Listen to Ron's Interview with Maria Leonardo
Creating Life-enriching Activities for Today’s Senior Communities
For many older Americans, moving to an assisted living community offers a bridge between aging in place with occasional—but not really enough—socialization, and starting another phase in life, exploring new relationships and being engaged in activities suited to their needs. But how can families choose recreational programs that they believe will truly enhance the lives of our loved ones? In today’s episode, Maria Leonardo, who has spent several decades as a professional working specialist in the field of life enrichment programs and activities for seniors, will talk about her wide-ranging career and insights. Maria has planned, designed and implemented original programming, monthly calendars, special events and newsletters for numerous adult care, including independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. She’ll explain how activity and recreational professionals work together with families and staff to discover and maximize the positive abilities of residents—"to meet people where they are,” as she says. Maria, who also has an eclectic background in adult ed teaching and communications (she is a voice-over talent, having created and voiced numerous radio commercials), will describe how this influence shaped some innovative programs she created in adult communities across Florida and New York: Programs that cross into the generational divide, like a senior girl scout group that joined with a local girl scout troop in activities like making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together. Reading programs with school kids of different ages and art projects with preschoolers. Programs commemorating 9/11, with thought-provoking, personal questions for both young and old about how to achieve peace in the world. Programs that let kids find out about senior residents, and residents find out about kids—the hope for our future. Maria will also talk about what families need to watch for when checking out the life enrichment programs of prospective communities—a chance to experience new things, whatever their abilities.
Maria Leonardo is Director of Campus Life Enrichment & Volunteers at Aviva Senior Living in Sarasota, Florida. A Certified Activity Consultant, Maria has spent almost three decades as a professional in the field of life enrichment programs and activities for seniors in numerous adult care communities in New York and Florida. She has planned, designed and implemented original programming, monthly calendars, special events and newsletters for communities ranging from independent living and continuing care retirement communities, to assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities. Before her current position at AVIVA, Maria served as Director of Life Enrichment at The Springs at South Biscayne in North Port, Fla.; Director of Activities at The Bristal Assisted Living in Massapequa, N.Y.; Program Director at the Joseph L. Morse Geriatric Center in West Palm Beach, Fla.; and she has been a strategic programming training consultant for several other facilities in South Florida and on Long Island. In addition to her career as a senior activities and program specialist, Maria has been an adult education ESOL teacher, copywriter and voiceover talent, creating 30- and 60-second commercials for WGL, WRIV, WCTO and WBAB radio.