“Finding My Passion for Recreational Therapy” by Maddie

Dec 17, 2021 | Life At Sunset

I started working at Waterford Place two and a half years ago. I began as a recreational therapist assistant, but when the pandemic began I wanted to cross-train as a Resident Aide, so I could help out in other ways. I have since moved up to be the Recreational Therapy Team Lead. I work primarily with Memory Care residents at Waterford Place but have the opportunity to do a little in all areas of our campus.

Why I Chose Recreational Therapy

Originally, I wanted to pursue a degree in special education because I had a brother with special needs. I was also part of a LINKS program in high school and loved it.

Ultimately, I decided on recreational therapy because it will enable me to serve a larger population. As part of the requirements for the Recreational Therapy program at GVSU, I needed to work a certain number of hours with a Certified Recreational Therapist. Angie Russo, who is our Recreational Therapy Director and a CTRS (Certified Therapeutic Recreation

Getting a Head Start at GVSU

In my program at GVSU, we’ve been learning a lot of different interventions and leadership skills. This has been super helpful for me, especially since I became a team lead and started planning most of the daily activities for the Memory Care residents.

Working at Waterford Place has given me such a heart for this population and also unique work experience most of my classmates don’t have. I’ve gotten to share my clinical experiences with my classmates and I love that I’m able to apply what I’m learning in the classroom to my actual day job.

At first, I was nervous working for Sunset Senior Communities because I hadn’t worked with seniors before. Then I met the residents and fell in love—with the people and with the work itself. The residents share so many amazing stories and have lived through so much more than I have. I can sit and talk with them for hours and still learn something new every time. I have learned to become a student of our residents and it is truly fascinating!

What Makes Sunset Different?

One of the best things about working for Sunset Senior Communities is that there’s always something fun happening. No two days are the same.

All the staff members get along really well. We make a good team, and everyone truly cares about our residents. But overall, my favorite part about my job is the residents and the relationships I’ve made with them. They have become my family!