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“It’s like a prescription for improving cognitive functioning,” said Jennifer Shea. A licensed clinical social worker at Monarch Landing senior living community in Naperville, Jennifer oversees the community’s Daybreak Program, a unique model to enhance mind, mood, and memory. “When people join Daybreak, they know it will have a positive benefit on their lives and an enhanced quality of their lives,” she said

Jennifer, who has been with Monarch Landing for 11 years, was responsible for helping to launch Daybreak. It started, she said, as an offshoot of a memory support program for residents with mild to moderate cognitive changes. “This began before we’d opened The Springs Health and Rehabilitation at Monarch Landing. We started a program to help offer support, education, and directions to caregiving spouses and families seeking to engage their loved one in socialization and activities,” said Jennifer. “We’ve kept growing, redefining, and adding onto the program.”

Daybreak, as it exists now, provides participants with a consistent and predictable routine designed to promote overall well-being and successful aging. “Our schedule is rich in research-based activities that are fun and engaging while maintaining therapeutic value, all under the umbrella of person-centered programming,” said Jennifer. “We place the emphasis on maintaining independence, and as a byproduct, quality relationships, self-esteem, and resilience improve.”

Daybreak is available to any resident of Monarch Landing’s independent living community. “Sometimes, people have experienced a loss or a mild change in memory. They sometimes find that after attending Daybreak, being around other people, and getting involved, they become reengaged. This is because their confidence and even their memory improve through Daybreak programming. Mood, structure, and a consistent routine can have a significant positive impact on memory. Our programs are therapeutically based with intent to enhance brain function. We offer friendship, exercise, and a good, healthy meal. It’s what any doctor would order for improved mood and memory. We package it all up and offer it through Daybreak,” said Jennifer.

“Daybreak is most beneficial to residents who enjoy a smaller group setting and benefit from structure and routine. Some participants are individuals who want to stay involved in having friendships, maintain a sense of purpose, and engage in activities. Sometimes they’re individuals who are finding that the larger groups have become overwhelming. Daybreak is a smaller version of what we have going on in our larger community.”

The private space for the Daybreak program has been beautifully renovated and boasts a large, bright kitchen, a big dining area, a large lounge with a big-screen television, and room for exercise.

Daybreak is coordinated by Sister Sandy Salois who has more than 20 years of experience working with seniors. A Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Sister Sandy has special expertise in assessing and providing adaptive ways to cope with changes in memory and cognitive function. She is assisted by Jennifer Messina who has more than five years of working with seniors. “The team is really experienced. They bring a lot of creativity and ideas,” said Jennifer. “They have an amazing investment and great enthusiasm for how they’re impacting peoples’ lives.”

The primary purpose of Daybreak is to help people remain independent longer and with a high quality of life. “Daybreak is a unique program,” said Jenifer. “Other retirement communities have come to see it. We’ve been a model program for others because it really changes lives.”