Reflection on Internship at Orchard Cove

My internship has been a wonderful experience, and I am so glad I have had the opportunity to work at Orchard Cove continuing care retirement community. Aside from the main tasks I was assigned to do, I was given a lot of flexibility to explore other areas of Orchard Cove. My supervisor helped set me up to become a CarFit technician, lead a vision board project, lead a field trip to a nature park, shadow an occupational therapist, survey some residents, gather surveys about Orchard Cove fitness, shadow her Vitalize 360 sessions, create flyers for events, and more. I was able to really see how a team worked and do my part in helping the team.

A picture of my workspace since I began the internship.

My knowledge of social justice work has expanded since working at Orchard Cove. Access to a stimulating and meaningful day to day experience for the elderly is not consistent across the elderly population of the United States. Orchard Cove serves a clientele that is mostly middle- to upper-class with significant financial resources and therefore there was substantial stimulating programming. However, what I discovered is that most such places do not have this level of care, and that it is a privilege that Orchard Cove has these resources and opportunities. Other places around the country trying to do the Vitalize 360 program don’t necessarily have the interdisciplinary team and the resources to best support the program. If social justice means having equal opportunity to care without regards to financial resources, than the current situation is inequitable.

Orchard Cove Logo

The biggest impact I would say I made was helping to strengthen the process of the Vitalize 360 Program. Just recently, my supervisor and I solidified a list of teachable steps for the program to use to train other coaches. We made a list for how the program works for new residents and how it works for current residents already participating in the program. In making the overall steps of this process, we were able to figure out where the vitalize coaches role ends and where the doctor’s role begins. By doing Vitalize 360, we are making sure that residents reach their maximum potential of wellness and promote them having conversations about what matters most to them with their doctor and their health care proxy. I took part in streamlining the program with the medical staff to make the delivery of care more efficient. Before we streamlined the program, the medical staff did not necessarily receive all of the information to align the treatment with the patient’s goals. We overall have increased organization of the care team. Our program has a great impact that structures goals for the resident.

Something I know now that I wish I knew when I started was the background of the clientele I would be serving. I also wish I had known the amount of flexibility and extra time in my schedule. The advice I would give to someone else who wants to pursue an internship or career in my organization is that the staff are wonderful and have a good communication system with one another. It is important when working with this population to take each person where they are at, have patience and flexibility, and always treat with respect. It is important to not be afraid to branch out within the company and see what’s going on, because I found that a lot of the positions are very interconnected.


Developing professional skills at Orchard Cove

In working at Orchard Cove, I have have gained several skills that I can employ in the future at Brandeis and in the workplace. Firstly, I have gained leadership skills. I got the chance to lead the vision board activity with four residents, and also recently had the opportunity to help organize and lead a field trip with residents to a local state park, Borderland State Park, for a tour around a famous mansion. When the tour guide unexpectedly did not show up for the tour, I was forced to make some phone calls and improvise a bit, and we ended up getting a personalized tour from one of the land maintenance workers, which ended up being a blast. These experiences have given me the chances to step up as a leader and have flexibility in running these events. I know in future positions, especially in the human services field, it is important to be flexible and to expect that things won’t always go the way as planned. I will especially use this as I continue my role as a leader of the Waltham Community Service Group Companions to Elders.

Mansion at Borderland State Park (URL)

Secondly, I have found the experience of being part of a strong interdisciplinary team who cares about the residents to be very exciting. I am proud to work with a team that is countering the idea that this marginalized population should not be given the same resources and care as others of different ages.  An interdisciplinary team meeting I have attended multiple times focused on discussing the wellness of individual residents and each resident’s goals and wishes. Staff present at the meeting are fitness staff,  a social worker, strategic initiatives director, director of community life, etc., who each give their input on how they feel they can help the resident reach their goals. I feel like this shows how it really takes a village for things to function often times. This has shown me the importance of taking multiple viewpoints into account, really helping to see the whole person not just a small aspect of who they are. Furthermore, this idea can be taken into account when researching a topic for a project. Looking at multiple aspects of an idea before coming to a conclusion holds importance.


