Deanna Swan has always been lured by the theater. In fact, it was the 200-seat theater that led her to Southgate where she is now the program director of the independent retirement community.
“As program director, I handle the educational programs, spiritual programs and cultural programming for the residents that live here. I worked as a cruise director for Carnival doing shows. Many people have said that the design of Southgate resembles a cruise ship. It really does, and this job is very much like that. We are a community within itself,” Swan said.
Swan became interested in programming activities because she was working in Manhattan and started to study geriatric drama therapy. While her studies continued, her marriage ended, and she decided to make a fresh start in New England, a place she always liked. She settled in the Boston area working in a new facility that was to become a model for a retirement community that integrated all levels of care under one roof.
“The opportunity that led me to Southgate was the fact that not only was the opportunity there for me to act as a producer in bringing in various entertainment and educational programs, but also to engage the residents,” Swan said.
One of the first things Deanna did was to implement an anniversary show to celebrate Southgate. This will be the fourth year the show will run. She wrote the script, held auditions and cast the show. While this show is held each fall, there is a day of Olympics that is held every May.
Karen Roy, the director of Health and Fitness, joins forces with Swan for a day of competition between four teams. The idea of this day is simply to have fun. This year will be the “Year of the Koala.”
“Last year’s winners of the “Team Spirit Award” donated (in their name) to save a penguin in Antarctica. We always try to give back. In addition, we participate in a stitch group where we donate helmet hats for soldiers, Project Linus (knit and crocheted blankets are donated to area hospitals) and so much more,”Swan said.
Deanna works a variety of hours and is always working on the weekends. Each day is new and different with its rewards and challenges and she is always brainstorming ways to spark an interest in the residents who live here with innovative programs and activities. There are sports enthusiasts and people who love the ballet.
“I am very lucky that I have many friends who are in the entertainment industry and have come here for programs. They also really help to make a difference. My dear friend, Jane Blair, who owns a company called Art Matters. She brings materials that can engage anyone. It’s all about how you can relate things in the arts,” Swan said.
Swan also sets up a monthly calendar as well as a weekly paper called the Southgate Update. There truly are not enough hours in each day for her to accomplish it all.
“To me, we are all here to make a difference. This is just what I’m meant to do. If I can share my talents and make a difference to one person one day by giving them a more enhanced quality of life from being here, then I’m doing my job which I love,” Swan said.
Then she recited her mantra, “You don’t stop playing cause you get old. You get old because you stop playing.”