Prioritizing seniors’ mental health
Published on March 5, 2021
With the rise of COVID-19, a second “silent” mental health pandemic is also having a dramatic impact, particularly amongst older adults.
That is why V!VA Retirement Communities, with eight locations in Ontario, has been developing a number of programs to specifically address the mental health of our Community Members. Recently, we V!VA Values Seniors’ Mental Health – an initiative created to help older adults ‘feel better together.’ Aims include increasing awareness around mental health as an important issue for older adults, providing seniors and loved ones with relevant education and resources, and raising funds for local organizations supporting seniors’ mental health.
“The initiative is being rolled out across all V!VA locations,” shares Natasha Paquette, Community Relations Manager with V!VA Barrhaven Retirement Community, “It started in January with online educational sessions examining how nutrition impacts mental health. We featured a dietitian who explained what nutrients are important and then provided a cooking demonstration live on Zoom. It was very well received by both our Community Members and other seniors who joined us from the broader community.”
The online sessions will continue monthly and cover a wide range of topics relevant to older adults and mental health. “Each month will focus on a timely theme,” Paquette continues. “In February, we had a psychotherapist discussing the importance of self-compassion during stressful times, and in March we’re exploring the benefits of volunteering for seniors.”
Once public health restrictions are lifted on social gatherings, V!VA’s retirement communities plan to safely host other sessions on-site, including fundraising opportunities for local organizations supporting seniors’ mental health. “Naturally, we can’t wait to welcome our friends and neighbours again in person!” Paquette says.
Beyond the mental health seminars, V!VA Barrhaven is piloting a new cognitive stimulation therapy (CST) program featuring a series of mental exercises designed to help older adults by engaging and stimulating the brain. V!VA has partnered with a local Ottawa firm specializing in CST, and already has several Community Members enrolled in the program.
“This is different from other CST offerings, because it is delivered by a Cognitive Coach instead of a computer. The human interaction really increases engagement and effectiveness,” says Karen Timmons, V!VA Barrhaven’s Lifestyle Manager.
Additionally, V!VA has instituted a music movement therapy program using low-impact exercises with drums to target high levels of cognitive and motor functions. Participants drum along to generational music in a socially distanced, inclusive, and fun activity designed for individuals of all abilities and mobility levels. “Our Community Members absolutely love the drum program. For many, it is the first time since school they’ve played an instrument,” Timmons shares.
From education to fundraising, coaching to music, it is clear that V!VA Retirement Communities has made the mental health and wellbeing of Community Members a top priority.
To learn more about any of these programs, please contact your nearest V!VA location.