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Experience Is Everything
What Role Does Activity Programming Play in Defining Community Culture?

According to Sierra Winds’ Activities and Fitness Director Chris Ratay and Activities Coordinator Diane Herr the answer is—absolutely everything! This professional team has more than 15 years of combined experience in senior living; it directs a vibrant and dynamic activities program with the 8 Dimensions of Wellness foundation: Physical, Social, Intellectual, Emotional, Environmental, Vocational, Spiritual, and Health Services. Read on and learn how Sierra Winds’ extensive activities, events, and life-long learning opportunities have these 8 Dimensions at their core.

Combining Wellness with Residents’ Goals 

“We integrate all 8 Dimensions of Wellness as much as possible,” says Chris. “However, our objectives also focus on audience interest and getting as many residents involved as possible. Activities, events, and programs are designed for wide appeal.” Chris goes on to explain.

“Our residents come from extremely varied backgrounds,” Diane adds. “The 8 Dimensions of Wellness are excellent for anyone’s wellbeing.” Diane shares that the Sierra Winds activities department has an open-door policy. Residents like to stop by and talk about their personal goals and interests, and how to take advantage of all the community offers. “We talk, they ask individual questions, and we emphasize that one-on-one is always available,” says Diane.

Chris goes on to define how a new resident gets acclimated to the activities offered at Sierra Winds. “We’re very sensitive to the wishes of all our residents,” he says. “When new residents first come to Sierra Winds, some really want and need the time to get settled—it’s a real lifestyle change for most; others want to jump right in and get immediately involved. Everyone is different.”

Residents Offer Strategic Programming Input

The strategy for developing activities programming is taken very seriously by Chris and Diane—and is very inclusive. A resident activity committee meets monthly, and the activities department also hosts a monthly activity open forum. “Our forum is very well-attended,” says Chris. “Maybe it’s because we serve healthy snacks—dark chocolate, fruit, etc.—at the end,” he jokes. The forum itself is a popular “event” with trivia games and prizes. “We get a lot of great interest, ideas, and insight from our residents on what it means to them to have active aging programs,” says Chris.

With residents from all across the country and representing every senior generation, you might suspect that activity programming can present a challenge—and you’re right. Chris gives us this insight: “Our resident diversity really impacts our activities offerings and showcases generational trends you might expect. For instance, our younger senior residents—and here I’m talking about Boomers—are more “techie,” keeping us on our toes setting up offerings like our computer club.

“We still offer activities popular with older senior generations—like bingo, arts and crafts, and knitting. It’s more of a challenge for us in programming because we want to appeal to all the different groups. The trends I see are also “generational.” The younger seniors want an experience—a lifestyle; our older seniors prefer activities they are most comfortable with—but still, everyone mixes so well with each other.”

Staying Active and Engaged: Favorite Activities at Sierra Winds

  • Entertainment Tuesday. “This is my favorite,” says Diane. “I have fun planning this weekly event—bringing in outside entertainment—comedians, magicians, pianists, violin, music from the 20s-30s-40s-50s—for a fun evening.”
  • Weekly movies. On two different nights—one classic movie night; one contemporary movie night.
  • ‘Who Done It’ mystery lunch. The last one was a jewel heist—and the residents were the suspects!
  • The Great Courses Series. A resident-run, 6-week study with videotaped lectures and lively discussion.
  • Escape Room. A team of Sierra Winds residents recently engaged offsite at The Principal’s Office and proved they were true clue-masters.
  • Performance theatre. Arizona Broadway Theatre (ABT) is a local favorite for Sierra Winds residents who enjoyed Guys & Dolls, Sister Act, and The Addams Family Musical there recently. Theatre Works hosted residents for the Wizard of OZ, Spamalot, and, just this month, The Crucible. Kinky Boots and Spamilton brought Sierra Winds residents to their feet for wild ovations at The Phoenix Theatre Company. Musically, residents enjoy and are regular attendees at performances of Arizona Winds, an 85-piece concert band.
  • Putting tournaments. Spring two-man for residents and staff; and fall for residents only.
  • Annual health fair. Numerous pertinent topics, interesting presenters, and a flexible schedule of events throughout the fair.
  • Holiday events. The Halloween resident/employee costume party is wildly popular; Thanksgiving and December holidays will welcome family members for the community’s renowned holiday buffet.

Check out the current Sierra Winds Activity Calendar for a complete schedule of events, activities, and opportunities in the coming weeks.

A Sense of Togetherness and Caring

“Sierra Winds is such an open, caring friendly, neighborly community,” Diane says. “We celebrate new residents through our resident welcoming committee, our monthly social hour, and meet-your-neighbor happy hour. Wedding anniversaries are highlighted during a special couple’s evening and birthday parties are celebrated monthly.” Our resident sunshine committee focuses on knowing what challenges each individual is experiencing and sends get-well cards, and loss, bereavement, and supportive messages. 

In that same vein, one of the most rewarding classes at Sierra Winds is an emotional healing and loss series called Vivacity,” says Chris. The class is led by a certified therapist and touches on the spiritual dimension of wellness. A second multi-dimensional lifestyle program called M.I.N.D.F.U.L. (standing for Memory training, Intellectual stimulation, Neuroplasticity or the mind’s ageless ability to change, Diet, Fitness, Unity, and Laughter) facilitates the reversal of mild cognitive impairment—those little forgetful times that cause concern for seniors.

Diane shares that many Sierra Winds residents like to volunteer at the community’s general store, in the above-mentioned welcome, sunshine, and activity committees, and on the chapel committee, coordinating a number of denominational and non-denominational onsite services.

Commenting on the culture, atmosphere, and community experience of Sierra Winds, Chris thinks the community’s greatest strength is the sense of togetherness evident among its residents. “The emotional support and outpouring are tremendous,” he says. “Our residents truly care a great deal about their neighbors and community friends and encourage each other to be active and engaged in life.”

A Community Experience that Fits Your Lifestyle—Not the Other Way Around

Important decisions are not always easy. This one is. Sierra Winds offers the right mix of activity and engagement that will positively impact the way you live. The community experience at Sierra Winds will help you age successfully, feel better, stay engaged in life, and have more fun in the process. Call (623) 977-0807 or visit our website to schedule a tour. We’ll show you exactly what we’re talking about!