In the world of senior services, you hear a lot about “whole person wellness” – in fact, you hear about it so much that it sometimes seems like it’s lost its meaning. Lots of organizations like ours have developed elaborate systems and special names for their wellness programs, but what’s important about this idea can sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Wellness for me has often been the token visit to the gym once or twice a month. Feeling empowered and almost super human for a brief moment, thoughts run wild in my mind that I may now be able to win the upcoming 5K in my age division!
However, like in the old story about the tortoise and the hare, winning at wellness is less about sprinting to the finish line and more about slow, steady progress. Real wellness takes commitment and perseverance, but ultimately has even greater rewards.
Several months ago, one of our residents, Marie Hasenoehrl, came to us and wanted to talk about how she could support the Milwaukee Catholic Home mission in gratitude for her wonderful years of being part of our community. We talked to her about some ideas, and what really appealed to Marie was the idea of wellness. Marie has been committed to using the fitness center as a part of her daily routine, and knows how important it is to her and to our other residents in maintaining physical wellness and overall health. Because of this belief, she choose to give a generous gift towards a complete renovation of the fitness center at The Residence, including a variety of new, state of the art equipment designed with seniors in mind.
Wanting to learn more about this interesting phenomenon of whole person wellness and the challenge of committing to it, I came across this quote. It really resonated with me and with the work we are doing around wellness here at Milwaukee Catholic Home.
“Health in the biblical perspective means wholeness — not only physical, but also spiritual and psychological wholeness; not only individual, but also social and institutional wholeness. Jesus was the Divine Healer who came to restore this health. He healed people’s physical and psychological ills; he healed them to the depth of their being. Through his life and ministry he proclaimed the kingdom of God on earth and reached out to touch and to heal our wounded humanity. He came to the world to make us fully human, to help us to realize our human dignity as creatures made in the image of God. He came to bring the fullness of life.”
“Health has to do with more than strictly medical concerns. The restoration of health and maintenance of good health are not solely the responsibility of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. We all bear a responsibility in this regard, both as individuals and as members of larger social and religious institutions.”
(Health and Health Care: A Pastoral Letter of the American Catholic Bishops – November 19, 1981)
Reading this pastoral letter on health care, it struck me that whole person wellness, for all its trendiness, is nothing new – especially not for us at Milwaukee Catholic Home who value our rich Catholic faith tradition and sense of community. The Church, in following the example and teaching of Jesus the healer, has worked for centuries to help people realize the importance of being well in all aspects of human life – not just physical health, but psychological, social, spiritual, and societal wellness.
It’s especially appropriate in this Christmas season to talk about human flourishing, in body, mind and soul. Jesus chose to become one of us, but he didn’t just take on part of what it means to be human – he became fully human, with all the challenges that come with it. He understands our weaknesses, but also what gives us strength and how we can share that strength with each other.
We’re so grateful to Marie, both for her gift and for the opportunity to highlight what whole person wellness means at Milwaukee Catholic Home. There’s so much we do here on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis to support our residents’ wellness, from spiritual care and sacramental life to daily exercise programs to music and fine arts. We look forward to spending some time reflecting further on these programs and how they can be enhanced and expanded to bring even more benefit to our residents and our community.
What are you doing to win your next 5K (in your age division of course!)?