Updated: Aug 31, 2022
Contribution Generates Vitality
Leanne longed for more than 'activities' and often shared how she felt like a prisoner, housed in a corporate senior living 'community.'
One day I ran into her, age 98, and she was more vibrant than ever:
"I am on my way to work. I work at the SPCA now, offering companionship to the dogs waiting to be adopted." She replied when I asked her how she was doing.
Her new job brings her into an environment where she is needed, valued, and making a meaningful contribution. Paid and non-paid work promotes vitality! The SPCA is the perfect place for Leanne; she used to raise Newfoundlands, those gentle giants known as Newfs.
Abraham Maslow theorized every human has fundamental basic needs, and when our needs are satisfied, we can reach our highest potential. In care settings, the need for belonging, achievement, growth, and meaning is often not prioritized.
- Meaningful work, paid and non-paid, fosters a sense of belonging
- Work allows us to contribute to society, to do something for others.
- Work keeps us engaged, allows us to use our skills, and gives us structure, purpose, and identity.
Imagine: Caregivers, care teams, and health professionals prioritize offering residents/patients a job; infusing their care with achievement and growth!
"When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die."
- Eleanor Roosevelt
As a meaningful engagement professional, I learned the healing power of reciprocity early on that I serve others and honor their service to me.
I learned so much from "Clare." Clare had vascular dementia, and we worked together once a week. During one of our sessions, I decided to flip the script. Instead of the engagement professional coming to help Clare, Clare became my tutor.
We began spending the last 30-40min of our sessions seated side-by-side at the piano. I did not have a musical background in piano, but Clare did. I picked up some beginner books with familiar songs, and immediately, the energy shifted.
She became more vibrant, and I will never forget the first time she put her glasses on, looked deeply at the music, and began playing. I could feel the 'flow' she was experiencing- fully immersed in the music, emanating enrichment.
She turned to me with her eyes glistening with absolute astonishment; you know that feeling of "WOW! I did it!"
I found out later that it had been over 30 years since Clare had played.
Our sessions became richer; I led the 1st half, then she led the second half; reciprocal care. After our musical sessions, we walked the rose garden. Clare used to be an active volunteer with the local botanical gardens.
Walking with Clare, I sensed her awe, her admiration of nature, and this was the perfect way to encore our work together. I let her know how much I appreciated her teaching me piano and guiding me into the practice of walking in the here and now.
Thanks to Clare, I am still learning piano and practicing mindful garden walking.
The ability to make a meaningful contribution is a human need. When we offer care, remember those we care for have a human need to serve, too!
Green Care programs provide reciprocal activities providing a shared sense of purpose and achievement. Working in collaboration creates a non-hierarchal structure; participants also lead. Nurturing others, plants and animals provides feelings of fulfillment and connectedness.
"Every person has a longing to be significant; to make a contribution; to be a part of something noble and purposeful."
-John C. Maxwell
Want to be inspired with Green Care?
Breathe Deep and BEE Happy!
Berget, B., Braastad, B., Burls, A., Elings, M., Hadden, Y., Haigh, R., ... & Haubenhofer, D. K. (2010). Green Care: a Conceptual Framework. A Report of the Working Group on the Health Benefits of Green Care (No. 866). Loughborough University.