Sonata Senior Living’s CEO Named McKnight's Women of Distinction Honoree

Sonata Senior Living’s CEO Named McKnight’s Women of Distinction 2023 Honoree

ORLANDO, FL—February 24, 2023—Co-Founder, President, and CEO Shelley Esden of Orlando-based Sonata Senior Living has been inducted into the Hall of Honor in the McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards, a joint program of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, McKnight’s Senior Living, and McKnight’s Home Care. The awards program recognizes women who have made a significant impact on their organization or in the long-term care industry.

Esden joins Chief Operating Officer, Jamie Merrill, as the second Sonata Senior Living executive to be named a McKnight’s Women of Distinction honoree.

“I am extremely honored to be selected as a McKnight’s Woman of Distinction. Pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in senior living and inspiring others to do the same is the driving force behind every decision I’ve made in both my professional and personal life. I’m excited to join the ranks of this prestigious program alongside other women who have dedicated their lives to improving the future of long-term care in this country,” said Shelley Esden, President and CEO of Sonata Senior Living.

As a Hall of Honor inductee, Esden was recognized for her significant contributions to the senior living industry. According to the program’s website, inductees are also nominated and selected for their ability to inspire others and for having a powerful effect on the lives of the individuals they serve.

Esden’s ability to positively affect and inspire others has played out over the course of her 25-year career in senior living operations, development, and management. Appointed as Chairperson of the Florida Senior Living Association in 2022, she is widely regarded as an industry trailblazer who actively champions advocacy efforts and legislation that benefit senior living operators and the seniors they serve.

The Women of Distinction award comes at the culmination of a career devoted to reimagining and improving the senior living industry and a career trajectory that began in graduate school while working as Advocacy Coordinator for Florida’s Department of Elder Affairs. She went on to serve as Florida’s 1995 White House Conference on Aging Coordinator and was promoted to Assistant Director of the Florida Commission on Long-term Care, where she was responsible for creating the managed care diversion project still serving Florida’s seniors today.

It is through her personal life that Esden recognized firsthand the difference a caregiver can make in the lives of others. During her childhood, Esden’s mother worked as a CNA in a skilled nursing facility, exposing her to the senior care industry early on. In the 1990s, when her mother needed care, Esden’s experience left her with a profound desire to affect change.

Esden’s personal experiences sparked a passion for improving resident services in senior living and were the catalyst behind her transition from senior living advocate to operations, first as an administrator with Marriott Senior Living followed by various multi-site management roles for leading national providers Summerville Senior Living and Legacy Senior Living. By 2007, Esden co-founded Elle Senior Living, an executive consulting firm. Shortly thereafter, she joined forces with Sonata’s Managing Partner, Stuart Beebe, to form Sonata Senior Living in 2008.

Esden’s drive for excellence is underscored by the many achievements that have advanced the senior living industry, including the 2004 President’s Award, Executive Director of the Year at Summerville Senior Living; the 2011 and 2012 ALFA (Argentum) Best of the Best awards for Programs to Spotlight; the 2012 ASID Mary Louise Schum Design Award for Sonata at Melbourne; and the 2013 and 2014 Florida ALFA (Argentum) Outstanding Achievement Awards, among others.

For all her accolades, she remains most appreciative of her accomplishments at Sonata Senior Living, where her dedication and passion create value for partners and consumers alike. These include the development of seven senior living communities and the acquisition of seven turnaround communities with an emphasis on establishing new standards of operational efficiencies, service delivery, and integration of innovations.

One of the most notable development projects to come online under Esden was Florida’s pioneering stand-alone memory care community, Serenades Memory Care. Designed and built using the most advanced science on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, Serenades’ purpose-built design received recognition from ALFA (Argentum) as a 2011 and 2012 “Best of the Best” program. Most recently, she led the team responsible for launching an innovative new memory care concept called Serenades For Her.

Esden’s determination to raise the bar in senior living is evident in each new development and acquisition undertaken by Sonata Senior Living. Today, she is keenly focused on establishing Sonata Senior Living as a leading provider and implementing the company’s growth plans.

About Sonata Senior Living

Sonata Senior Living is a regional owner, developer, and operator of independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities. Founded in 2008, Sonata currently operates over 1,090 units throughout Florida. The tenured Sonata team has earned a longstanding reputation as a trusted and proven provider of new development and turnaround acquisitions. Recipients of multiple Argentum Best of Best Awards, innovation, and service awards, Sonata’s pursuit of service excellence, unwavering commitment to its core values, and investment in workforce and culture have made Sonata a provider of choice. For more information about Sonata’s management and development services, visit

About McKnight’s Women of Distinction Awards Program

McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards program is a joint effort of McKnight’s Senior LivingMcKnight’s Long-Term Care News and McKnight’s Home Care. Eligible for recognition are women working as direct care providers, managers, executives, corporate executives and owners in independent living, assisted living, memory care and life plan communities, as well as those working in those capacities in skilled nursing facilities and in home care, home health, hospice and palliative care. The program is judged by a national, independent panel of judges. Overall, 26 states are represented by the honorees across each of the three major awards categories. The 2023 honorees will be celebrated Monday, May 22, at the JW Marriott in Chicago. The presentation of awards will be preceded by the fourth annual McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum, offering educational sessions featuring industry thought leaders discussing important topics. Learn more about the Women of Distinction Awards Program.

