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Congratulations to Senior Living Hero, Jane Bongiovanni

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenMay 28, 2013

Benchmark Senior Living LogoArgentum (formerly The Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA)) Hero Award honors “extraordinary individuals who serve older adults in senior living communities” across America.

Congratulations to Jane Bongiovanni, the Program Director at Plymouth Crossings, a Benchmark Senior Living community in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Interview With ALFA Hero, Jane Bongiovanni

A Place for Mom recently caught up with Jane to congratulate her on her prestigious award and to learn more about her work with seniors. Here’s a little about Jane and her role in the senior living industry:

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Q: How did you end up working in the senior living / senior care industry?

A: I began working at Plymouth Crossings, a Benchmark Senior Living community, almost 9 years ago. My college education was in Elementary Education with a concentration in Learning Disabilities and Reading. I started teaching right out of college, at the age of 21, but soon after that was married and began to raise a family. I worked at home as a full-time mother for many years, but when my children were both teenagers, I thought about going back to work full-time. My sister told me about the Programming Director position at Plymouth Crossings, and the position sounded very appealing to me as it appeared to be so much like teaching. I applied for the position, was hired, and have been extremely happy with it ever since!

Q: You were selected as a winner because you champion quality of life for senior residents. How do you do this?

A: My job as Programming Director gives my life a wonderful “sense of purpose,” and I strive to give our senior residents a “sense of purpose” to their days, as well. I try to provide a variety of diverse and engaging programs that will enrich the lives of our senior population. At Benchmark Senior Living, we offer programs that incorporate the “Six Dimensions of Wellness.”  These dimensions include Intellectual, Physical, Social, Emotional, Spiritual and Sense of Purpose programming. Our daily, weekly and monthly calendars offer many stimulating and creative activities that we, as programming directors, add many of our own special personal touches to. Many of our residents like familiarity, but it’s important for them to learn new things, too! I like to think, we are never too old to learn!

Q: What is a memorable moment you’ve had with a resident or family of a resident?

A: I have had so many memorable moments with our residents and their families over the years that it’s hard to choose just one! I do recall when one of our long-time residents passed away and I went to the wake to pay my respects to the family. The photo board at the funeral home was filled with so many pictures of “Lucy” engaged in all kinds of activities at Plymouth Crossings, and included on the board was an award I had given her during an Academy Award celebration for all of the residents. The pictures showed Lucy dressed in costumes in plays and engaged in arts and crafts classes while she was living with us. They also showed her reading, singing, dancing, absorbed in prayer groups and busy dining with friends and celebrating life. Her family shared with me that before Lucy came to Plymouth Crossings, she was extremely shy and spent most of her days alone or with her only sister. However, when she came to live with us, she became very engaged in activities, which made them happy because she had “blossomed” at Plymouth Crossings and truly enjoyed the final years of her life.  They recounted calling her on the phone one day, and she said she “couldn’t talk because she had to get to play practice as she was rehearsing her role as ‘Sleepy,’ one of the dwarfs in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and she didn’t want to be late.” This was music to the family member’s ears to hear that their beloved mother was taking “center stage” late in life.

And that same, very shy, Lucy was presented with the “Best Roommate” Award during our Annual Academy Awards Celebration that year. It had been proudly displayed in her room for many months following the ceremony, and here it was displayed for all to see. I think of Lucy often, and I feel content knowing that she had so many special and memorable moments involved in programming during her days with us.

Q: What inspires you to do what you do for seniors to help the fight against ageism?

A: I have always been inspired by the words of George Washington Carver, and I quote: “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong.  Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.” I have worked with the young and with the aged, the striving, the weak and the strong, and I feel such compassion towards all people. My life is truly enriched by my interactions with the seniors each and every day. They have taught me so much about life, love, family and friends, and the importance of what we do with our “time” here on Earth. I can only hope, that I have lead them by my examples of compassion, kindness and love!

Q: Do you volunteer as an advocate for seniors? If so, where and what do you do?

A: I will always be an advocate for seniors. I know I have the ability to make a difference in their lives each and every day! It’s important to make our seniors feel “special,” and we can do that simply with a gentle touch, a kind word or a genuine smile. We can all be advocates for seniors, whether we offer a lending hand in the grocery store, a ride to church, a meal to an elderly neighbor, a phone call during a winter storm, or share a friendly chat over a cup of tea, because hopefully, someday, we will be on the receiving end of a kind stranger or friend in the “winter” days of our lives as well.

You can view other Argentum Hero Award Winners here. Don’t hesitate to congratulate Jane Bongiovanni in the comment form below.

Dana Larsen
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Dana Larsen
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