Angelique Riley is the Director of Life Enrichment at Meadowood Senior Living. She oversees the programs and activities for our residents in personal care, memory care and skilled nursing care. A total of about 105 people are served on any given day.
Angelique sat down with me to answer a few questions about her background and what brought her to a career in therapeutic recreation.
Q: I hear you are an Army brat. How many times did you have to move?
A: I lived in so many places both in and out of the United States. Belgium and Germany overseas (I loved Belgium!). In the U.S. I lived in Oklahoma (where I graduated from high school), Missouri, Washington (state), Washington DC and Colorado.
Q: How did you end up in Pennsylvania?
A: When I was 16 I decided I wanted to have more stability. I visited my cousins who lived in PA and never left! They helped me get settled, find a job and start me on the path to adulthood.
Q: How did you become interested in recreation therapy?
A: My mom worked with seniors and she would have my siblings and I visit her at work and entertain the residents. We would sing and dance for them! I always enjoyed it and it made me happy to see them happy.
When I got older and started attending college, I decided to volunteer at a nursing home. I took it seriously. I would volunteer whenever my schedule allowed, most times I had a Monday through Friday schedule. The activity director offered me a job several times. I turned her down at first, worried that it would somehow take the enjoyment out of doing something I loved. One day I decided to take her up on the offer to work there. I quickly realized I liked it even better because I could plan and control the activities and programming for the residents!
Q: So was that it? You never looked back?
A: Yes and no. I was teaching an inter-generational program at the nursing home with a local school and the woman running the school offered me a job teaching! I turned her down a few times before finally accepting. I thought trying something new would be a challenge. I lasted three years, teaching science to high school kids for the first two years and then to fifth graders the last year. I couldn’t wait to get back to my seniors! After that I never looked back!
Q: Tell me about your team here at Meadowood.
A: My team has varied talents. Kara Aiello is professionally trained in teaching chair dancing. She brings her vibrant energy to everything she does. Kayla Gullian runs the night programming. Patti Lochridge is a horticulturist and runs our horticulture program. Melissa Parker enjoys music. She runs a lot of the musical programming such as sing-a-longs. Cari Diliplane has a real artistic talent and runs a lot of the arts and craft groups.
We’re lucky to have such a diverse group working with our residents.
Q: How do you come up with ideas to keep the programs and activities interesting and fresh?
A: I am always looking for feedback from our residents. I love event planning so I take that skill and apply it to programs for our residents. Any type of event can be modified depending on the resident’s health and skill level. We love throwing parties! I also like to use our resident’s talents. We have a resident who is an artist and she now teaches a weekly drawing class!
Q: What makes Meadowood’s life enrichment program unique?
A: Both our fitness and horticulture programs. We have such a variety of fitness programs that are so popular with our residents. Everything from Sit n’ Fit (chair-robics) to Sweating to the Oldies and Tai Chi. The horticulture program is unique because we have our own greenhouse and activity area which means we do not have to rely on someone coming in from an outside company to run the program.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a career in recreation therapy?
A: Do not be intimidated by the training or education. If you have a passion, go for it! If you are unsure, try to volunteer first. That will give you an idea if this type of career is a good fit for you.