Biography of Shelley Esden, President and CEO, Sonata Senior Living

 As Co-Founder, President and CEO of Sonata Senior Living, Shelley Esden brings more than 20 years of frontline experience to the complex issues facing owner-operators in senior living. Her passion for all aspects of senior housing has been instrumental to Sonata’s growth, where she is responsible for crafting the company culture, inspiring an expanding workforce, and innovating services to meet the demands of a changing world. Her passion to serve began with her early work improving access to housing with the State of Florida’s Commission on Long Term Care. Prior to forming Sonata in 2008, her management roles at Summerville Senior Living, Legacy Senior Living, and Marriott Senior Living led to vast improvements in resident services and experience. Today, Shelley is devoted to shaping the people and processes that drive the future of senior living, from training to technology and design. Her expertise in advancing programs, products and services that promote healthy aging led to the prestigious Argentum ‘Best of the Best’ award for Serenades Memory Care by Sonata. Shelley is a 2023 McKnight’s Women of Distinction Hall of Honor inductee and Chair of the Florida Senior Living Association. She also sits on the Executive Advisory Board for Argentum and holds a BS in Political Science from the University of Florida and an MHA from Florida State University.

Shelley Esden, Co-Founder, President and CEO, Sonata Senior Living

Expect More At Sonata

Visit a Sonata community and find out why putting service first has allowed us to continually raise the bar in senior living and exceed our residents' expectations.


Memory Loss: When to Seek Help From a Professional

When To Seek Memory Care Support

If a senior you love has been diagnosed with dementia, you’ve probably asked yourself many times how you will know when it’s time for a move to one of central and south Florida’s memory care communities. For most families, it is difficult to even consider turning a loved one’s care over to someone else.

Sometimes families live close to one another and an adult child begins to notice the changes in an elder early in the disease process. This gives them time to plan and prepare for the future. Other times the senior lives farther away. The distance makes it more difficult to detect those early signs that indicate something is wrong. The senior’s disease may be more advanced before their family realizes something is wrong. It’s also important to know that some older adults start to realize something isn’t right and try to hide the changes from family members. So what are the signs that suggest it’s time for memory care? We have a few guidelines you might find helpful.

When to Consider Memory Care for a Senior Loved One

As dementia progresses, it creates a variety of unique challenges depending on what type of dementia the senior has been diagnosed with. Some of the challenges Alzheimer’s disease creates, for example, are difficult to safely navigate at home. Wandering, agitation, and aggression are among them. These are all behaviors that experienced memory care professionals can usually find positive ways to manage.

Here are some other signs it might be time for a move to a memory care community:

  • Becoming disoriented or lost in familiar places
  • Falls and mobility challenges
  • Unintended weight loss caused by a poor diet or lack of interest in food
  • Poor judgment with finances
  • Vision changes, especially loss of depth perception, that are putting the older adult at risk for falls
  • Problems with continence care
  • Stress and fatigue that are starting to cause health problems for the family caregiver
  • Difficulty finding activities that keep the senior engaged in meaningful ways

When you notice more than one or two of these signs in a senior you love, it might be time to consider your options for memory care.

The Support of Memory Care

Memory care programs offer the support a senior with dementia needs to feel successful and empowered. It also gives their family members the peace of mind that comes from knowing their senior loved one is safe.

A few standard features of a memory care program include the following:

  • Life enrichment activities designed to work with the senior’s remaining abilities and help them live more productive days
  • Dedicated dining programs that encourage a senior with dementia to focus on their meal
  • Secure, thoughtful environment that prevents wandering and promotes safety
  • Caregivers who receive additional training on how to support the independence of adults with dementia

Serenades by Sonata Memory Care Assisted Living

Deciding to seek memory care support can be a difficult decision. You may even wonder if your loved one will qualify for memory care. But as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease progresses, caregiver stress can become overwhelming and eventually impact your own health. Because we want you to make the best possible decision for your loved one, we invite you to schedule a visit to a Serenades Memory Care community near you.  


