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Find Ikigai in Senior Living

ikigai, Heather found her calling in senior living

What is Ikigai?

Ikigai (ee-key-guy) is a Japanese philosophy that roughly translates to “the meaning of your life.” This concept of ikigai has been gaining worldwide notoriety through TED Talks, books, and resources. It is one of the ingredients to longevity, as referenced in the Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. Many credit this concept as the secret to a joyful and purposeful long life. 

For Heather Harris, the Life Enrichment Director at The Tamalpais Marin, ikigai is a “reason for being.” She initially heard of ikigai while working in Japan as a singer. With a theater background and experience in the hospitality industry, specifically cruise ships.  Joined the Life Plan Community in 2001 and has held several roles in the retirement community. 

Sequoia Living’s four Bay Area Life Plan Communities, sometimes referred to as continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), seek to create stimulating, engaging living environments and provide services for healthy and joyful aging. For many retirees and their families, a Life Plan Community provides peace of mind. 

As the director of life enrichment, “a large part of my job is creating experiences that educate, entertain, and inspire residents,” said Heather. “As well as encouraging them to continue to find their ikigai!” She applies this philosophy to life not only to herself but the programming created for residents through the life enrichment department. “Oftentimes, people have this perception that moving into an active aging community is the ‘last chapter.” Heather has a different perception of this time, “I think of it more as a next chapter offering new experiences and friendships along with unforeseen possibilities.”

Why Ikigai?

Heather recognizes that having a sense of purpose and meaning in life is important for everyone, regardless of age. By prioritizing the cultivation of ikigai among residents, life enrichment programming promotes individual well-being while contributing to a more vibrant and engaged community. 

Recently, Heather started a women’s group inspired by National Women’s Month. The group meets bi-weekly, and nearly 20 women between the ages of 70 to 99  attend. Group members discuss their life experiences, challenges and struggles, and various aspects of a woman’s journey in a safe, non-judgmental space. This gives the women an opportunity to know each other on a deeper level.

 The women’s group was created to foster deeper connections and a sense of community among residents. Finding ikigai helps individuals feel valued, fulfilled, and connected. It emphasizes the importance of finding purpose and meaning in life.

Unleashing the power of Ikigai

Heather is a nationally certified personal trainer and Group Exercise Instructor, and understanding the importance of exercise not only for your body but also for your brain, she will often combine memory, movement, and vocal exercises for a fun fitness activity promoting neuroplasticity.

“I am a firm believer that attitude is everything when it comes to aging,” said Heather. She envisions a world where people of all ages are valued and heard. For over two decades, she has been motivated to empower older adults and promote limitless possibilities. She views retirement as “The start of a new chapter in life, a chance to open yourself up to new experiences and friendships and discover unforeseen possibilities.” Getting older is an opportunity to Never Stop Growing.

Live a fulfilling and purpose-driven life, regardless of age, at Sequoia Living. A family of communities where residents explore and discover what it means to grow stronger, wiser, and more joyful. 

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