Jen Rasmussen, Life Enrichment Advisor
Ecumen Lakeview Commons Senior Living, Maplewood
A Rose By Any Other Name
Since 2002 Jen has held various titles at Lakeview; Director of Therapeutic Recreation, Life Enrichment Manager and now Life Enrichment Advisor. Regardless of monikers, she has built a reputation as a positive influence in engaging her staff and residents.
Grandma’s After School Snacks
Jen’s affinity for seniors began early when her grandma, who lived just doors away from home, had really good snacks after school. It became the regular routine and was filled with love.
In 1990 Jen’s career began in White Bear Lake as a certified nursing assistant with her rapport for elders. She continued until entering Mankato State College when she saw a flyer for recreational therapist training. Her interest in learning new things helped her excel as she applied the knowledge in a few jobs around the east metro until completing her degree in 1995.
Working in healthcare settings, and a high school, sustained her until she needed extra funds to buy a home. This led to noticing Lakeview on her commute. She inquired and was quickly hired as an on-call recreational therapist – for a day. The regional called explaining the person who hired Jen just quit and convinced Jen she could take over the role. Jen accepted.
Know Thy Residents and Keep it Real
Lakeview, its residents and Jen’s leadership aptitude is a great combination for all. “Interacting with seniors is my calling.” she smiled. These elements guided by the residents’ own needs and desires leads to genuine enrichment activities. A couple of the recent winning themes include Olympics and Glamour Shots! A big hit. The genuine buy-in of the residents in turn becomes the catalyst for perpetual energy and innovation. So, when pandemic budget cuts led to requiring fundraising for activities programming the inspiration and energy to do so was in place.
Jen also emphasized Ecumen’s support from management. “They listen and accept new ideas.” she noted. She still counts one former regional, Janelle Meyers, as a key mentor throughout her career. Jen clearly incorporates that management style as evidenced by her two full-time staff of 12 and 17 years.
A leadership training program for community improvement that Jen completed in 2011 required a final project. From her roommate’s desire to have, and care for, a dog and her creativity she pushed the envelope with a then rarely known “Community Pet” project. With management support the project was fulfilled(the roommate pledging to care for the dog soon left but Jen fell in love with her boarder). Today Gus(dog #2) is the Official House Pet and a seriously vital part of the enrichment programming. From welcoming newcomers and coaxing others out of isolation Gus is the always-alert barometer of everyone’s mood he encounters.
Always Looking Ahead
Jen accepted a call in 2020 to take on regional duties advising other enrichment directors. She saw the need, and requested, management’s involvement and oversight to ensure lasting results and she was supported in implementing change. She is truly a lifelong learner and emerging leader.
The isolation increases of the pandemic both revealed and bolded the vital need for volume and quality of engaging enrichment. Jen has led the way delivering exactly that these past three years.