Research reveals how significant the environment is to the well-being of those with Alzheimer's disease and dementia. This key insight is the driving force behind purpose-built design solutions. Find out how the design of memory care communities impacts quality of life.


Safe Home Visits By Sonata

Home Safety and Wellness Assessments

If you have a loved one who is showing signs of declining health or independence, you may wonder what level of support they need.

Providing care in the home may have worked well for a time, but may no longer be affordable as care needs increase. Perhaps a health event such as a fall or stroke has caused you to assume the role of caregiver. Or a parent’s health has been slowly declining for years and reaching a point where living without assistance is no longer safe.

No matter the situation, deciding on the level of care and assistance a loved one needs—whether it be a parent, grandparent or a spouse—is never easy and usually rife with emotion.

Agreeing on the right time to move to assisted living is also an emotional decision. Many times, a parent or loved one is reluctant to move for fear of losing their independence. If you find yourself in this situation—or know someone who is—a Home Safety and Wellness Assessment can help you weigh the pros and cons of caring for a loved one at home vs. moving so you have more information on hand to make the right choice for you and your loved ones.

What is the goal of a home visit from Sonata Senior Living?

According to Katie Wood, LPN and Wellness Director at Sonata Senior Living, the primary goal of a home visit is to make recommendations to families that will ensure the safety and well-being of a loved one who may be experiencing declining health and in need of some assistance.

Upon receiving a request for a home visit, she’ll schedule a convenient time to meet with a family in their home to conduct a Home Safety and Wellness Assessment.

A safe home visit can be requested by calling a Sonata Senior Living community near you.

What does a Home Safety and Wellness Assessment consist of?

The Home Safety and Wellness Assessment is offered as a free service by Sonata to educate and guide families with a loved one in need of some assistance with self-care or activities of daily living.

It is designed not only to assess the wellness and safety of older adults who may be struggling with daily tasks such as cooking, bathing and dressing, but also avail services and resources that can make aging in place safer.

As part of the assessment, a licensed nurse will do a head-to-toe assessment that examines an individual’s need for assistance in the several areas such as:

  • Mobility
  • Bathing
  • Medication Management
  • Dressing and Grooming
  • Device assistance (hearing aids, walker)
  • Continence
  • Diet and nutrition (low-salt diet)
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Chronic illnesses/disease
  • Cognitive Safety (ability to remember medications)
  • Physical Safety (stairs, throw rugs)
  • Cognitive awareness (i.e. forgetting to pay bills)

The assessment tool used by the nurse will assist in making the most informed recommendations, including a comprehensive services plan and determination of care needs that families can use to make decisions about the future care and safety of their loved ones.

What kind of questions will be asked in a Home Safety and Wellness Assessment?

The assessment tool uses a point-based scoring system to ascertain the level of assistance that may be required to support a loved one, whether that be in the home or in a long-term care setting.

In a typical home visit, Katie Wood, LPN at Sonata Senior Living, would ask a series of questions that relate to an individual’s health and functional history. For example:

  • Is it difficult to get out of bed?
  • Do you use any assistance devices such as a shower chair?
  • Do you sit down in the shower and can you clean your feet?
  • Do you get dressed independently?
  • What medications do you take?
  • Does a family or caregiver help you remember to take medications?
  • Do you cook your own meals?
  • Do you do your own housekeeping?
  • Do you find it challenging to keep the home clean?

Questions related to ambulation or the ability to walk help the nurse assess an individual’s balance and may result in a recommendation for physical or occupational therapy to teach a safer way to bath or walk to prevent future falls in the home.

How do you ensure safety during a home visit?

Safety is an important aspect of the Home Safety and Wellness Assessment, particularly during the pandemic. As standard practice, the visiting nurses will wash their hands as soon as they enter the home. In addition, social distancing best practices are followed, ensuring a minimum of six feet distance from all family members in the home.

Home visit nurses are required to use personal protective equipment (PPE) during a home visit, including an N95 mask, a face shield, gown and shoe covers to ensure the safety of older adults in the home.

How can families prepare for a home visit?

Actually, it is best not to prepare too much. According to Katie Wood, LPN, it is better if the family caregiver is not in the room during the assessment for objectivity. A “private conversation” with the individual in need of care tends to result in a more accurate assessment. That’s because when other family members are present during an interview, the individual in need of care may not answer questions honestly or accurately for fear of worrying other family members. They may feel embarrassed about their declining health and don’t want to be perceived as a burden.

In order to get an accurate depiction of a living situation, Katie asks families not to clean the house or modify the living environment so that she may identify areas of concern. For example, an overflowing trash bin or full sink of dishes may indicate a need for additional support.

What forms need to be completed during a home visit?

There are no forms required for a home visit, however, knowing your loved one’s medical history can assist in the Home Safety and Wellness Assessment.

