While some may think of assisted living homes as isolating for those who live there, one facility in Muscatine, Iowa, is attempting to change this stigma by engaging residents in the local community through fundraising. 

Sunnybrook Assisted Living and Memory Care is a place for those who need day-to-day assistance, as well as those battling Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Here, residents are anything but isolated. Both residents and staff pride themselves on community engagement through outings, lunches and service groups. 

The assisted living center is home to many who were once incredibly active in their community, including teachers and organization leaders. For these residents, continued participation is still an intrinsic part of their lives. So, the staff at Sunnybrook have organized several ways for residents to stay connected with the local community

Connecting Generations 

One way Sunnybrook connects is through National Assisted Living Week. Each year, Sunnybrook invites community members to participate in daily events and activities designed to stimulate creativity. This year, the week’s events included a s’mores night and story time with local children. This gave residents a chance to connect with the younger generation, helping little ones learn how to read. Sunnybrook residents also rode a bus in the Muscatine High School homecoming parade, giving them a chance to shine. 

Allowing residents to get involved in their community in these ways has helped them connect with younger generations and completely changed the stigma of social isolation. 

The Season of Giving

Sunnybrook residents have also found ways to give back to their community through fundraising opportunities. One of the biggest fundraisers is Lunch for a Cause. From September to April, Sunnybrook invites locals to partake in eating lunch with those who call the facility home. Many Sunnybrook residents are unable to travel to see their loved ones during these chillier months, but this fundraiser still gives them a chance to mingle so they never have to feel alone. 

For those unable to enjoy a sit-down lunch in the assisted living home, the facility also sells to-go lunches. The Marine Credit Union helps pack these lunches and further volunteers by serving Sunnybrook residents and guests. All proceeds are given to a different nonprofit organization each month. 

This past September, Sunnybrook sold 83 to-go lunches and 35 guests ate lunch with residents, raising $830 for Kids First fund to help provide winter coats to children in need. In October, residents raised an additional $760 for the Muscatine Humane Society. 

One Sunnybrook resident, Alan Arkema, moved to Muscatine to be closer to his daughter and says he has enjoyed his new home at the facility. Arkema has made connections with others throughout the community through this fundraiser and others like it. He says Lunch for a Cause helps everyone stay connected while broadening their perspectives, all while helping raise money for a good cause. 

An Authentic Way of Life 

In addition to community events and fundraisers, the residents at Sunnybrook enjoy several other opportunities to remain engaged and active, such as a Life-Long Learning series, cocktail-hour gatherings, a Life Enrichment Program and book clubs. Sunnybrook also prides itself on offering exceptional service and creating a dining atmosphere that allows for meals to be enjoyed in a true restaurant setting. Privacy and choice are also respected, and care delivery is done in residents’ apartments to ensure this. These things ensure Sunnybrook seniors live dignified and active lives.

In this way, assisted living facilities like Sunnybrook can choose to play larger roles in seniors’ lives. By offering seniors the support and resources they need in order to make their own decisions and take control of their retirement years, facilities like Sunnybrook can help fight the stigma that assisted living facilities are boring or depressing. Other senior living facilities can follow suit and help make the Golden Years truly meaningful and enjoyable for their residents!

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About Author

Kate Harveston covers social justice and human rights issues. She graduated with a Bachelors in English and minored in Criminal Justice, so she enjoys writing about anything related to the intersections of law, politics and culture. For more of her writing, you can visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.

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