both in Pharr, Texas – Summerfield in Tigard, Oregon; Garden Way in Eugene, Oregon; Creekside Oaks in Folsom, California; Deer Park in Novato, California; Fountain Crest in Lehigh Acres, Florida; and Hammond Glen in Sandy Springs, Georgia have all hosted Ice Cream and Root Beer Socials this month or are hosting them in the coming weeks.
“Everyone who attends a social is provided with a name tag,” explains Bill Goggin, Ambassador Resident at Waterford Terrace. “This helps both the new and old residents with name memorization.”
“Conversations are easy with a new resident since I don’t know anything about that person,” he says. “I simply start with, ‘Welcome to your new home. How do you like it here? Where did you move from? What are your hobbies?’”
At some communities, the focus of the social is a talking point in itself. For example, at The Landing at Behrman Place in New Orleans, Heritage Point in Mishawaka, Indiana, Carriage House in Lake Charles, Louisiana and the Gardens, you’ll find socials centered around:
Others, like Deer Park have a weekly Happy Hour with live music. And Heritage Point has introduced what they call “Snactivity,” which spotlights an ever-changing list of snacks, including Home-made Ice Cream, Snickerdoodles N Cran-Apple, Creamy Berry Salad and Very Banana Pudding.
As creative as these events may be, they can’t compare to the socializing shenanigans organized by Life Enrichment Director Ashley Hurd at Dunwoody Pines in Dunwoody, Georgia. Ashley has been known to break the ice by tossing around a beach ball with some silly and inquisitive questions written on it. Wherever your left thumb lands when you catch the ball, you have to answer that question.
“I have very open and interactive Activity Meetings with my residents, where I present ideas that I have gathered from my own thoughts, things I personally do, and creative forecasting ideas,” says Ashley. “I present the ideas to them and they tell me if they want to give it a try or how we can tweak it. I also take lots of input from the residents because I want the calendar to feature activities they actually want to do.”
This month, Ashley is presenting two new games. “Human Tic Tac Toe Trivia” challenges two residents to correctly answer trivia questions to earn Xs or Os on a Tic Tac Toe grid made up of nine other residents seated in three rows. The first person to get three in a row wins.
“Escape Room” leaves a group of residents trapped in a room. The only way out for them is to solve riddles that will help them find the four missing puzzle pieces.
“I try to keep the schedule fresh because I don’t like to see everything the same from month to month,” says Ashley.
Whether we’re keeping it fresh or refreshed with ice cream, smoothies and other treats, one thing’s for sure. Sunshine residents are in for a fun and friendly summer.
This blog was first published here: Sunshine Retirement Living, June, 2018.