Every week, my supervisor leads what is called a wave training in which she teaches other staff members step by step to become vitalize coaches. Since she had never trained other staff to be coaches before, it became difficult creating steps and breaking it down for the other staff to understand. As a beginning intern who did not know all the tiny details that make up the Vitalize 360 program, I was able to look at the big picture and create an initial list of steps for the program that captured the main goals of the program. With this list, my supervisor was then able to build off of that with the details of each step, and translate that into steps to use to teach others about the program. This has been a rewarding experience knowing I can help with the process. I will utilize this idea of looking at the big picture, and breaking down steps in the future.


Some members of the interdisciplinary team, including my supervisor at a Wave training.

Working at Orchard Cove has provided me with some insight about myself. I feel more excited working directly with residents rather than spending a lot of time behind a desk in an office. I have found that I have really enjoyed the parts of the internship working directly with the residents and leading activities.

Resource Equality for Elders

The elderly are a traditionally underserved population when it comes to health care issues. Elders’ decisions and values are not necessarily respected on their own terms. They are frequently sidelined from the general population. Often, elders are not given the services to accomplish their goals. Orchard Cove seeks to upend this trend by providing residents with the resources and support they need to actuate their goals or potential. For example, the vision board activity provides the residents with an opportunity to reconsider their goals and desires and in doing so gives them a stimulating environment. It enhances their sometimes dull and isolating environment. Stimulation and personal fulfillment should not be a privilege, but rather something that is accessible to all. Orchard Cove strives for that every day.

Fitness center at Orchard Cove. Many classes are offered so residents can be healthy and reach fitness goals.

The Vitalize 360 program promotes the change in this social justice issue one step at a time. We gauge this change by the number of clients reached per month through the program and have found that we have significantly enhanced their quality of life via goal assessment and thoughtful conversation.

Picture of the vitalize lounge, a place in between the fitness center and my supervisor’s office where residents can meet up and play games.

The Vitalize 360 coach supports this issue by guiding residents in leading healthy, fulfilling lives. First, the vitalize coach has a meaningful one-on-one conversation with a resident. Along with discussing the resident’s daily routines, issues, and interests, the resident discusses what matters most to them with the coach. The worksheet helps the resident to narrow in on what matters most to them in life. I have sat in on several of these meaningful conversations now and have seen a range of answers to this important question. For many, it is family that matters most, while for others, retaining as much independence as possible is most important. I am constantly reminded that each person has his or her own preferences that should not be assumed.  

After the resident is able to define what matters most to them and has a vitalize plan, the vitalize coach makes sure that the resident has a health care proxy and knows who their agent is. The vitalize coach informs the resident how important it is to have conversations with their loved ones about not only end of life wishes but their quality of life now. Vitalize 360 emphasizes that people need to have conversations about sensitive topics including death and preferences with their health care agent. My supervisor gave me an article to read called “Death Over Dinner” that recommends having these conversations over the dinner table.

I am working with my supervisor on coming up with clear responsibilities for each person involved in the Vitalize 360 process. My supervisor is also training other staff members to be vitalize coaches for the first time, which has forced us to look at the details of the process of Vitalize 360 and sort out any kinks in the system along the way. This is helping us to create clear steps and procedures for Vitalize 360 that can be taught to the new coaches. Having meaningful conversations and strengthening Orchard Cove’s Vitalize 360 program can further change the way Massachusetts views and treats the elderly and health care.

Post 2: Art at Orchard Cove

An underlying theme that has emerged in the courses I have taken at Brandeis is that each person has a unique story that should be recognized and valued. Furthermore, people have the right to be heard and express themselves at every age. I have taken this idea into account as I work with a population that is often undervalued and not given the attention, respect and resources it deserves. The Vitalize 360 coach and I created an art class in which residents created dream/vision boards that represent their goals, dreams, and overall things they want to be, do or have.

With four residents seated around a long table in the art studio at Orchard Cove, the art session began. I started off by giving a short presentation on  what a vision board is and the purpose of creating one. Then my supervisor explained how a vision board relates to the Vitalize 360 program and achieving WMM. Finally, we led the residents in creating their own vision boards. Magazines, inspirational quotes and other pictures were scattered around the table. The residents cut out pictures and words from the magazines that represented their vision, and then glued them onto a foam core board.

