Volunteering at Sagewood Allows Seniors to Thrive

Sagewood senior living community, located in Northeast Phoenix, Arizona, is a thriving Life Plan Community where seniors are all about living life to its fullest. Every year at Sagewood, a volunteer fair brings residents together to sign up for on- and off-campus volunteer opportunities, but many residents hear about Sagewood’s great volunteering from their peers who encourage them to join.

Sagewood opened in 2010. Initially, the community life services team would reach out to local churches and school for volunteers to come help Sagewood residents who live in the Desert Willow Neighborhood at Acacia Health Center – those in assisted living or in need of support services. While students are still an integral part of the volunteer program at Sagewood, today there are more than 35 independent living residents who both help their assisted living peers and lead volunteer recruitment efforts for programs throughout the community.

Residents Helping Residents

Community Life Services Director Ron Williams said one big way independent living seniors help their fellow seniors in assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing, is to get them outdoors to enjoy the trails and natural beauty of the nearby McDowell Mountain Range.

“We have a hiking group formed by residents that has several tiers. Our Gentle Walkers are those who use wheelchairs and walkers. Our residents really enjoy helping them get up and out,” said Ron. “Our independent living seniors also go to the health center and volunteer with activities such as bridge, dancing, art therapy – helping them paint – and board games. They even help stock Acacia’s library shelves.”

Volunteers will also make one-on-one visits to rooms to help those who might be less mobile or less inclined to leave their room. Helping other seniors in their own community brings great benefits, shared Ron. “Sagewood seniors become more social with each other and get more involved in the community once they start volunteering. It breaks down that barrier between independent living and assisted living,” he said. “And they see what we can do for residents, how we can improve their quality of life. And for memory care, they can see first-hand how activities with these seniors can improve their standard of living.”

Plenty of Volunteering on Campus

Sagewood provides a wide range of activities where seniors can volunteer. Ron said, “We have so many things to get involved with that the biggest complaint from residents is that as they plan their day, they can’t attend everything they want to!”

Many of Sagewood’s committees are resident-driven. The Sagewood Institute of Lifelong Learning is a committee of residents who secure speakers and presenters from nearby Arizona State University as well as from out of town. “They arrange it themselves. I put it on the calendar and put out publicity to get people to attend,” said Ron. “Depending on the topic, we usually have a turnout of about 70-100, which is really good.”

Another Sagewood group, called Woody’s Place, puts together between 8 and 12 live jazz concerts between October and April. “Well-renowned jazz artists come to perform, and the artists are paid from money that the residents raise for that committee,” explained Ron. While these concerts have typically been held off-site, Sagewood will soon welcome a new multi-purpose auditorium that will seat about 400 people, allowing for jazz events and other concerts to be held on-site.

The top favorite resident-run activity is probably the daily movie showings, especially during hot summer months. Ron shared, “We have two movie theaters here and play movies every day at 2 and 7.” The committee includes about 130 residents, most of whom were very involved in film in their careers. A lot were in broadcasting or sound mixing. Some were part of the Sedona Film Festival. They are all very unique people, with interesting back stories. A lot of the movies remind our seniors of their youth, so really rewarding.”

 Partnering with the Community

According to Ron, residents used to go into the schools to volunteer, but now students come to Sagewood. They will come pass out candy at Halloween, deliver Hershey’s Kisses on Valentine’s Day, and help in many other ways throughout the year.

The MIM (Musical Instrument Museum), a big attraction in Phoenix, is within walking distance from Sagewood. “We partner with them for jazz events, we get discounts on tickets, and we do tours – front and back of house,” said Ron. “We recently did two separate ‘see behind the scenes’ outings. And a couple of residents go and volunteer at the info desk for a few hours on Mondays.”

Volunteering Benefits Everyone

While some communities may find it difficult to recruit volunteers, Sagewood is quite the opposite. Ron said at Sagewood senior living, residents are willing to go above and beyond what they are asked to do, jumping in wherever needed.

“This is a great benefit to the community and the residents. It builds camaraderie and allows for more socialization. It helps those who may have just lost a spouse to get out, and it helps their quality of life as a whole. They are out and about, attending concerts, hiking, volunteering at Acacia… not sitting in their room just watching TV.”

To find out how you can become a part of Sagewood’s active senior living community, get in touch with us at 480-948-1398.