Notes from your loved one’s physician can be helpful but are not required. If you have these documents, share them with the nurse during his or her visit:

  • A completed 1823 form
  • A list of medications
  • A list of chronic illness/disease
  • History or surgeries
  • Vaccine history
  • List of doctors and specialists
  • Latest progress notes from primary care doctor

Katie recommends that families review the list of medications provided by a physician to ensure that all current medications are included. Sometimes a primary care doctor has not been updated to prescribed medications from specialists and a comprehensive list of medications will be required prior to moving to assisted living.

What is an AHCA Form 1823?

The AHCA Form 1823 – also known as the Resident Health Assessment for Assisted Living Facilities – is a legal form published by the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration. The 1823 form will eventually be required to be admitted to assisted living and must be completed by your primary care physician. The form is used by senior care providers to determine the level of care best suited for your loved one.

If you do not have a Form 1823, Sonata can provide you with one during the home visit or you can access one here.

What types of guidance are offered to families during a home visit?

During a home visit, an LPN from Sonata will review your loved one’s physical and cognitive abilities and limitations, diet and nutrition, behavior, nursing, medication and treatment needs, and ability to perform activities of daily living, self-care and hygiene. This information ultimately helps to determine if your loved one is a good fit for assisted living, home care or some other form of support so that an LPN can make a recommendation based on your unique circumstances.

In many cases, home care is a possible solution if a family is able to provide sufficient care at home. Or, home care may be a better interim solution for a family until a full transition to assisted living is more appropriate. Assisted living may be a better solution for families that are no longer able to provide the level of support that is needed. Memory care may be appropriate if symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia have become more advanced.

If a family decides to provide care to their loved one at home, Sonata’s LPN can arrange assistance with making the home safer for your loved one or providing community resources. If assisted living is more appropriate, Sonata’s LPN will provide education about the assisted living lifestyle and transition process.

Final Home Safety and Wellness Assessment recommendations are made based on the level of supervision that is needed in the home for your loved one to remain healthy and safe.

To learn how Sonata can help, contact us today→ or schedule a visit →

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What Is A Sonata Star?

What Is A Sonata Star?

Stars are magical, glowing, twinkling, celestial spots of beauty that have inspired humans since the beginning of time. When you look into the night sky, there’s usually a star that shines brighter than the others. One that stands out from the rest. We call ours a Sonata Star.

Sonata Senior Living Core Values

From the start, Sonata was founded on the idea that care and service to our residents and families should be personalized and extraordinary. Today, this mindset is always manifest in our servant hearts and passion for serving seniors.

At Sonata, what motivates and unites our team members is a shared desire to enrich the lives of older adults. Each of us has given selflessly of ourselves to senior living. Many have gone above and beyond to serve residents with a heartfelt devotion rarely seen in the workplace. These are the stars that shine brightly at Sonata. These are the Sonata Stars.

Just as we admire luminosity in stars, a Sonata Star radiates positive energy and brightens the lives of Sonata’s residents, families, and team members. They have in some unique or special way exhibited the core values that are foundational to Sonata’s culture. They are, in short, deserving of recognition.

The shared characteristics a Sonata Star will possess is a demonstrated and genuine enthusiasm for Service, Teamwork, and Respect (the STAR in our Sonata Stars).

  • Service – A Sonata Star actively seeks way of exceeding expectations by placing customer service at the center of everything they do. They never stop at “good enough” and challenge themselves and others to provide outstanding service to everyone at all times.
  • Teamwork – A Sonata Star is unstinting about coordinating and communicating to assure the sum of their efforts is greater than the parts. They give selflessly for the greater good.
  • Respect – A Sonata Star believes that every individual, without exception, deserves respect and is treated with dignity in an environment of safety, security, and supportive understanding.

Demonstrated integrity and passion in team members are also qualities that align with Sonata’s core values and are recognized in a Sonata Star with equal zest.

Sonata Star vs Celestial Star Qualities

Stars have been essential to humans since the beginning of time. They helped our ancestors measure time, make discoveries, and chart a safer course.

Much like a Sonata Star leads others by example, constellations would light up the night sky, guiding sailors in search of new worlds. Because they are considered lucky, to this day, people make a wish when they see a shooting star. Many believe astrological signs have influence over our destiny. And scientists continue to research how we might harvest stars as an energy source.

While they may look small, most stars are in fact larger than earth, like the impact a Sonata Star makes on all those around them. Sometimes, star clusters form by gravitational forces that bind them together. That happens at Sonata Senior Living, too. When one Sonata Star is formed, others sit up and notice, attracting similar energies focused on improving quality of life for seniors.

