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Catholic Healthcare's My Lifestyle program enriches lives

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Enriching people's lives, respecting the uniqueness of every resident and creating a 'home away from home' is what Catholic Healthcare's My Lifestyle program is all about.

Lifestyle and Engagement, Special Projects Manager, Wendy Lawrence, is the driving force behind helping to realise this dynamic program.

"Thoughtful, engaging and meaningful lifestyle offerings are essential to seniors living in residential aged care," says Wendy.

"At the end of the day, relationships are at the core of everything we do. Many studies have shown that regardless of our age and background, the key to a happy and meaningful life is our relationships, being connected to others and feeling we have purpose and are doing things that matter to us. Our My Lifestyle program, to help our residents fulfill some of these basic human needs, can't be underestimated. It sits alongside clinical care," she adds.

"As our baby boomers come onboard, it will also change the way we need to think about lifestyle and engagement, bringing lots of opportunities for change and innovation. They are self-assured and will not be shy in telling others what they want! Many will be increasingly active, interested in technology and have diverse interests and goals. Recognising and responding to this individuality will be vital."

Wendy acknowledges that Catholic Healthcare's Lifestyle teams do an exceptional job across the network of Homes. Providing flexibility, respecting individual choice and helping to bring to life Catholic Healthcare's Enrich Model of Care is part of what they live and breathe each day.

"Our Lifestyle and Engagement teams are committed and passionate about what they do for their residents. They are often the unsung heroes of our industry. They wear multiple hats. On any given day they could find themselves being an event coordinator, counsellor, entertainer, caterer, carer, artist or crafter, just to name a few. Each day is unique, and they bring a high level of energy to our lifestyle programs to ensure residents live life to the full," says Wendy.

Intergenerational playgroups in some Homes have been very successful in this Lifestyle and Engagement space.

For the past four years, Catholic Healthcare and Playgroup Queensland have partnered to deliver an intergenerational playgroup, GenGiggles at the Villa Maria Centre in Fortitude Valley.

Together, they created an intergenerational playgroup model where residents, Mums and Dads, carers and bubs could come together each week to enjoy each other's company, build positive connections and develop lasting friendships along the way. Simple activities such as reading books, blowing bubbles, enjoying music, doing crafts and sharing morning tea together helped to promote meaningful interaction.

"The main difference that this type of intergenerational program brings is that it is multigenerational. It involves not only the residents and children but also the children's Mums, Dads and carers as part of the interaction. At Villa Maria we have one special family group that spans four generations – Norma who lives with us at Villa Maria, her daughter, Julie who works as an AIN, Julie's daughter, Elysha and granddaughter, Imogen who attend our GenGiggles playgroup," says Wendy.

"Children also bring a different type of energy into a Home. They are spontaneous, joyful and non-judgmental. They are not afraid to play or talk to residents, especially those living with complex needs including dementia. Likewise, residents often respond with a little smile, or you can see their eyes light up when interacting with the children," she adds.

Following the success at Villa Maria Fortitude Valley, similar intergenerational programs are now running across Catholic Healthcare.

Another project currently being explored is immersive Virtual Reality experiences for residents to enable them to be transported to three-dimensional worlds beyond physical limitation and environment. Initial trials at Emmaus Village in Kemps Creek and Villa Maria Fortitude Valley have been promising.

"Although the project is still in its infancy it's very exciting," says Wendy. "If done correctly and safely with the right support, content and delivery methods in place, this project has unlimited potential – the skies the limit," she adds.

Pictured is Wendy Lawrence (in scarf) with residents and GenGiggles participants at Fortitude Valley