Senior Living Houston: Spotlight on Activity Director Nikki Andress
Social interaction, companionship, and making new friends are key reasons many seniors choose to move to a senior community. It’s convenient to be able to walk out of your apartment and enjoy activities, entertainment, and intellectual programs all in your own community. At Treemont, our goal is to sponsor activities that our current residents value. With our new Activity Director Nikki Andress at the helm, this retirement community in Houston is taking the opportunity to re-evaluate its activity program. The March 12th Activity Planning Meeting was the first of four quarterly meetings to be held in 2018. Designed to listen to resident suggestions and spark fresh ideas for programming, the meeting was held in collaboration with an Activity Planning Survey. The most popular ideas from the survey will debut in the April Activity Calendar.
Nikki says, “My role is to coordinate programs that will be interesting, engaging, and beneficial for our residents. This includes designing appropriate programs and working with the community to bring in instructors, performers, and speakers that our residents will enjoy. My goal is to have a relevant, fluid activity program that reflects the interests of the community and makes their retirement years more enjoyable (and fun!).”
Nikki has a wealth of academic and professional experience. She has a B.S. in Business and Hospitality Management from Cornell University, where she took graduate-level Senior Living Management courses. Her first career role was as a Retirement Living Manager for an independent living community in Buffalo, NY. It was a small community (only 49 apartments) so she handled all of the marketing, financials, lease renewals, inspections, staff, and activities. “It was a very busy and fun role! I worked there for 5 years and fell in love with my residents and the Retirement Living industry. I eventually left the role because I wanted to advance in my career and knew I couldn’t do it without a college degree,” says Nikki. After university, Nikki had planned to return to Retirement Community Living but was temporarily lured away from the industry, before ultimately returning in 2017 as an Engage Life Director for Atria Senior Living here in Houston.
While a senior at Cornell, Nikki was fortunate to get an 8-month internship with a strategic hospitality consulting company called Centerplate STIR. She was mentored by a consultant who was renowned in that industry and worked on some of the largest design projects in the company, including the Levi’s Stadium build in Santa Clara. She was offered the role of Project Manager, overseeing the first 16 months of operations in Santa Clara, but couldn’t help feeling like her heart just wasn’t in it. Nikki declined the offer and went to work for a Global Travel Company abroad (first in London, then Dublin), “After some time,” says Nikki, “I had that same hollow feeling. Something was missing, and I came to realize that these roles were exciting, but not fulfilling… I wasn’t impacting lives in the way I wanted to. I did some career coaching and realized what I should have known all along – senior living is the ideal place for me.”
Why this Independent Living Community? “I did a lot of online research about Treemont before I applied to be sure it was a place I would like to work. The thing that really stood out about this retirement community was the plethora of reviews referencing how the staff go above and beyond for the residents. That was the type of environment I was looking for, and it’s much less common than it should be in Senior Living,” says Nikki. “I also appreciate that this retirement home is privately owned. Coming from a corporate environment, I was privy to situations where policy took precedence over people and at times detracted from the residents’ quality of life. It’s a relief to have owners who allow their staff the autonomy to do what they believe is best for the residents.”
Why Houston? After growing up an hour outside Buffalo, NY (practically Canada), Nikki had a strong desire to avoid the snow! After 25 years of brutal winters, she was ready for the warm Houston climate. Nikki’s parents passed when she was a teenager, so it’s just her and her husband, Eddy, here in the U.S. He has a large family back home in Switzerland who are very close, including a grandfather who is 98 years old and still living independently!
Our assisted living Houston community is fortunate to have an individual with such great organizational skills and a passion for working with seniors overseeing its Activity Department. Asked why she enjoys working with seniors, Nikki says “They are an extremely hardworking, humble generation of people and I have great respect for them. The combination of grit and grace with which they faced and overcame the obstacles of their lifetime is something I aspire to.”
Nikki says her most memorable experience working with seniors was an emergency situation at her community in New York:
“One winter, at my independent living community in Buffalo, we had a major snowstorm. It started during the day and came down so fast that they issued a driving ban (and later a state of emergency) in the city. The storm dropped more than 6 feet of snow on us overnight, and it didn’t clear up for days. The power was out and we only had a generator that powered the community room and hallway lights. We didn’t have a cafeteria in the community (everyone had their own kitchen in their apartment), so the residents needed to clear out the food in their fridge and freezers before it spoiled. We shoveled off the porch, brought out the grill, and used the stove in the community room kitchen to cook. Everyone pitched in and worked together to make what amounted to a giant potluck. The mood was festive and we made the best of the situation. When the power came back on and the roads cleared, there was so much snow that you couldn’t see a single car in the parking lot, and when the men came to clear the snow off the roof (they feared it would collapse under the weight when it started to melt) the snow on the roof was deeper than they were tall. It was a once in a lifetime experience!”
Management believes that a top quality Activity Program is essential to keeping current residents happy and attracting new residents. We believe that social interaction is a key component of a long, healthy life. At a retirement community, you have new friends around every corner. There are always good people to share a meal with and a full calendar of opportunities to stay active and engaged. Studies have shown that seniors who socialize and stay active are happier and maintain better health and a better quality of life.
This is your opportunity to provide input on the type of activities that you value and enjoy. If you’ve not yet filled out your activity survey, please do so and return it to the front desk or the Activity Office. Treemont’s strength is in its staff. We are delighted to have such a talented and passionate person to guide our Activity Program. If you have questions, feel free to email Nikki.
This Houston retirement home is part of a CCRC campus. A CCRC or Continuing Care Retirement Community typical includes a continuum of care for their residents, that includes nursing homes in Houston (skilled nursing and rehab), traditional assisted living) and independent living care. To learn more about this nursing home Houston care, please call Rachel Flowers at 713-783-4100..