Among scientists, stars are known as the building blocks of galaxies. We feel that way about Sonata Stars. Great cultures are formed and sustained not by the skills of individual members, but by between members working toward one shared goal. Explore the stars in our universe using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Together, our Sonata Stars form the building blocks of a culture that rewards and celebrates those most true to our core values. Discover the Sonata Stars that make living and working at Sonata Senior Living both a privilege and a joy.

Expect More At Sonata

Visit a Sonata community and find out why putting service first has allowed us to continually raise the bar in senior living and exceed our residents' expectations.


Sonata Senior Living Announces Reorganization

Sonata Senior Living Announces Reorganization with Dual Operational Strength

ORLANDO, FL—July 5, 2022—Orlando-based Sonata Senior Living has announced a corporate reorganization plan to position the company for future growth and expansion.

As part of the plan, Co-Founder, Former President, and CEO Stuart Beebe has been named Managing Partner of Sonata Senior Living. Co-Founder and Former COO Shelley Esden has assumed the role of President and CEO, effective immediately.

Reorganization at Sonata assures operational excellence across the development and management company’s senior living portfolio, while promoting rapid expansion with successful execution.

“Shelley has played a pivotal role in the expansion of Sonata’s footprint throughout Central and South Florida,” said Beebe. “This reorganization emphasizes operational excellence at the top and will position Sonata for accelerated growth and value creation for our partners.”

In her new role, Esden will focus on exploring growth opportunities and oversee all strategic initiatives related to product and service innovation in senior living.

“I am excited to continue building Sonata’s legacy as an industry leader and innovator while embarking upon this next phase of growth,” added Esden. “Stuart and I have carefully planned this transition by strengthening Sonata’s expertise in operations with the addition of a like-minded, top-performing industry leader.”

Jamie Merrill will succeed Esden as Sonata’s COO. Merrill arrives at Sonata from Brookdale Senior Living, where she compiled a record of success as VP of Operations for 72 senior living communities across Florida. Merrill was also named a 2022 McKnight’s Woman of Distinction.

At Sonata, Merrill’s top priorities will be to steward the company’s service-oriented culture and develop leadership to support sustained growth at a level of high performance.

“Jamie will help Sonata embrace innovation and leverage operational best practices to ensure Sonata’s high standards of service and care are sustained during this next phase of accelerated growth,” said Esden of her successor.

Esden added, “The future is bright for Sonata and our partners. With the demand for housing and quality operators on the rise, Sonata’s new, dual operational strength in leadership roles combined with Sonata’s ability to provide ongoing exceptional services while maximizing ROI for investors is a perfect alignment for partners.”

About Sonata Senior Living

Sonata Senior Living is a regional owner, developer, and operator of independent living, assisted living, and memory care communities. Founded in 2008, Sonata currently operates over 1,090 units throughout Florida. The tenured Sonata team has earned a longstanding reputation as a trusted and proven provider of new development and turnaround acquisitions. Recipients of multiple Argentum Best of Best Awards, innovation, and service awards, Sonata’s pursuit of service excellence, unwavering commitment to its core values, and investment in top talent have made Sonata a provider of choice.

For more information about Sonata’s management or development services,
visit or call Shelley Esden at 407-286-6490.

Stuart Beebe, Co-Founder and Managing Partner

Shelley Esden, Co-Founder, President and CEO

Jamie Merrill, COO
Sonata Senior Living

How Games Help Senior Health

How Games Help Senior Health

If there is one thing we do well in Florida, it’s to have fun. It’s one of many reasons why Florida retirement communities offer everything from physical activities like pickleball, water aerobics and golf to group games and activities for virtually any age and ability level.

The Impact of Games on Senior Health

Florida senior living is about healthy aging, and games are at the heart of that endeavor. At Sonata Senior Living, we see games as an opportunity to socialize, prevent loneliness, and improve longevity, among other benefits. That’s because the physiological act of play is vital to relieving stress, reducing depression and anxiety, improving cognition, and most importantly, connecting with other people.

How Learning New Skills Keeps You Sharp

Any form of social interaction will yield positive emotional and physical results, according to scientists. That’s not all! The research also shows that learning new games can significantly improve cognitive ability.

Challenging your brain leads to higher mental functioning. In fact, one study found that older adults who interacted with people beyond their usual social circle of family and close friends were more likely to have higher levels of physical activity and fewer negative feelings.

In a retirement community like Sonata Senior Living, the opportunities for learning new skills while forming new friendships are extraordinary. We examined a few of the more popular games at our independent living and assisted living communities to see how they engage the mind and body.

Brain-Boosting Games For Seniors

Using your brain, laughing, and socializing all contribute to health and cognition. Laughter enhances the immune system, relieves stress and pain, and improves mood. There is some evidence to suggest that brain activity and positivity can also delay or have a preventative effect on dementia.

