For seniors who want an independent with lots of choice and flexibility, Wyndemere senior living in Wheaton, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, is a community to consider. Residents at Wyndemere find a unique culture that covers all areas of life from fitness and nutrition to activities and wellness. One dynamic way seniors stay active and involved while helping peers as well as the surrounding community is by volunteering.
At Wyndemere, volunteering happens both on and off campus. The staff taps into areas of skill and talent as well as supports residents who want to try their hand at something new or out of their comfort zone.
Opportunities for All Interests
When residents initially move in, they can be overwhelmed at the new changes in their lives. But once they’ve settled in, our activities staff talks with them one-on-one to find out their interests and passions – to help them find their niche. “We ask them ‘What do you like to do? Is there anything you’re willing to share or teach,’” said Wyndemere Director of Activities Kelly Berger-Valadez.
“We have about 10 different committees here, some smaller and some larger than others. They are all resident-run. Once a year they have an annual meeting and appoint officers and chair people for the committees. Under each committee they look for volunteers as well.”
“One couple found just the right fit for their passions. A retired art teacher and her husband, who at age 70 decided he wanted to learn to paint, recently finished their sixth year of teaching watercolor painting in the Wyndemere creative arts studio.” shared Kelly. “They teach twice a week to a group of residents as well as few people who come in from the outside community. They don’t charge anything – they just ask that we cover supplies for the studio.” Kelly added that they are a “really cool couple,” and that the husband is a very patient teacher. “He meets everyone wherever they are, and they all work on the same thing at the same time.”
Wyndemere also has a very active library committee. “These seniors keep everything catalogued. When people donate books they sort them, shelve those they want to keep, and distribute other throughout our campus.”
The Windy Bar committee is the largest. Kelly explained, “Windy Bar has a resident-run happy hour, completely self-sustaining. The committee purchases and sets up everything, contracts for entertainment, buys their own alcohol. We have about 20 volunteers who run this.” The Activities committee is second-largest, with about 15-20 volunteers, including all of its subcommittees.”
Finding a Niche
Wyndemere is a Life Plan Community that includes independent living, assisted living, skilled nursing, and a new memory care wing that just opened last year in the Wynscape Health and Rehabilitation Center. Being a Life Plan Community allows seniors to live within a continuum of care and transition to appropriate residences within the Wyndemere community as health needs change.
A very unique group has grown out of the memory care addition to Wyndemere. Kelly explained, “Several residents have transitioned there, so we have a few groups of women who have known those residents and who go over there regularly. One group goes regularly and sings. Another goes over once a month and hosts a tea party. Another group will visit, paint nails, whatever their friends want. It has been really nice to have some extra hands and folks who are willing to visit with people they know.”
Kelly highlighted two volunteers who really stand out. “They are super nice, quiet, but were not heavily involved in activities. They started going over to memory care and helping residents. Both are nurturers by nature. One of the two was a kindergarten teacher and both were SO good with residents.
“Now, they will come up with ideas for the memory care residents, such as going shopping and buying candy for Valentine’s day and creating these little bags to give them, and doing crafts.”
Their passion for helping others has even found its way into helping independent living residents of Wyndemere. “They’ve come together to help residents who may have lost a spouse or live alone. They’ll have these little get togethers in their apartments, with snacks, and they’ll put together questions and topics for residents to talk about,” shared Kelly. “It’s really cool to see. They have found their purpose and just blossomed! It’s also very beneficial to the community — they are doing this service that is great for the entire campus.”
Helping in the Surrounding Community
Residents have a pretty strong presence outside of the Wyndemere campus as well. “Residents have volunteered at Northwestern University since long before I came here, which was nine years ago,” said Kelly. “Northwestern has built a Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital nearby, and there are folks here who were instrumental in the building of it, the funding of it, and who donated furnishings and decorative pieces.”
Wyndemere residents are also very involved with the People’s Resource Center, which provides services such as short-term housing and a food pantry for people who are trying to get back on their feet. “Another woman who lives here has been involved with DuPage County PADS, a homeless shelter in Wheaton. She is a Stephen Minister, and her job is to listen and offer support to these individuals,” shared Kelly.
A large group of residents like to help out at nearby DuPage County Hospital, providing patient transport around the building, working in the gift shop, or just doing whatever is needed.
The Biggest Benefits
“I would have to say that while volunteering benefits seniors cognitively, physically, and in so many ways, the biggest benefit is it gives them a purpose,” said Kelly. “They have skills and talents that they haven’t used for years. Once you tap into them… it’s amazing to watch.”
Kelly said she sees a lot of vocational wellness through Wyndemere’s volunteer programs as well. “Our couple who teaches art is a great example. One of our gentlemen who is very tech savvy teaches residents the basics of computer usage. Another woman who is a fantastic photographer volunteers to take photographs for all of our events. That is great for her and it frees up our staff to work an event while she takes the pictures.”
Kelly remarked on a group of ladies whose knitting and crocheting skills have led them to knit lap blankets for seniors in Wynscape’s skilled nursing as well as sell blankets and donate all of the profits to the skilled nursing wing’s Make a Wish program.
And to quickly revisit our two ladies who help in memory care, while they were at lunch with Kelly and a small group of residents one day, one of the ladies got up to help a patron not in their group because she saw him looking confused. “She used to be very quiet and not noticeably outgoing, but now she’s helping everyone… even strangers!”
To find out how you can become an active and engaged part of Wyndemere’s senior living community, get in touch with us at 1 (866) 579-2405.