Not too long ago, Carolyn Roberts retired from her healthcare job. When her mom moved to the faith-based Cerenity Senior Care facility in White Bear Lake in 2017, Roberts she realized she wanted to use her newfound time and energy to help the community there. Since early 2018, Roberts has been a Tuesday morning fixture, handing out books, magazines and puzzles to residents in transitional care, often with her pet conure bird Rio in tow.
“Our desire is to offer quality care—to create a community and really care for the whole person,” says Cerenity marketing and volunteer coordinator Miriah Van Duuren. Van Duuren works with Cerenity’s recreational therapy team to create fun and engaging opportunities for residents year-round, and volunteers often fill in the gaps to make them happen. The local nonprofit Bear Boating brings residents out on the lake in the summer. Therapeutic art specialist Dana Hughes designs projects adaptable to different levels of vision and dexterity, and volunteers collaborate with residents to create their work. There are ice cream socials and music groups on the lawn. And pet therapy is a crowd favorite—there are lots of smiles as therapy animals come by for belly rubs.
“We really want to provide opportunities for residents to do things that are different—to engage the senses and keep people feeling engaged and part of the wider community,” says Van Duuren. There’s a lengthy application and training process to match volunteers with roles they’ll love. Whether it’s helping with a worship service, at lunch or pushing wheelchairs, Van Duuren will help find a spot for any individual or group.
To help volunteers better understand the residents, Van Duuren holds interactive simulations for new volunteers so they can experience what it’s like to lose vision or manual dexterity. One group of students played bingo wearing latex gloves with cotton balls in the fingertips or Vaseline-covered glasses that blurred the numbers. After getting a sense of common effects of aging, they could empathize with their new senior friends on a different level.
For Roberts, the connection comes naturally. “If someone’s not feeling well or can’t read, I just talk to them. And I always bring carnations. No matter what, you can always sniff a flower! And Rio—he sure breaks a lot of ice,” says Roberts. Roberts says she receives much more than she gives to the Cerenity residents. “I’ve just been having a blast. It makes you feel so good to brighten people’s day,” she says.
Cerenity’s White Bear Lake facility is one of three operated by the brand locally. With 43 assisted living apartments, skilled nursing, memory care and transitional/rehabilitative services, it offers the full continuum of care for the aging and those recovering from illness or injury. To get involved at Cerenity, click here.