Card games and trivia are very popular activities in senior living communities:

  • Trivia: Trivia is a type of game in which players, either individually or on a team, are asked questions about different topics, and they must get as many correct answers as possible.
  • Mahjong: A classic Chinese game played with 136 or 144 rectangular pieces called tiles. The objective is to collect winning sets of these tiles.
  • Rummikub: Players take turns placing numbered tiles in runs or groups. Similar to Rummy, the first player to use all of their tiles wins.
  • Hand Knee and Foot: A card game where each player is dealt two sets of cards – the hand, which is played first, and the foot, which is played when the hand has been used up.
  • Lucky 7: Lucky 7 is a fast completive game of solitaire played with coasters.

Senior Games For Social Engagement

Social interaction and engagement are a byproduct of almost any game. But complex games that require more attention may not encourage as much conversation.

Some games never get old. These classic games have been around for years, and for a good reason. Games that can be played on a table, aka “tabletop games,” are fun for everyone and promote group interaction and socialization.

  • Bingo: A game in which players mark off numbers on cards as the numbers are drawn randomly. The winner is the first person to mark off five numbers in a row.
  • Dominos: The object of dominoes is to score the most points by putting your tiles down in the most strategic way.
  • Scrabble: A board-and-tile game in which two to four players compete in forming words with lettered tiles on a 225-square board.
  • Puzzles: Individual pieces are joined together to form an image and offer a great way to engage and relax simultaneously. Puzzles can be adapted to accommodate an individual’s cognitive ability.

Senior Games For Mind and Body

Exercise is vital to healthy aging and longevity. It is the key to remaining active and independent as we age.

There are many reasons why Florida is the retirement capital of the world. Outdoor games are ideal for Florida’s year-round warm weather and sunny disposition.

In retirement communities, we love games that move the body and engage the mind while promoting balance, flexibility, and eye-hand coordination.

  • Wii Bowling: A fun video game where you use a controller to mimic the action of bowling.
  • Drum Fit: A fast, fun way to get mild cardio using hand-eye coordination. Participants sit and use drumsticks on exercise balls, drumming to songs.
  • Lawn Bowling: Not quite as active as indoor bowling, lawn bowling in perfect for those with limited mobility who still want to enjoy Florida’s outdoor lifestyle.
  • Pickleball: A popular sport in Florida that combines elements of ping-pong, badminton and tennis, without requiring as much strength as regular tennis.

Responding to the popularity of Florida’s growing pickleball community, Sonata Lake Mary residents will enjoy a new state-of-the-art pickleball court with no membership required!

Senior Games For Mind and Mouth

In senior living, food is so much more than a means to better health and nutrition. It is fundamental to comfort, socialization, and satisfaction of older adults. In short, food makes us happy.

It’s no wonder games and social events tend to be more enjoyable whenever food it involved. People of all ages love food. Plus, food gives us more energy to carry on having more fun!

More “activity” than “game,” these activities at Sonata Senior Living engage the senses while stimulating the mind.

  • Armchair Travel: An opportunity to learn about exotic destinations while enjoying the native foods, music and culture of the chosen country.
  • Painting with a Twist: Residents enjoy a group painting lesson where you sip a beverage or cocktail of your choice.
  • Chopstick Challenge: Racing against the clock, players must transfer the items from their food bowl to the empty bowl by using the chopsticks. The player who does this first is the winner.

Sonata Senior Living: Your Gateway to Health and Life-Enrichment

When it comes to fun, Sonata Senior Living in Florida has you covered with variety and engagement built into our lifestyles programing. Life enrichment activities incorporate games designed to stimulate the mind and body while promoting socialization, independence, health and happiness.

Schedule a visit or call to learn more about life enrichment activities at Sonata Senior Living.


Visit Sonata Senior Living and find out how personalized programming in assisted living promotes independence and well-being.


Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Activities For Home

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Activities For Home

As a dementia or Alzheimer’s disease caregiver, you know how important it is to keep your loved one occupied and engaged in activities to prevent restlessness and other unwanted symptoms and behaviors.

Even though you may often feel overwhelmed at times, a combination of indoor, outdoor and social activities, and eventually memory care support, will restore your faith in your loved one’s ability to thrive.

In this post, the dementia care experts at Serenades Memory Care have some great suggestions for Alzheimer’s activities you can do at home and how to decide when it’s time for help.

Why Dementia Activities are Important

Activities that prioritize movement and mental stimulation are beneficial to people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The trick as a caregiver is to find activities that your loved one can do without getting overwhelmed.

The activities you choose should be simple without being tedious or overly challenging. Otherwise, your loved one may become frustrated, causing more stress and anxiety. The same holds for activities that are too hard. It is best to find what works for you and be flexible as the disease progresses and abilities change.

