We are celebrating National Activity Professionals Week (Jan. 23-29) by spotlighting our Activity Directors at Virginia Health Services senior living communities and nursing and rehabilitation centers.
Activity directors run recreation programs that are Resident-focused. Event and activities cater to Residents’ tastes and activity directors receive Residents’ input. The programs help Residents exercise their cognitive, sensory and motor skills.
Activity directors also drive employee engagement within their communities, helping with employee-centered events and activities to bolster morale and provide stress relief.
It’s not just fun and games! As our Activity Directors describe in their Q&As below, they are an integral part of care planning for Residents.
Meet our Activity Directors:
The Arbors Independent Living
Ora Williams has been with Virginia Health Services for about two years. She has been with The Hamilton Assisted Living through this month, and has moved to direct activities at The Arbors Independent Living. She says she loves to have fun with seniors!
She focuses on customer service, respect and love when supporting her fellow team members and Residents. She pays attention to the small details to make sure things go well for Residents and families. Her source of inspiration when planning activities comes from talking to the Residents. She listens to their input in creating calendars that are catered to their needs and interests.
Coliseum Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 1.5 years.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? When I graduated college, I had no idea what population I wanted to work with. My first job was in an assisted living/memory care facility and I’ve never looked back. Working with older adults is truly my passion!
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? The recreation team at Coliseum is always coming up with fun programs, for Residents and the team members here. Our office door is always open for anyone who wants to pop in and chat. A favorite part of my job is the relationship you get to build with everyone in the facility.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? How active and FUNNY the Residents are. The Residents ALWAYS keep me on my toes.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? I’m a huge Pinterest/activity connection supporter. Most of the crafts/games come from there! I usually adapt it in some way to make it better for the Residents. Coliseum is a huge fan of doing “national holidays,” especially when it comes to sweet treats! Our Residents are also a huge inspiration for programs, we like to pull hobbies from their lives and make it a program, for example, flower arranging for our gardeners, or baking for our residents who used to bake.
Personal details: I really enjoy reading, hiking, binge-watching Netflix, and spending time with my husband and dog in my free time!
The Huntington Assisted Living & The Newport Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 17.5.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? My Mom. She is a nurse and has always worked in long-term care settings. A wonderful trait I have of hers is caring for others. I started off as a CNA with Virginia Health Services and then worked in different areas before activities.
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? I try to help staff with morale and keep new exciting things going for the residents.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Activities is different because you get to see and know Residents and sometimes bring out a different side of them than others see.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? Social media groups, Pinterest, Residents and co-workers.
Personal details: I have been married for 19 years. I have a 15-year-old son who plays football and I enjoy being his No. 1 fan at all of his games. I have two dogs, Kap and Harley. I enjoy spending time with my family.
James River Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: Almost six years. At James River about 25 years all together.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? Volunteering. My mother was a CNA at what was called Heritage Place Assisted Living in Poquoson (which is now Dominion Village of Poquoson) in the earlier years of her career and instead of getting a babysitter she would bring me to work with her. I volunteered in the activities department there and when I was in high school, I was a bingo volunteer through the Key Club.
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? Always treat everyone as equals and you will go far.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The amount of charting.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From my Residents and what they like.
Lancashire Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 2 this spring.
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? I started working in Recreation Services 20 years ago when I saw a job advertising the opportunity to have “fun with seniors” and I could not resist the opportunity. I started as an activity assistant at another local facility here in Lancaster County and moved into a director position over the years. I think it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to be the Residents’ advocate and find ways to make their lives better.
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? Activity professionals often get to know our Residents and the staff in a different way than most of the team; I can be an ear to listen, a friend to confide in, and a cheerleader to brighten their days.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? The paperwork! I think a lot of folks think activity professionals just play all day. We are more than just the bingo and crayon folks. We have a lot of paperwork that supports the Residents and is required by the state. We attend a lot of important meetings and are heavily involved in advocating for the Residents with Resident Council as well.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? With 20 years of doing this job, I use a lot of my history and the community of other activity professionals that are online. Each community is different and what works for one place won’t always work for another. It’s often the Residents at my community who lead to new ideas by expressing what they want!
Personal details: I have my degree in fine art and design and I am often working on my own art projects on the weekends. I have an entire ceramics studio set up in my basement. I am also working on my master’s degree in healthcare administration, so when I am not creating art, I am working hard on my classes.
Northampton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
I have been with Virginia Health Services for 32 years. I started off as a nursing assistant in 1989 then started with activities in 2020. I am a team player with the staff and enjoy one-on-one visits with Residents, and bringing a smile to everyone’s face. I get my inspiration from my peers. In my spare time, I like to hang out with my dogs and have my own paint business with my man.
Walter Reed Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Hi, I am Julie P. Boothe, the Recreational Director at Walter Reed Nursing and Rehab Center. I am a military brat and moved around/traveled most of my young life both in the US and overseas, I love nature and the outdoors.
I have goats, chickens, turkeys, dogs and cats that keep me very busy. I have been married 40 years and have been blessed with 2 boys and their families. I believe every day is a gift from God and we should enjoy each and every one that he grants us.
I have been with Virginia Health Services for 28 wonderful years. I was drawn to the field by my compassion for the elderly population given to me by God. I help the elderly retain their dignity, lifestyle activities choices and self-worth through visits and activities. My activity team and volunteers engage our residents in activities like bingo, games, socials, music entertainment, gardening and churches (and more) within the facility. Then out in the community we eat out, go to movies, go shopping, cookouts, picnics, fishing trips and even see the Christmas lights.
One of our big trips was going out with the Coast Guard on their ship and being served lunch cooked up by their chef. We also did some fishing. Our community is a big part of our activity program and I so greatly appreciate their involvement. The stories the Residents share are funny and interesting. I remember talking to a resident in the past about Route 17 and she remembered when it was a dirt road. Another resident remembers seeing a vehicle for the first time coming over a hill and not knowing they even existed. By talking with the Residents, you find out what they like to do which is where a lot of your inspirations and ideas come from. It is fun comparing the past with the present. It has truly been a pleasure being a part of the Walter Reed family. Looking forward to the future.
York Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
Years with Virginia Health Services: 5 (in March).
What drew you to a career in recreation services in long-term care? The elderly have always had a place in my heart. I started my career at a senior center 20-plus years ago and have worked in several long-term facilities. I love to see the Residents happy and smiling, I love to challenge the Residents with word games and trivia, and I love to see the Residents dancing and singing
How do you support the center’s team and Residents? I support the team by helping where ever I can, having dress-down days, games and contests for the staff and Residents. We have become family and do whatever they need or want.
What aspect(s) of the job would surprise others? Of all the many hats we wear, we help by serving meals, getting water for the Residents, being a good listener … all the little things that Residents need, including decorating for Christmas and other holidays.
Where do you find ideas/inspiration for activities? From the Residents’ likes and dislikes. Every facility is different and has different cultures. I use online resources like Activity Connection and share ideas with other activity professionals
Personal details: I love going to the beach, reading, interior decorating and furniture restoration.