I found it so interesting how differently each person interpreted the art assignment. One resident started cutting out pictures and realized that a vision board did not properly describe what she felt she was creating, but rather a current state board which showed what she likes in her life now. Another resident, who writes poetry in her spare time, found that the pictures in the magazines did not speak to her as much as the words did. When I came over to check on her, I was amazed by the visually pleasing poem she had created using different cutouts from magazines and she read it to me.

Another resident had greater difficulty grasping the concept of the project, and I went over to help explain it to her. She had negative thoughts and feelings about the future and what her purpose was in the world. I felt a little discouraged because I was not sure how to engage her in the project. However, my supervisor had brought these small square pieces of paper with inspirational life quotes, which the resident found appealing. A woman next to her helped her glue the quotes to her board, and had a very positive attitude on life.

I was originally nervous about leading this project because I thought the residents may find it to be too fundamental or juvenile, but that was not the case at all. This project was a means of self expression and showed what is important to the individual. In helping to create and lead this activity, I realized the importance of the individual story and self-expression.

Example of a vision board that I showed to the residents

Orchard Cove promotes healthy aging, physically, mentally and socially. In Vitalize 360, the wellness coach takes each resident as an individual and seeks to help the individual lead their best life. At every age, people need to feel part of a community and everyone has something to offer.

My supervisor giving a wellness talk to some of the residents outside


First Week at Orchard Cove

My internship has begun at Orchard Cove, an independent living and enhanced living retirement community. Orchard Cove is part of the Hebrew Senior Life network. Orchard Cove empowers seniors to live healthy independent lives and honors the aim of the Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care to ensure that “delivery of care is aligned with values and preferences at all stages of life and all points of care”.  

At Orchard Cove, my internship involves working for The Vitalize 360 Program, a platform through which Vitalize coaches “elicit and document residents goals, values and preferences.” The way the program works is that a vitalize 360 coach meets with a resident twice to discuss the resident’s wellness, health, and quality of life. The coach helps the resident to set goals and then create an action plan, or vitality plan, to assist the resident in accomplishing his or her goals and pursue what matters most in their lives.

In first arriving at Orchard Cove, I was impressed by the beautiful facilities and friendly atmosphere. During my first week, my supervisor brought me to almost all of her meetings so I could get a grasp of what Vitalize 360 is all about and meet the Interdisciplinary Team members, all of whom support the best lives of the residents at Orchard Cove.

Front exterior of Orchard Cove

The first meeting I attended was on the topic of “What Matters Most.” What matters most (WMM) is a philosophy on which Vitalize 360 and Orchard Cove are built. It emphasizes the idea that residents should define what matters most to themselves and have conversations with their loved ones.

During our time together, the team reflected on the Second Annual Coalition Summit which included research presentations from Massachusetts Coalition for Serious Illness Care as well as personal experiences. The team discussed their thoughts on the conference and also talked about how it related to the idea of “What Matters Most.” A major aspect of the Coalition and Vitalize 360 is for individuals to get on their own personalized path to “What Matters Most.” With the goal of finding what matters most, individuals define their specific values and preferences, make sure those preferences are clear to loved ones, and create a health care proxy.

With another team member, I began brainstorming an art project for the kickoff WMM event Orchard Cove will be holding in June. I have also begun to support the team by helping to develop a “What Matters Most” tool box that will be used to support residents to articulate and capture what really matters in their lives.

Additionally, I have also supported the team by taking the lead on  administrative tasks, such as creating folders that contain important surveys and questionnaires used during Vitalize 360 evaluations with residents. I had the opportunity to sit in on a resident evaluation with my supervisor and vitalize 360 coach which provided a helpful perspective. My supervisor asked the resident questions about her life and interests. With help from the coach, the resident was able to determine what matters most to her, and create goals for herself to achieve what matters most. This plan is called a vitalize plan.

Vitalize 360 logo used on most documents for the program.

I also sat in on two meetings related to Vitalize 360 both led by my supervisor. At one meeting, my supervisor trained other staff members to become vitalize 360 coaches and at the other meeting, we discussed different residents and how the team can best support their vitalize plans. I was also able to learn how the Vitalize 360 online software works. In addition, I have done a lot of research on Vitalize 360 and other resources out there for seniors. I also had a chance to sit in on a laughter class led by one of the residents.

I am looking forward to really delving into the Vitalize 360 and What Matters Most Projects, work directly with residents, and see how the interdisciplinary team works to support the residents.