Dementia activities are important for many reasons, including:

  • Improved balance, strength and endurance
  • Improve cognition and mood
  • Reduced stress, anxiety and depression

Outdoor Activities for Alzheimer’s Disease

Outdoor activities provide a much-needed change of scenery, but also allow your loved one to relax and reconnect with nature, which is proven to improve one’s mood.

The Alzheimer’s Association offers some great suggestions to get outside and get moving:

  • A walk in the sun provides both exercise and vitamin D!
  • Gardening, planting, raking, or weeding can be adapted to your loved one’s abilities
  • Going to the park and feeding the ducks
  • Watching the grandkids play in the yard or at the local playground
  • Going for a picnic

Indoor Activities for Alzheimer’s Disease

Simple household tasks fulfill a need for people with Alzheimer’s disease to keep their hands busy. Helping around the house can tap into the need to maintain independence and provide meaning and purpose.

Games are a useful strategy for relieving stress, but it is important to choose games that are not highly structured to prevent anxiety and frustration.

  • Simple games such as cards, Bingo, puzzles, dominoes, or checkers
  • Sorting or folding laundry
  • Looking at photo albums
  • Listening to music on headphones
  • Simple crafts like painting or play dough
  • Massage, pedicures and manicures
  • Easy and safe meal prep like washing vegetable

Use these five expert tips from certified dementia practitioners at home to build a more meaningful relationship with your loved one.

Social Activities for Alzheimer’s Disease 

According to the experts at Serenades Memory Care, finding the best activities for someone with dementia can be a process of elimination in a quest to find tasks that are not too challenging. Sometimes a simple social outing or modification in surroundings can help provide a distraction when you begin to see signs your loved one is becoming agitated.

According to a study in the Journals of Gerontology, social engagement offers protection against cognitive decline in older adults. So, instead of avoiding social interactions, adjust them.

Many people with dementia become restless later in the day due to sundowning. Plan social visits for the time of day your loved one feels most relaxed and alert friends and family about your loved one’s disease in advance to avoid surprises at social outings.

  • Take your loved one to lunch
  • Invite a friend over to bake cupcakes
  • Ask a grandchild to read to your loved one
  • Include your loved one in a visit to a friend’s house
  • Put on your loved one’s favorite playlist and sing songs together

Explore more ways to help reduce stress and anxiety in people with dementia from dementia care experts.

When is it Time for Memory Care?

Deciding to seek memory care support can be a difficult decision. You may even wonder if your loved one will qualify for memory care. But as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease progresses, caregiver stress can become overwhelming and eventually impact your own health. Here are some of the signs that signal the time in right to seek help:

  • Your loved one wanders and gets lost
  • Your loved one becomes increasingly agitated
  • Your loved one’s safety is a concern
  • Activities are overwhelming and time-consuming
  • Your stress level as a caregiver is high
  • You are depressed and exhausted
  • The cost of memory care outweighs the financial burden and lost wages of caregiving

The Benefits of Memory Care in Florida

As a busy and harried caregiver, you may not be aware of all the benefits memory care in Florida can offer you, your family, and especially your loved one.

Despite the challenges of caregiving, help is at your fingertips. Activities that engage and promote a healthier lifestyle are always the foundation of excellent dementia care. A memory care community can offer all the activities, amenities, and safety you desire for your loved one.

Memory care in Florida provides a high staff-to-resident ratio focusing on Alzheimer’s and dementia care for all levels. Activities are designed to provide stimulation and improve physical and mental health while reducing agitation and frustration.

Serenades Memory Care by Sonata offers many of these benefits and more, including:

  • Purpose-built design features that promote independence in a safe and supportive environment
  • A focus on individualized “person-directed care” that accommodates activity, dietary and personal care preferences
  • Secure access to both indoor and outdoor areas to help reduce agitation while improving physical fitness and supporting the urge to wander safely
  • Music interventions to improve mood, memory and cognition

Making the choice to move your loved one to a memory care community is never easy. But, in the end, you’ll find that reducing your caregiver stress will be better for everyone. You can focus on your own needs while gaining the assurance and peace of mind that your loved one is safe and cared for.

Find a Serenades Memory Care in Florida or call to learn more about activities in memory care.


Visit Serenades and find out how a person-centered approach to care has allowed us to continually raise the standard in memory care assisted living.


The Connection Between Diet and Dementia


The connection between eating habits and brain health has been studied for decades, but until recently, little was known about how diet and nutrition affect the aging brain.

A groundbreaking study published in NeuroImage in 2019 linked nutrients in food to greater efficiency in brain networks and cognition performance, emphasizing the impact of diet on dementia prevention. Intelligence, memory, and executive functioning were all correlated with the nutritional biomarkers commonly found in whole foods.

