“Meaningless activity corrodes the human spirit. The opportunity to do things that we find meaningful is essential to human health.” This is Principle Number 6 of the Eden Alternative, and the pursuit of meaningful activities that provide greater purpose in elders’ lives has been the focus of the Life Enrichment Team at Buckingham at Norwood in New Jersey.
Buckingham is an Eden Alternative-registered home and has been on a culture change journey since 2010. Elders play an integral part in planning their daily activities, programs and outings, and their daily menu. There is a cadre of volunteers who visit, teach, entertain, and comfort residents in order to combat those plagues of loneliness, helplessness, and boredom.

Wanting To Make A Difference

But something was missing. The elders at Buckingham knew they needed to find deeper meaning and greater purposefulness in what they were doing. It wasn’t always about themselves. They wanted a way to give back to the community, in particular to the staff care partners who work around the clock providing the comfort and “worry-free” environment they live in. From that premise, the Smart Shoppers Club was born.

When elders move into a home, most goods and services are easily available, and no one has to worry about shopping or budgeting. The days of visits to the supermarket and shopping malls are more irregular and so is the satisfaction of finding a good bargain and saving a few dollars.

Buckingham’s elders decided to help their care partners save money at the supermarket, mall, or specialty stores by providing coupons to use when they shop. Signs were posted around the center asking families, visitors, and staff care partners to bring in newspapers, circulars, magazines, and coupons.

Smart shoppers comb through these pages seeking a variety of coupons for everyone’s shopping needs. Elders consult with care partners to learn what stores and items they use and need, and the coupon clipping begins.

Residents Go To Work

Most Tuesdays (after the Sunday circulars), Buckingham elders are busy clipping, classifying, and organizing coupons to share with all. The coupon file is in a central location, easily accessible for staff care partners to sit and browse to find what they need.

In the several months since this initiative started, relationships have grown stronger as elders and care partners get to know each better by sharing their shopping preferences, experiences, and stories.

The elders are excited with the success of this project. They created a purposeful activity and have the satisfaction of making a difference for staff care partners. In return, the care partners know that they are appreciated and are able to save some of their hard-earned money.

The Smart Shoppers Club has “leveled the playing field” and is truly a partnership. The conversation has changed; it’s not just about what “I” need and want, now it’s about, “What do you need to buy for your family, and how can I help you?” That’s what caring and sharing is all about!
Helaine Ledany, MPA, CNHA, FACHCA, is administrator of Buckingham at Norwood, a Windsor Healthcare Community in Northern New Jersey providing post-acute and long term care and services to 240 elders. She is president of the New Jersey Chapter of ACHCA (American College of Health Care Administrators). Ledany is on the board of the New Jersey Long Term Care Leaders Coalition and has been active for many years in the New Jersey Long Term Care Ethics Consortium. She may be reached at hledany@buckinghamcc.com or (201) 768-6222.