Seven Hills Focuses On ‘Meaningful’ Activities

Is life a succession of empty days in a nursing home?

Not at Seven Hills Pediatric Center in Groton, Massachusetts.

Katie Cullen
Katie Cullen, director of Adult Services and Activities, and Monica Kleeman, Adult Services instructor, have developed meaningful activities for their new program, Volunteer Work Activities (V.W.A.).

These activities enhance daily life for residents in the age 22+ program, despite complex medical conditions and severe neurological impairment.

“I believe that individuals should not just move through life, they need a purpose,” says Monica, who has a Master’s degree in Adaptive Physical Education and taught students at Perkins School for the Blind before coming to Seven Hills Pediatric Center.

Monica has developed partnerships with local businesses and organizations to enable residents to contribute to their community, and to also enhance their awareness of the world.

Groups of 6-8 adults rotate into the V.W.A. classroom, where Monica and a teaching assistant guide them hand over hand through activities. All residents over 22 years old are served in this program.

Projects include:
  • Shopping for ingredients and baking goods to sell at the weekly coffee cart, and punching the frequent buyer cards
  • Sorting, repackaging and selling flowers donated by Trader Joes
  • Making bookmarks and notecards to donate to the library and senior center
  • Making sensory “play dough” to give away at local fairs (it has a Kool Aid® scent and is especially tactile)
All activities are designed to promote social interaction and increase visibility in the able bodied population, too, according to Monica. Any “profits” are recycled to buy materials or fund field trips.
Monica Kleeman

If there isn’t a concrete project, the residents and aides take staff orders and fulfill errands or shopping to create opportunities for interaction.

Residents who use switches to operate communication boards have conducted energy surveys and done comparison tests in house. For instance, they will ask staff to compare scented soaps or candles, which provides sensory involvement and participation in a decision.

“These activities help staff connect with residents who are nonverbal and non-ambulatory and even attract volunteers to interact and add to their quality of life,” said Katie, the director. “It has been so successful it is being adapted for the younger residents’ evening activities.”