Senior wellness: new director brings multi-dimensional focus

ALTON — Body. Mind. Spirit. 

Senior wellness — in all three of its dimensions — is a top priority for Anita Martinez, United Methodist Village’s new executive director. 

Martinez replaces Patrick Noonan, who took an executive position at a community in Florida last August. 

“We’re expanding, implementing and promoting each of these dimensions,” Martinez says. “We want seniors to maintain their wellness for a long time so they can remain independent and have healthy and active lives. UMV has recognized the total spectrum of wellness really translates to providing the lifestyle options and health services assistance our residents want. This combination of lifestyle and services has translated to ‘Living Easy, Living Well: a new program at UMV.’” 

Martinez grew up in Breese, Ill. She’s been in the senior living field since interning at a senior living community, Mari de Villa Retirement, in Missouri right out of college. But her interest in seniors and their well-being started long before then. 

“I know it sounds like a cliché, but seniors are my passion,” she says. “My grandmother lived with my family for 22 years. When I was 15, we were unable to provide her all the care she needed at home, and she moved to a community with around-the-clock caregivers. I didn’t have my driver’s license then and would ride my bike to visit her several times a week. I had a natural comfort level visiting with her and others there. I enjoyed hearing their life stories and acquired a genuine respect and love for seniors.”

Martinez launched her career serving seniors at an early age of 23, serving as the administrator of ManorCare Health Services for 25 years. Just prior to her current role, she served as the administrator of Friendship Village Chesterfield, a Life Care Services-managed community in Chesterfield, Mo. Last summer when the board of directors invited her to interview for the executive director position at The United Methodist Village, also managed by Life Care Services, she jumped at the opportunity.

In keeping with her goal, UMV is establishing an on-site rehabilitation therapy gym for residents and community members receiving care. Licensed therapists, a fitness room with exercise equipment and a wellness coordinator are available on UMV’s campus. 

“We’ve always had senior-friendly workout equipment in our wellness gym, but an added component is now we have a wellness coordinator, Travis Harper, to demonstrate how to use it,” she says. “Travis can also test seniors’ fitness and work with them to develop individualized programs.”

Use of the wellness gym is free for all seniors whether or not they are UMV residents. And anyone is welcome to stay for a meal or sit in on one of UMV’s Living Life Easy and Living Life Well educational programs. 

“If they qualify for rehabilitation therapies, their insurance — private or public — will be billed,” she says. “But they can hire Travis to give them personalized help. His career has been spent working with seniors as well.”

Martinez says UMV is taking a proactive approach to senior health care in another, more immediate, way. 

“Most people don’t know that, under the current Affordable Healthcare Act, hospitals are being penalized if they re-admit patients too soon after they return home from a hospital stay,” she says. “So instead of going into a skilled nursing home, people can come to us for a respite stay, enjoy our amenities, experience our excellent care and therapy and then go home.” 

Available resources include physical, occupational and speech therapists. 

“I’m extremely proud that our Weston Assisted Living recently achieved a two-year deficiency-free state of Illinois licensure survey,” she says.

The consensus is the more information people have, the better they can manage their health. That is the reason why, on the third Tuesday of each month, UMV hosts educational presentations on health-related subjects such as understanding and exercising with osteoporosis. 

“The idea is expanding seniors’ knowledge and providing the support to succeed,” Martinez says. 

Spiritual wellness in another dimension of “Living Life Easy, Living Life Well.” UMV residents are encouraged to build relationships and support one another, not just in a time of need but regularly to provide purpose, direction, awareness and meaning to life.  

UMV welcomes and respects all denominations. The newly developed Spiritual Life Team, led by UMV Chaplain Judy Miller, is a group in action. Team member Father Jerry Wickenhauser shared an idea that is now in action called a “pray-in” where UMV residents gather for group prayer for Village, community, national and world needs. 

“Any need will be brought forward and prayed for by the group,” Martinez says.

She added high praise for her staff, calling them “amazing and talented.”

“They care about the residents and one another,” she says. “I enjoy leading a passionate and compassionate team who can serve seniors.” 

She also praises the dedication of the UMV employees, with celebrating many employees with an average tenure of 10-plus years. Residents at UMV can count on seeing the same amazing staff each day who are committed to providing extraordinary hospitality.

Martinez has a few other ideas she hopes will come to fruition soon, all with the goal of helping seniors stay active, healthy and independent. She adds that the UMV board of directors has been very involved with welcoming her, and that she is extremely grateful for their support.  

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