Redefining Wellness in Retirement

Redefining Wellness in Retirement

When Eryn Cronbaugh was hired in 2001, Meth-Wick Community was in the midst of a mindset shift. Looking to the future, CEO Robin Mixdorf and the board of directors decided Meth-Wick should focus on being a wellness campus with options for care.

Eryn, the first therapeutic recreation degreed candidate to hold her position, was tasked with building out a team of wellness professionals to bring that goal to life. The story of her success as the Director of Wellness and Recreation continues to transform Meth-Wick Community to this day.

At Meth-Wick, the focus on wellness isn’t just jargon for brochures. It’s a well-staffed and well-organized priority.

  • The whole-person wellness model created by Eryn and her team provides the framework for programming across campus, from independent living to nursing care.
  • The wellness and recreation staff increased from two employees to six providing recreation programming, added a fitness department of three, and incorporated our two part-time chaplains into the department in the last 20 years.
  • Six of those employees are Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists.

What is a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist?

A Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS) is a credentialed professional who has a bachelor’s degree in Therapeutic Recreation and completes a 14-week, full-time internship before taking the certification test.  They use recreational therapy to improve the lives of individuals who are ill or have disabling conditions.

Recreational therapy uses activity-based interventions like art, music, drama, and sports to help the client fully participate in life. Because of its campus-wide commitment to wellness, Meth-Wick has six CTRSs on staff. Other organizations of Meth-Wick’s size commonly have only one or two recreation therapists.

Meth-Wick CTRSs Make a Difference Every Day for Residents

A few of the many examples include:

“A Memory Care resident showed lots of interest in programming and would always help set up and tear down after programs. We wanted to get him officially involved as we found this kind of responsibility would be beneficial to his wellbeing. He is a talented pianist, so we schedule him to play during our more relaxing programs like our happy hours or art classes. Now he comes prepared with a list of songs for each session. It not only makes him happy, but the other residents love it and express their appreciation to him.”
– Malany Parker, CTRS and Recreation Therapist

“The biggest successes we have in the fitness program are when our residents stop saying things like, ‘I am too old,’ or ‘I can’t,’ and start saying things like, ‘What are we doing today?’ or ‘Sure, I’ll try ziplining and axe throwing.’ They show up to improve and live their best life.
– Kristin VanDyke, CTRS and Fitness Specialist

“This is just a thank you for your visit, Grace, to review the options provided through the Wellness and Recreation department. After your visit I did take advantage of several program options, all of which were enjoyable and welcoming. My October calendar was packed. I listened to a program on investments, the monthly Book Club, and a State of the Campus review of Meth-Wick’s operation presented by a member of the Board. The cooking class with the Executive Chef was also a fun (& delicious!) learning event for me.  My absolute favorite was the trip to the Stanley Art Museum. I have a lifelong habit of visiting museums of many types (art, history, science, cultural, horticultural, etc.) as learning is an ‘upper’ for me. I recognize and appreciate your efforts in creating program experiences for the wide range of interests/abilities of Meth-Wick residents.Excerpt from a resident’s note to Grace Reske, CTRS and Successful Aging Coordinator

The wellness and recreation staff set Meth-Wick apart. They help every resident set goals for themselves based on the six dimensions of wellness (spiritual, physical, vocational, emotional, intellectual, and social) and then create the programs to help them reach those goals. It’s yet another way Meth-Wick fosters a community where older adults can live their best lives.

Ask Eryn: What’s a New Year’s resolution you would recommend to an older adult?

Eryn Cronbaugh, Director of Wellness & Recreation

Wellness advice for older adults so often revolves around “getting fit” or “being active.” Physical fitness is certainly important, but my advice is more foundational— get engaged. Many older adults had to keep to themselves to stay healthy during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be hard to get back out there now that life is returning to normal. Find some way to get engaged in 2023. That may mean a new exercise plan, but it could also mean taking a continuing education course, getting back to your pre-COVID volunteering routine, or visiting a new exhibit at a local museum.