Social & Emotional Wellness a Key Component of Crane’s Mill Programming

Each resident’s wellness is a top priority for the community’s dedicated staff

Nicole Smith, Director of Community Programming, poses with residents in the Cherry Blossom Lounge.

Nicole Smith, Director of Community Programming, poses with residents.

The La Via Wellness program at Crane’s Mill senior living community enhances resident well-being by focusing on six distinct dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, intellectual, emotional and social, vocational, and environmental. We believe that a well-rounded approach is key to long-term health. With the help of dedicated experts who specialize in each dimension of La Via, residents follow their own paths to engage their bodies and minds. Nicole Smith, our Director of Community Programming, oversees the social and emotional aspects of the program.

A graduate of Montclair State University, Nicole has worked in activities for 17 years (five of them at Crane’s Mill). Originally a commercial recreation and tourism management major, her passion for working with seniors became clear during an internship at a retirement home, which inspired her to follow a different path.

Nicole’s duties at Crane’s Mill include planning the entire calendar of resident events. She makes an effort to include events that touch on every single aspect of wellness as defined by the La Via program, working closely with other La Via coordinators to provide residents with a wealth of fulfilling activities. In her words, “It all works together like a puzzle. You can’t isolate a single aspect of wellness; there’s a social and emotional dimension to everything.” By facilitating programs that range from spiritual to physical to intellectual, Nicole promotes the social interaction among residents that is so necessary for their emotional well-being.

Residents often get in on the fun by researching activities and events that they then suggest to Nicole. Taking ideas from residents and combining them with her own knowledge, research, and resources, Nicole ensures that a dizzying array of programs, trips, and social opportunities are available every month. Many offerings involve collaboration with the community beyond Crane’s Mill. Recent programs have included lectures by local college professors, concerts given in partnership with the New Jersey Symphony, and birdwatching excursions sponsored by the Essex County Environmental Center.

Volunteering is a large part of Crane’s Mill’s social and emotional programming as well. Residents have the opportunity to donate their time and energy to collecting food for a local pantry, serving the needy in a soup kitchen, and making baby blankets for donation to the local hospital. It’s not just residents who volunteer, either. One of Nicole’s favorite programs is a partnership with the Key Club from James Caldwell High School. These students come to Crane’s Mill to provide residents with tech support, helping them set up computers and other devices, figure out printing, and navigate the internet.

One Key Club story in particular makes Nicole laugh. “One resident signed up for tech support and got help from a young student in the club. The next time the students came, this resident signed up again and made sure to request the same student. She didn’t even need any tech help—she just wanted to chat some more!”

With many exciting programs slated to begin in the next few months—including computer classes, knitting lessons, and the return of the book club—Nicole is thrilled that she can improve residents’ social and emotional health through her work. After all, according to Nicole, “You need the social and emotional piece to complete the picture. Residents wouldn’t have a balanced lifestyle without that!”