Be The Change at Wildewood Downs

– Lena Oncken –

What is your position at Wildewood Downs?

Social Director

How long have you been at Wildewood Downs?

I have had the privilege of working at two of our sister communities in the past and now I’ve been led to Wildewood Downs, where I have been for a month. I spent two years at Summit Hills, located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, later transferring to The Lakes at Litchfield where I spent two years working in Social Programming.

What excites you the most about this position and this company?

In my position, I always get excited about getting to know our Members, learning what they enjoy doing, and then making that happen!

What is your favorite thing about working for Senior Living Communities?

We are one BIG family!! I know I can always call another Social Director at any of our communities for help, suggestions, or ideas. The support and assistance we receive from our peers and home office is what sets Senior Living Communities apart from everyone!

Describe a time that a Member had a positive impact on your day?

When I was working at Lakes of Litchfield, I parked in the same spot every day right outside a Member’s villa. The member quickly realized this and started leaving me notes on their window thanking me for what I was doing. These notes made my day and are why I love doing what I do.

Have you utilized the Elevate program? If not, do you know someone who has?

I have not utilized the Elevate program, but I do know a couple Team Members from The Lakes at Litchfield that have. It has empowered them to continue to grow both in their personal lives and professionally.

How have you grown professionally and personally since joining the Team?

Professionally, I’ve gone from being an Activities Director to a Social Director and Certified Dementia Practitioner Trainer. Personally, I’ve grown into a more confident leader, Team Member, and Social Director.

What about your position allows you to pursue what makes you feel the most passionate in life?

I’m most passionate about helping others and this job allows me to do that! The activities that I plan and execute on a daily basis, impact those around me. This has brought me personally, so much joy and I know that I am having the same effect on our Members.

When it comes to your programming, what is the motivation behind specific activities, events, programs that you do with your Members?

My motivation is always my Members, I am here for them!

Your community has a monthly social event called a Signature Experience, what is your favorite part of planning, executing, and experience itself?

My favorite part of planning a Signature Experience is thinking outside the box and finding unique ways of bringing something new to our community. I love teaming up with our Dining and Wellness teams to bring the Members a full day of non-stop events!

Tell us about your favorite Signature Experience from your time at Wildewood Downs?

Unfortunately, given the COVID-19 restrictions in place, I haven’t been able to have a Signature Experience at Wildewood Downs. My favorite Signature Experience from The Lakes at Litchfield was our 50’s Experience! This was a two-day event starting with “I Love Lucy” grape stomping & our very own chocolate factory challenge where the Members went up against team members and each other to stuff as many chocolate kisses into their aprons/hats as the chocolates went by on our homemade conveyor belt! Members went home with “vetemeatavitamin” bottles filled with M&Ms! The next day started with a “car-t” wash; Members brought their golf carts in to get washed and batteries checked by team members while they enjoyed mimosas and pastries in our bistro! Later, our Dining team served up some delicious gourmet milkshakes & floats at our Malt Shop while outside we had a line-up of cars from the 50s! That evening on their way into our “diner” Members could snap a picture in our 50s photo booth for a keepsake!

How does your community come together to work together to provide a vibrant social life for your Members? Dining, Wellness, Social?

Our dining, wellness and social team meet weekly to brainstorm and plan what goes onto the social calendar.

A common misconception is that senior living social activities are all bingo all the time. How do you break that stereotype?

Don’t have bingo all the time! Of course we have those that love it and we will enjoy a game every now and then, but we try to provide activities that are meaningful and purposeful every month.

How do you incorporate your Member’s feedback, personal lives, preferences, etc into your daily programming?

My members’ feedback directly influences my programming, like I said before, it is all about our Members, they are the reason why we are here! I take surveys, listen to feedback from our social committee and communicate with our Members daily about what they would like to see on their calendars.

Fun Fact: What are a few of your favorite hobbies? What is something many people don’t know about you?

I enjoy spending time with family, friends, and my 2 rescue pups! I’m a very quiet person when I’m not at work so I love reading, traveling and of course, shopping. Something people may not know about me is in High School I was a pitcher for our softball team!

How has COVID-19 impacted your programming? Why are activities important during this time?

During this time, it’s challenging to plan programming with all of the restrictions. However, we are still maintaining a full schedule, it’s just been a little more creative! We’re bringing the programming to them! We have been doing virtual programming with links to various entertainment and learning opportunities online, themed happy hour carts door to door, ice cream carts, scheduled golf cart rides around our community, grocery shopping online assistance, at home bingo and trivia, scavenger hunts and walks around the neighborhood (6 feet apart), and other activities that don’t involve gathering in large crowds. We are really trying to keep a sense of normalcy throughout this tough time.