September is National Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) Month, recognizing the important work of PACE staff who provide seniors with the tools to live safely and independently at home and in the community.
Suncoast PACE, a member of Empath Health, provides seniors 55+ in Pinellas County access to primary care, therapies, skilled care, social and emotional support, and day care at our Suncoast PACE Adult Day Center (ADC) and Medical Clinic; in-home care and support; and transportation to and from Suncoast PACE or other PACE-approved specialists.
Christine Gilpen, CTRS, recreation therapist and ADC supervisor, shares why she’s dedicated to enhancing the lives of community seniors:
What is a recreation therapist?
As a recreation therapist, I develop a monthly calendar of age-appropriate activities for participants to engage in. There are various options per hour and participants can choose what they want to do. My main goal is for participants to have a happier, more productive life through social activities.
What attracted you to working for Suncoast PACE?
Before college I spent a lot of time helping take care of my grandfather. He was older and lived in an assisted living facility. We would play games together, like bingo, and go on walks outside. Eventually I started volunteering with the organizations where he lived. That is what piqued my interest in becoming a recreation therapist.
In college I studied psychology and spent some time working in that area. When I had the opportunity to return to activity planning for seniors, I decided to take it.
What kind of activities do you offer participants?
Our participants have options for what activities they want to do in their leisure time and how they want to have fun. We have a morning motivation activity to get ready for the day. There are exercise and walking clubs. Participants can play games like Jeopardy! and bingo or get creative with arts and crafts projects. There are groups for spirituality and reminiscing and even a book club. We also offer vegetable gardening and food demos to engage participants in ways that encourage them to think about their overall health. It’s all about improving quality of life now and in the future.
During the month there are also themed days, like western or luau, where we encourage participants and staff to dress up and that day’s activities are planned around the theme.
Why is this important for the elders in our community?
The Suncoast PACE Adult Day Center gives our older population an opportunity for engagement with the community. Participants have opportunities to build friendships and keep their minds and bodies active in ways they might not have otherwise. I think many people look past that portion of support we provide.