At Prestige, our Life Enrichment Directors play a vital role: they plan, create and execute a community’s activity calendars and events to help bring joy, excitement and camaraderie to our residents.
Laura Romo is the Life Enrichment Director at Prestige Assisted Living at Lake Havasu. We recently spoke to her to learn more about how she approaches her job, what kinds of events the residents enjoy the most and how she got into this line of work.
When you plan the event calendars, what goes into that planning process? What are you looking at each month?
Laura Romo: “First of all you need to look and see what kind of holidays or special events that are going on so that you can plan some activities around that. You know, we have a really good team here, so I utilize their advice as well… We also look at marketing campaigns, see if we can include activities that are directed towards the marketing campaigns. Plus I always love to involve the staff, so we try to perhaps do a theme day or a theme week. Our staff will do anything, they dress up and participate in themes, so we try to incorporate those ideas as well.”
Like anybody, the residents probably have events that are their old favorites that they always enjoy. So how do you balance incorporating favorites with also trying to get them excited about new events?
LR: “That actually can be a challenge. Of course, everyone loves bingo, who doesn’t? But our demographics are changing. We still have many residents who are in the silent generation, but now we’re welcoming our Baby Boomers. And although the Baby boomers integrate and adapt really well to the other generations, they do want different events. They’re very social. They want things like happy hour and live music. They love playing cards. They like going out to lunch and dinner, those are very popular. So as a team here at Prestige, we need to think outside the box and gather people who can brainstorm and come up with things that might seem crazy, but give it a shot and see how it works. And that’s how we come up with strategies for new events and activities.”
What are some of the most popular events that residents enjoy?
LR: “It’s interesting because Wii bowling used to be very popular and then it went away for a few years and now it’s extremely popular again. I put it on the calendar every day because there is anywhere from four to 10 people either playing or watching. We started having competitions in the evening, we call it wine and Wii, it’s just really fun, like a bowling league. Of course, happy hour and live music. I usually have live music at least once a week. They like to play more games now and then our exercise wellness classes are well attended.”
Has there been something that you’ve put on the calendar that was almost kind of an experiment, and you kind of thought to yourself, ‘Well, I don’t know how this is going to go’, and then it turned out to be a big hit?
LR: “Yes, we had a cruise week and we turned the entire community into a cruise ship. Each day we had food and games and crafts. We even did ports of call to different locations each day and the residents and the staff would dress up. We had t-shirts made, we even had a captain’s black tie dinner at the end of it. Almost all the residents and all of the management dressed in black tie formalwear, I’m talking full length gowns and suits. We even had one gentleman who had a tuxedo and he wore it to the dinner. And I was so surprised because I wasn’t sure if they were going to want to pretend each day that we’re going to these different ports of calls and we’re doing all these activities, that we’re supposed to be on a cruise ship, but they talked about it for months.”
So how did you come into working as a life enrichment director?
LR: “Well, I actually worked for a nonprofit prior to this, so I did some organizing of events. And I was my mother’s caregiver for many years. My mother had Alzheimer’s and when she moved into assisted living and also passed away, my husband and I decided to move from California to Arizona. I took some time off, about a year and a half. And basically I saw a job as an activity assistant and I thought, that sounds really interesting. So it just came down to applying and then I fell in love with the job. How lucky is that to find a job that you just love? And I’ve been here nine years and of course I got promoted into the director position.”
What do you enjoy most about the job?
LR: “It’s never the same. My personal enjoyment is just making the residents smile, making somebody laugh every day, including myself. And just the hugs you get, you know that it’s from the heart. I’ve always told myself, if I stop laughing in this job, that’s the time that I think I need to retire. It’s laughing every day and knowing that you touch somebody’s life.”