“Another successful event!” said Brenda Poselwait. “It was a fun evening with a cookout buffet, great tunes by the Gadabout band, and the weather was perfect for the outside event. It was great seeing all the smiles and hearing the laughter shared between residents and their families.”
This is just one of the annual “special” events Brenda plans. National Assisted Living Week is coming up, and one of the activities planned is having glamour shots taken for the residents. Beauticians, Mary Kay makeup artists and a photographer — all wonderful volunteers — will be working to prepare residents for their photos. This is something the residents look forward to each year.
Brenda is the director of activities at Brookside Village, and that’s what she’s best at — scheduling bingo and Bible study and music and exercises and so much more — to make sure residents have a host of options to keep busy and socially engaged with other residents at the community.
She’s been at Brookside Village, a CarDon & Associates’ senior living community located in Jasper, Ind., for almost nine years, but “it’s funny how it all came about,” she said.
Previously working as a quality supervisor for Kimball Electronics for 35 years, Brenda found an additional part-time job as an activities assistant at a healthcare facility during her last three years at Kimball.
“My son had just gone off to college, and my mom had passed away, so I was looking for another job to take up the time and help get him through college,” she said. It seemed to work at first, until she began taking on too many hours between the two jobs. She finally had to choose.
“I started praying. I said, ‘OK God, which position should I do?’ Two weeks later, they called me at Brookside Village and said they had a full-time position open for director of activities.”
Brenda loved her job at Kimball — it trained her in many ways, especially the art of multitasking while managing quality auditors at two plants on three different shifts. But serving a different type of customer, the senior residents at Brookside Village, is what truly inspires her and helps her feel as though she’s making a difference in someone’s life.
Having also been through training based on Stephen Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” Poselwait abides by some of his most familiar quotes.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important. The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
What are Brenda’s priorities? Her residents — and bringing joy and laughter into their lives.
In addition to her role as director of activities, she is also the volunteer coordinator at Brookside and has grown that program from 30 volunteers when she first started at the community to more than 200 volunteers.
And she owes the strength and success of the Brookside activities program to all the volunteers.
“They keep this program going,” she said. Volunteers help with various religious services each week, including volunteer priests and ministers from different churches leading the group and other volunteers bringing in communion. Weekly Mass, Group Rosary, Communion, Bible Study and Daily Devotional are all part of the monthly activities calendar.
But the activities are more than that — they are events. Story time, balloon volleyball, exercises, shopping trips, open game time, pet visits, massage therapy, lunch outings, crafts, piano recitals and other musical performances have become events the Brookside residents look forward to.
“The residents here appreciate having events, more so than just the activities.” And don’t forget bingo. Bingo is an everyday event.
“When I first started here, I wanted to do something other than bingo every day, but some of the residents weren’t too pleased about that,” she laughed. “So now we make bingo a daily event and make sure to schedule other activities and events around bingo.”
At least four activities a day during the week and three activities each day on the weekend. Poselwait keeps things fresh for the residents, and they give her ideas on what they’d be interested in doing and attending.
“I have a monthly resident council meeting, and that’s how I started coming up with activities and finding out what they like,” she said. “In this job, you have to have your heart into it to come up with ideas and events that are new and exciting for the residents. One day, I just thought how much I really like to see the interaction between children and seniors. It’s good for both. Seniors love the children and the children, if they just listen, can learn so much from the seniors.”
Brenda got in touch with the principal at nearby Holy Trinity Catholic School in Jasper at the end of the school year in 2016. In September 2016, they began the pen pal program, and a group of fifth and sixth graders came in and met the residents they were assigned to be pen pals with for the school year.
“Sometimes the school will bring the children to visit the residents, and sometimes the parents bring the students over to Brookside on their own,” she said. “From the initial meeting and throughout the year, the students continue to come back and visit. They brought the residents gifts at Christmas and made huge Valentine’s Day cards. They make special visits on their own time, apart from the school.”
It improves the residents’ quality of life, giving them something to look forward to.
“It makes me feel fulfilled,” Brenda said. “It puts a smile on their faces, but it also puts a smile on my face to know I am making a difference in their lives. I believe in treating them the way I would want to be treated, always trying to be respectful.”
And that is another element the students bring to the pen pal program.
“The kids learn more about how to be respectful to seniors. Some of them don’t have grandparents or may never have been around senior citizens, and this program really means a lot to them. When I talk to the students, I tell them not to feel sorry for the seniors but to listen to them. Listening shows you really care.”
Another school in the community led a “Your Life Story” project with assigned residents paired up with seventh and eighth graders. The project was done on the students’ own time with their residents and culminated in a presentation at the end of the year with Brookside residents and families.
The residents and students have become friends for life. And 16 years ago, the loss of Brenda’s lifelong friend, her mom, led her to where she is today.
“My mom and I were very close, and when she passed, it took me a while before I wanted to go back into any kind of senior living community,” she said. “So, it makes sense I would find happiness and fulfillment here — helping make people happy who have physical or mental limitations. I’m here to lend an empathetic ear to family members and help in any way I can. When my mother became ill, I remember how the weight was lifted when someone listened and shared their knowledge. I was inspired by my mom.”
Inspired to bring fun and laughter into people’s lives — and meaning.
“I learn about the residents, join in their world, and make them as happy as I can.”
Brenda became a first-time grandma on August 11 with a little grandson, Dimitri. “I’m going to tell him about all the knowledge he can learn from seniors if he just listens and shows them respect.”