April 3, 2013


National honor for Daily

Walden Place program director recognized by the Senior Lifestyles Corporation

DailyBob Ellis/staff photographer
Walden Place resident Mary Tuthill, left, laughs as Director of Resident Programs Jessica Daily runs a laugh therapy class at the facility.

Living and Leisure Editor

Jessica Daily said senior citizens go through a lot of changes when they first move to an assisted living center.
As director of resident programs at Walden Place, one of her goals is to smooth the way. Overall, she helps seniors live a healthy lifestyle, have fun, enjoy themselves and try new things.
One new senior was getting acclimated to her new environment and attended one of Daily’s exercise classes.
“At the end of the day, she came up to me and said, ‘This was the best day that I have had here,’” Daily said. “To know that you help them with that transititon, with a little fun, a little activity to make them have a good day (is a good feeling). There are a lot of little moments like that,” she said.
Daily, 32, of Cortland, who’s been at her post nine years, was honored with the “Director of Resident Programs of the Year Award” by the Senior Lifestyles Corporation. She attended a three-day corporate annual meeting in March in Chicago, Ill. to pick up her award. Senior Lifestyles Corporation runs assisted living centers, including Walden Place, across the country. Daily was picked out of 68 other directors nationwide for the honor. Corproate leaders nominate directors for the award.
Walden Place is home to approximately 70 residents in apartments at the Bennie Road facility and maintains a dementia unit for another approximately 20 people. Daily leads progams there to keep the seniors engaged.
She’s just an amazing young woman,” said Terry Fay, corporate director of Resident Program in Chicago. “She was selected out of a field of 60 candidates based on her outstanding performance, teamwork and professional development,” she said in a telephone interview.
“I think she’s fantastic,” said Mary Tuthill, a fourth year resident at Walden Place. “She’s certainly deserving and its wonderful to think we have somebody so outstanding in the whole milieu. around Chicago and across the country.”
Daily said she was honored, and humbled, by the award. “I just go to work and do my job,” she said.
But it’s a job that she enjoys. And it’s nice to get recognition for her work, she said.
“People you work with play a huge part. I wouldn’t be able to do all the activities, the themed events, without the other departments and encouragement from staff,” she said.
“I love doing the parties, socials, coming up with different themes,” she said.
She has to come up with two new activities a month, to keep life fresh for the seniors. With a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies from SUNY Cortland, she works with students at Walden, exchanging ideas for new activities.
“I think about what I would want to do for fun,” she said.
She oversaw a Royal Wedding celebration last April, did an Old Time Radio Show and hosted a Kentucky Derby.
“We made horses (the head of a horse on a stick) and the staff named them and decorated them,” Daily said. A staff person rode their horse and was partnered with a resident. Daily made a track on the front driveway at Walden Place and the residents rolled the dice and their horse would go around the track the number of spaces on the dice.
“She has been excellent in everything she has done,” said Carrie Rockefeller, director of Walden Place. “She listens to the residents’ needs and desires and it reflects in the program we do here.”
Last week, Daily led laughter yoga for a group of ten. The group, set in a circle, started out clapping and chanting, “Ha-ha-ha — ho, ho, ho — we’re going to start out with our fake laughing,” Daily told the group.
Resident Pat Stupke really got into it, letting out a mammoth, “Aaaaaah-Haaaaaaa!” among all the laughs. Though initially fake, the laughter was infectious.
Daily had the group through a rollercoaster laugh: slowly at first, as if going up, cranking slowly, quietly, ha, ha, ha, ha. ha. Then the group took off like they were going down hill fast and furious: Haaaaaaaaaaa Haaaaaaaaaaaaaa.”
They did a library laugh: “In the library, the main worry is you have to be quiet so you don’t get kicked out,” Daily said. “But you hear something and laugh, but you have to quietly laugh.” Quiet snickers followed. They explored a shivery laugh, a car won’t start laugh and an ice going down your back laugh.
The group was rolling as it went from exercise to exercise.
“I think it’s great,” said Stupke, who’s been a resident for a year. “We all have fun at it. Before this class, you just sit around. You are doing nice things. This (lifts) you up to want to do more ... It carries you through the day. It’s good for us.”
“She’s a lot of fun and she can take things seriously too,” said Dorothy Gamper, a resident for two years an Walden. “This is the first time I have ever done this,” Gamper said of The Laughter Club. “It’s very nice. It peps you up.”


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