Initiative ensures that everyone has a cheerleader.

Circle Of Friends

Everyone needs a cheerleader," said Joshlyn Johnson, coordinator of a program at Friendship Village of Schaumburg that encourages new or reluctant residents to join the many activities and social events at the community. It was with that realization in mind that she established Circle of Friends, an initiative designed to bring people together and provide them with unique afternoon activities. What's more, the program offers personal invitations, phone call reminders, walking or wheelchair escorts, the security of having someone accompany residents, and the companionship of old and new friends. "I saw a need for residents to have friendships and to feel wanted; I want everyone to know they're loved and that no one is left out," said the former certified nursing assistant. Because of the program's success at Friendship Village, Johnson is helping to launch a Circle of Friends group at its sister community, GreenFields of Geneva.

While the program is for everyone throughout the continuing care community, Johnson focuses particularly on those who are new or who might not have the will, resources, or recall to attend the abundant activities and events that are a hallmark of Friendship Village. While the initiative was initially "under the table" and impelled predominantly by word of mouth, it is now an official part of programming.

Johnson takes inventory of residents' interests when they move in and regularly throughout the year. She creates flyers announcing the many different programs and activities available for participation. Residents can take part in a talent show, Silver Games competition, hand massages, Bingo, cookie exchanges, road trips, canvass and wine classes, movies, arts and crafts, and the list goes on. Often, residents' family members request that their loved ones are involved in Circle of Friends, and the program also allows spouses with differing care needs time for themselves.

"The goal is to get residents out, build their confidence, and make sure there's nothing they feel they can't do. If people are in their apartment most of the time, you don't really know how they're doing. Even if someone tells me they don't need it, I'm going to check on them anyway, engage them, ask them what they had for breakfast or what they read in the news. I don't want those I don't see to be missed," said Johnson.

Johnson credits her grandmother with her caring personality. "My grandmother always made sure she gave back, and she instilled that in me. She made me who I am today," said the 10-year Friendship Village employee who took meals to the homeless as a child, helped raise her nephew along with her own children, took care of her next-door neighbor, and eventually enrolled in classes to provide home health and adult day care. In spite of having seizures as a child and dyslexia throughout her life, Johnson refused to say "I can't," a spirit she brings to her work as well.

"I love my job; I would do it for free! When I see someone who didn't speak before go out and do things with friends they've made, I get so much back," she said. Participants in Circle of Friends inspire ideas, share their life-learned wisdom and are true partners in the group. "They complete the circle," said Johnson.

Friendship Village is a leading Chicago-area retirement community offering a complete continuum of care including independent living garden homes and apartment homes, as well as assisted living, memory support, skilled care, and short- and long-term rehabilitation services. For more than 37 years, Friendship Village has been providing Chicago area seniors with exceptional retirement living options.

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