Joey Greathouse is the Activities Director at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle in Dothan, Alabama, tasked primarily with the social well-being and recreation of residents in the assisted living apartments. But Joey has had to think outside the box during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep residents engaged and active.
“Sitting in the room staring at four walls tends not to work out too well, so we get them out and keep them busy and engaged,” said Joey. “We encourage all residents to come out of their rooms, though we can’t allow congregating in large groups. A lot of their conversation with each other just happens in passing. It’s good for them to get out and get some exercise.”
Joey joined the retirement community’s team in February, coming from a background in programs and activities for teenagers.
“This is my first time working with older people,” Joey admitted. “What I have discovered is that people want to have fun. This doesn’t change with age.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, most of the activities Joey planned were grab-and-go style, such as puzzles, painting, sun catcher kits left out in a common room for pick-up. But as a few days apart turned into weeks apart, Joey
saw the need to expand the types and variety of activities being offered.
“We’ve been having a lot of activities lately centered around food. Making slushies, Icees, smoothies, passing out muffins. One resident had never had a slushy before,” Joey marveled. “Activities are part of the quality of life, social skills, being active and keeping healthy. It all correlates to each other.”
When it became clear that in-person visitation with family members was likely to be restricted for a longer term, Joey helped organize “Love Parades” for each household at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle. Family members were invited to decorate their cars, make signs, and parade through the parking lot passing by their loved ones gathered six feet apart on the sidewalks outside. Adult children, along with grandchildren and other family members parade by, lightly tapping horns, waving, and calling out greetings to their loved ones. They received smiles, waves, greetings and blown kisses in return.
Since Joey’s family has a little farm, some of the small animals have shown up to visit with the residents. “Residents love the baby goat and the bunnies,” said Joey. “Many of them enjoyed farms growing up, and this had brought out conversations about when they use to have goats, chickens and cows.”
But much of the social impact Joey provides during these days comes from just spending time with the residents.
“Being present has helped out a lot,” Joey emphasized. “I’m 35, and a lot of our residents are in their 80s. They teach me something new every day. We talk about their stories, about whether they lived through something like this before. A lot of their parents had lived through the Spanish flu, measles, and polio, but nothing on this scale.”
Joey said that the residents have had life experiences that he will never comprehend.
“They tell me about chopping cotton, or how they would heat bricks and wrap them in towels to keep their bed warm at night. We’ve learned a lot about each other and a lot about the generation age gap in between us.”
And the learning goes both ways. Joey said he is teaching residents about online shopping and doing other one-on-one technology coaching. “I helped a resident set up a new iPhone, and helped others get on Facebook. There’s been a lot of cross generation teaching.”
For more information about our housing and health services at Wesley Place on Honeysuckle, contact our admissions team at 334-792-0921.