Story by Megan Whitehead | Dec 28, 2016

Seniors aging successfully.

The golden years are said to be the best of your life. You’re retired, no longer have children running around, and you’ve (hopefully) built up a nest egg. You should be comfortable. But unfortunately, your golden years also come with the negative effects of aging.

Masterpiece Living

Agatha Maasen

This nationwide program was started 14 years ago to improve the lives of aging adults. This process is measured in four categories: intellectual, spiritual, physical, and social. According to a study performed by the MacArthur Foundation, 70 percent of physical aging, and about 50 percent of mental aging, is determined by lifestyle. This is the crux of Masterpiece Living: encouraging seniors to be physically and mentally active.

The best news? Masterpiece Living is now available at Heisinger Bluffs and St. Joseph’s Bluffs. For years, these Jefferson City independent and assisted living homes have worked hard to improve the lives of their residents. With the introduction of Masterpiece Living, their success can now be measured. In their first year alone, Heisinger Bluffs and St. Joseph’s Bluffs were ranked among the top Masterpiece Living performers.

Masterpiece Living aims to improve the lives of seniors by strengthening their cognitive abilities, faith, activeness, and social skills. This is done through resident-planned classes and events. Throughout the year, residents are given progress reports, based on an initial questionnaire, to help determine where they need or want the most help and how much they have improved or declined.

For example, there is a big push from residents of both homes for classes on technology. Not wanting to be left in the dust by millennials, residents are asking to learn about computers and cell phones. Not only does this allow them to keep up with the times, it also improves their mental capacity. Continuing education is a big part of this particular program.

That is the success of Masterpiece Living. By putting the responsibility of residents in their own hands, they are able to assess what is most needed and put it into practice.

Aging Successfully

Rodger Dewey and Chuck Westin
Heisinger Bluffs and St. Joseph’s Bluffs incorporate Masterpiece Living’s four categories with these classes and activities:

Physical: Twice a week, interested residents participate in fall prevention classes. These classes, taught by Kelley Hagemeyer, provide activities meant to strengthen the body and prevent muscle weakness.

Spiritual: Both homes hold weekly Catholic and non-denominational masses as well as bible studies for discussion and growth.

Intellectual: For interested residents, Dr. Ted Tang runs a class called TechNelders. Tablets, computers, and other tech devices are provided to residents, and some staff, to learn how to use the devices and do brain exercises.

Sewing for a Cause is another way residents keep their minds sharp. In the program, residents make items, such as pillows, to donate; most recently, the pillows were donated to the Special Learning Center.

Social: Each month has a social theme. For example, June will be “Movin’ it Month,” when residents will be encouraged to be more active than usual.

“Social Bingo” is a resident and staff favorite. Residents receive themed bingo sheets (holiday, seasonal, etc.) that are specific to the hobbies and work of other residents and staff.

The Impact

After a lifetime of hard work, older adults deserve to spend their golden years healthy and happy. Through swing dance classes, prayer breakfasts, “exercise your brain” workshops, and game nights, residents’ minds and bodies are always active.

Masterpiece Living’s mission is “to change the experience and perception of aging”; their vision is “a society in which aging means growth, engagement, vitality, and purpose.” With over 65 organizations, including Heisinger and St. Joseph’s, they are well on their way to achieving that.

Success Story

Carolyn Becker, resident at Heisinger Bluffs, shares her experience with Masterpiece Living.

I moved in with my husband eight and a half years ago. He was here two weeks, in the hospital two weeks, and then he was gone. So, I’ve through quite a bit of change since I moved in here. When Masterpiece came along, it sounded like a really good idea. I wanted to grow gracefully, but also as healthy as I could and keep some ability. That’s what Masterpiece is all about.

It makes you think about how much you are doing spiritually, physically, and socially. I try to do all the activities that are offered. My progress has been slow, but it’s been fun and interesting to work with the other residents. There are about ten of us who are “champions.” We guide others and set an example by planning and participating in the activities . . . I struggle the most with mobility. I have had both hips and knees replaced, so my mobility has weakened. The physical activities were initially too much for me to handle, so, because the residents are able to be planners, we came up with less stringent activities. I really look forward to that.