Brandon Senior Community Inspires Wellness

At The Meridian, commitment to residents starts with healthy minds and bodies.

What does it mean to be truly well? What can we do to help residents live better lives? How can we help strengthen minds and bodies, decrease falls, improve moods and increase engagement in social activities?

These are questions the owners and operators of The Meridian at Brandon, a new supportive independent living, assisted living and memory care community, sought to answer as they envisioned the resident experience.

The Meridian’s façade and amenities are impressive, with exciting spaces and beautiful finishes and interior design. Team leaders have put into motion their vision and commitment to help residents be happier and healthier.

The community recently opened to residents of varied physical abilities, but all with potential to live better than they have during the past two years of COVID isolation. Even in Florida, where COVID restrictions have been less restrictive than other parts of the country, the Meridian reports many prospective residents feel anxiety and remain withdrawn.

“We have a responsibility to turn the tables and give seniors every opportunity to make up for lost time — to get healthier, to socialize, to celebrate and to make new friends,” says Stacy McCanless, the Meridian’s executive director. “We want to provide exceptional experiences for our residents and make their days full of meaningful interactions within their homes.”

To do this, the Meridian team knows wellness must be woven through day-to-day experiences, from activities to dining to care to the social scene.

“It has to be fun and interactive,” Stacy says. “We want to offer residents opportunities at the Meridian and outside in the greater community to stay involved and active.”

To integrate wellness, the team partnered with a physical therapy company that provides a full-time exercise physiologist. In addition, the community’s state-of-the-art gym features high-tech equipment, including a Tonal digital weight machine to build strength, a Mirror smart gym, a Biodex Balance System, a NuStep® recumbent cross trainer and more.

Studies show that increasing activity to 150 minutes per week can decrease the risk of falls and the onset of disease that may result in injury. From this, the #Roadto150 was born. Exclusive to Meridian Senior Living communities like The Meridian at Brandon, the #Roadto150 helps seniors set goals around reaching at least 150 minutes of exercise per week.

“We want 150 minutes to be a lamppost to guide our programming,” Stacy says. “We can incorporate it into everything, not just exercise classes. Maybe we have art class in the art studio one day, but the next day we walk outside and draw something alfresco. We are hoping it creates competition and we get to where the program goes up to 200 minutes or more.”

Meridian Senior Living has also partnered with nationally known chiropractor Edythe Heus, DC, and her Revolution in Motion training system to roll out a senior-specific health and fitness program called Vitality. Grounded in kinesiology, Vitality helps improve balance and mobility, decreases fall risk, focuses the mind, increases energy and can even improve sleep.

“Vitality by Revolution in Motion is unique because residents stay seated in a chair while on a balance pad,” says Sue Johnston, Meridian Senior Living’s vice president of programming. “The imbalance of this gives the resident a perception of risk, but it’s safe and helps focus movements on core strength, mental focus and light weightlifting. It has turned back the clock for many of our residents as they feel much younger with improved memory, coordination and balance.”

Vitality is offered twice a week, in addition to other offerings such as yoga, tai chi, a walking club and morning stretching. The exercise physiologist will also help with customized fitness plans, in-house physical and occupational therapies, as well as therapy specific to those with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

Cognitive and Social Wellness

The Meridian team knows that while the community’s physical well-being options are robust, true wellness goes beyond the gym. Regardless if the resident is independent or calls the memory care neighborhood home, daily activities can stimulate the mind, bring purpose, and capture passions and interests.

The Meridian’s activities include arts and crafts, a speaker series, history courses, religious services and Bible studies, music programs, happy hours and movie nights in the community theater. There is also transportation to local shows, shopping, museums and more. Especially important for those with dementia will be music programs with guest performers and themed dining/music nights.

“We are so excited to exceed the expectations of seniors in the Tampa Bay area by delivering innovative wellness programs with opportunities for life-changing results,” states Kevin Carlin, principal and chief sales officer for Meridian Senior Living. “We diligently develop enhanced and exciting programs to encourage whole-body wellness that can substantially improve quality of life for residents.”

Residents can continue to lead and be involved in community life via the community’s Dining Council, Ambassador program and Philanthropy Club, a resident-led group that will focus on “paying it forward” to important causes of their choosing.

Montessori-Based Memory Care

For seniors with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, The Meridian at Brandon offers the Montessori Moments in Time™ program, which is designed to enhance the quality of life for those with memory impairment and is guided by the program’s “Five Directional Paths.”

“Beginning with each ‘Resident Life Story,’ we build our programming on their habits, personal preferences, past and current interests, and what brings them joy,” Stacy explains.

The Family Connections path helps strengthen the partnership with adult children or family members as they come to terms with their loved one’s diagnosis. Support groups, resources and education provide opportunities to learn more about the disease, ways to communicate and tools to cope.

The community also partners with Eldergrow™ to provide horticulture therapy to memory care residents. The program and its mobile sensory garden have resulted in benefits among seniors with dementia, including a feeling of independence, a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and important sensory engagement, consistent with a Montessori approach.

Nutrition Is Important

Coupled with staying mentally and physically active, healthy eating is important. The Meridian makes time to provide not only chef-prepared specialty menus and classic offerings, but also options for a well-balanced diet.

“When seniors live at home, we find they often don’t eat healthy because of physical limitations in being able to prepare food or in the logistics of getting to the grocery store,” Stacy informs. “We will make dining an experience that encourages people to be more well-rounded in food choices and make healthier decisions.”

The community features a private dining room, a grab-and-go bistro, a large restaurant-style dining room, a pre-dining lounge, and a bar and bistro on the second floor. The culinary staff prepares three meals per day, which are included in the monthly rent.

“Because nutrition is very important, the menu always reflects a commitment to our dining experience and delicious, healthy eating,” Stacy points out. “Even at the grab-and-go bistro, we make it easy with quick, healthy bites at our residents’ convenience.”

The Meridian at Brandon holds its mission statement to heart: “We enrich the lives of our residents, families and employees through extraordinary experiences… because everyone deserves a great life!” The words guide not only the design of the buildings and amenities, but also the selection of the people and programs that bring the vision to life.

© Article/photos courtesy of The Meridian at Brandon. js
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