Kendal at Ithaca's, Life Engagement Manager provides catalyst for Residents to engage with life!

About a year ago, Kendal at Ithaca created a new position titled Life Engagement Manager. It is doubtful anyone would argue with the fact that developing this role has been a good decision for residents. However, what made it a truly great decision was getting the right person to fill that role. Maria Giampaolo is that person.

“I love the activities Maria Giampaolo is arranging off campus, ” said one resident. “Maria G. has done a wonderful job with the number and variety of activities since assuming that role.”, commented another in a recent survey.

As a 28-year veteran of Kendal, Maria started her career in the Health Center as the Director of Therapeutic Recreation. She is well acquainted with Kendal values as well as the needs and expectations of residents. Her welcoming and calming presence combined with natural energy and planning skills allows her to execute in a way that is perfect for this position.

Kendal resident visioning groups were the first to identify a need for this type of role and provided feedback as well as insight into what “living our Best Life” means to them. The Life Engagement Manager is intended to be a resource to assist in implementing resident-driven wellness and engagement opportunities that help residents achieve their best life goals.

Maria has facilitated outings such as sporting events, concerts, lake cruises, museums, wine tours, and more. In addition to the off-campus activities, she also helps with a variety of campus events, with the most recent being Contra dancing and international dance instruction. Maria participates in community outreach initiatives, forging partnerships to create volunteer and vocational opportunities that extend Kendal at Ithaca’s impact beyond the campus. The partnership she spearheaded with the local YMCA is an example of leveraging our Wellness initiatives beyond the Kendal campus in a way that benefits both the community and Kendal.

While various activities take her out and about with groups, Maria also spends a lot of time just talking, and more importantly, listening to individual residents. It is the one-on-one personal interaction where Maria begins building the foundation of her “Life Engagement” position. She often seeks feedback about what activities would be most interesting and relies on her experience using the Quaker collaborative approach to navigate the variety of wants and needs of this intelligent, active, and diverse resident population.

“I really enjoy the interaction with residents and find they are an amazing group. I learn so much from them and feel lucky to be able to help improve their experience here at Kendal”, noted Maria.

Listening and responding to resident feedback creates opportunities for them that are specific to their interest and to the local environment. These opportunities allow a consistent way to engage with one another and provide common experiences that result in strengthening the community. Having a strong community means we have a community that is active and engaged with life.

It appears increased engagement is truly a positive outcome from the creation of our Life Engagement Manager position. Maria is on to something, and we are fortunate to have her at Kendal at Ithaca!