Love of history gives OKC woman tools to help older adults

This article was originally posted on The Oklahoman

Madeleine Seward (aka “Maddie”) considers herself a novice historian.
She enjoys digging up interesting facts about people and using them to connect with others.
“I have a very busy mind, and whatever element I come in contact with, it develops into something more,” Seward said.
As Concordia Life Plan Community’s memory care lifestyle coordinator, Seward turns her curiosity into action on a daily basis.
She works closely with each resident and their family to learn more about their history and passions and implements those bits of information into a customized, daily lifestyle schedule which goes far beyond the stereotypical bingo and bird-watching some may expect of senior living communities.
Instead, Seward focuses on providing purposeful opportunities for residents to showcase their individuality.
For Seward, it’s less about activities and more about lifestyle.
“Watching Maddie work with the residents is truly special,” said Rhonda Nowlin, Concordia’s senior living adviser. “She uses her talents and love of research to make each person feel seen and loved.”
Concordia offers Alzheimer’s and memory care residents a program structured to cultivate wellness and bolster confidence.
Seward is a crucial part of this puzzle. With Concordia’s 16 private memory care suites, Seward can form a unique relationship with each resident while helping them feel understood and empowered.
“Residents like to bring me things. They want to show me something about their habits,” Seward said. The items range from pocket watches to photographs to a tiny box filled with locks of a resident’s hair from childhood.
When Oklahoma celebrated its 110th birthday, Seward visited with each resident and their family and dug up unique information about their hometowns.
“We made games centered around what we found and remembered about our hometowns. It was a wonderful event,” she said.
When it comes to brain health, relationships like the ones Seward forms with Concordia’s residents matter.
There have been countless studies touting the benefits of healthy relationships on cognitive functions, many of which cite social interactions as one of the key components to longevity and healthy brain function.
Though the knee-jerk reaction is often for older adults to prefer their own home to senior living communities, in some situations, communities with a holistic approach to wellness and lifestyle can provide individuals with a happier, healthier future, especially for those aging alone.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, baby boomers are aging alone at a higher rate than any generation in history.
And since baby boomers make up a huge portion of the United States’ population, communities like Concordia are in high demand.
“We generally have a wait list,” Nowlin said. “But I often encourage families to call and check about our availability. I have found many families struggle with when to make a move and will place their names on a list, but when they wait too long it becomes an urgent need, and we are full. This then forces the family to settle for any place with an opening, which can be stressful.”
Families are encouraged to talk with their loved ones about senior living planning well in advance of when they think they’ll need it.
It’s no surprise that the connections Seward forms with residents — from hours of research and spending time with them — are just as important to her as they are to them.
“Working with residents, learning about them is my passion. It’s a home for me,” Seward said.
For more information about Concordia’s senior living options, call 405-331-6113. For more information on Concordia’s memory care services, go to