Other research published in Neurology shows certain foods may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. One diet in particular—the Mediterranean diet—is attributed to providing protection against protein build-up in the brain that can lead to memory decline while also extending life!


Healthier eating habits are proven to prevent memory loss and every day researchers are gaining more insight into the link between nutrition and dementia.

Specifically, a recent study published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia found that people who follow the Mediterranean diet or the MIND diet are up to 54% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s Disease!

That’s because the Mediterranean diet and its hybrid MIND diet are high in foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and nuts. Each of these diets offer greater protection against memory decline in older adults!

  • Leafy green vegetables. Spinach, kale, collards, and lettuce have been associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline.
  • Solanaceous fruits. Eating lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and eggplant can reduce inflammation, a hallmark contributor to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Berries. Flavonoids, such as those found in blueberries, are known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory characteristics and neuroprotective properties.
  • Whole grains like oats, brown rice and whole wheat contain more fiber, B and E vitamins, and antioxidants than refined grains, plus antioxidants have been shown to reduce plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Oily Fish. According to Harvard Medical School and other sources, fish is the single most important dietary factor in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment and may actually make you smarter!
  • Legumes, such as black beans, peas, chickpeas, peanuts and lentils offer more fiber and folate than any other food group while fueling the brain with magnesium, zinc and antioxidants.
  • Nuts and Seeds. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower, flax, chia and pumpkin seeds are high in omega fatty acids which aids in building cells required to maintain brain function.

While there is much to learn about how nutritional interventions can reduce or slow cognitive decline, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and heart-healthy fats in an important part of maintaining mental fitness at any age.


If you are a caregiver, you know how challenging it is to maintain health and nutrition in those with dementia.

In the person with dementia, one’s sense of taste often diminishes over time. The feelings associated with hunger are no longer interpreted by the brain the same way they were in the healthy brain. Favorite foods may no longer be appealing. Vision may become impaired, making is more difficult to locate food on the plate. Fine motor skills decline, making eating more challenging. Even sense of smell wanes, reducing the effects of sweet and savory aroma molecules on the appetite.

The dementia diet used by Serenades Memory Care combats weight loss associated with dementia by incorporating research-based techniques proven to increase food intake and nutrition.

As part of the Bravo Dining Signature Program, certified dementia caregivers at Serenades are trained to leverage the powerful sense of smell, sight, hearing and taste to encourage eating and prevent weight loss. Special techniques are used to trigger neuron connections in the brain and reinforce the connection between hunger and food, including family-style meal preparation, visual cues, finger foods and aromatherapy.

Memory care programming based on science and research can greatly enhance quality of life in those with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Find a Serenades Memory Care in Florida or call to learn more about dining services at Sonata Senior Living.


Visit Serenades and find out how a person-centered approach to care has allowed us to continually raise the standard in memory care assisted living.


Setting Retirement Goals: Independent Living in Florida

Setting Retirement Goals: Independent Living in Florida

Retirement has a different meaning now than 20 or even 10 years ago. The idea of “resting” after work has been replaced with concepts of purpose and passion.

For many, raising children and building a fulfilling career gave life meaning in the years leading up to retirement. As you age, replacing that sense of purpose is vital to both your physical and emotional well-being.

Retirement as a Second Act

As you think about retirement in Florida, you may have several goals in mind. Whether they are financial or fitness-related goals, most of us have a shared desire to stay happy and healthy.

It’s important to remember, retirement is not just about retiring from work; it is about enhancing your life in ways that improve your physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Independent senior living in Florida is a great way to transition from a long list of responsibilities to a carefree lifestyle with new meaning and purpose.

Think of retirement as the second act where you can create a journey completely unique to you and expand as your interests evolve. This mindset is the key to healthy aging and longevity.

Another significant advantage to independent living is social connection. According to the World Health Organization, loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for increased mortality, cardiovascular disease, stroke, dementia, depression, and anxiety.

Independent living is the perfect opportunity to combat loneliness and other risk factors while opening the door to explore new interests, passions, and pursuits.

Why Independent Living in Florida?

Independent senior living in Florida is all about choice, healthy aging, and stress-free living.

Most people choose independent living because they aren’t ready for personal care and assistance but want to stay active and socially connected. Not to mention the freedom that comes from not having the responsibility of maintaining a home!

Independent living in Florida typically offers:

  • Diverse activities for a wide range of interests, including golf, swimming, movies, classes, and more
  • Social clubs and daily opportunities to meet new people and form new friendships
  • A variety of nutritional meal choices and dining venues
  • Amenities such as internet, cable, 24-hour security, and concierge services that make life easier

Music, art, culture, fitness classes, educational lectures, entertainment and social events are also common activities in independent living. For example, Sonata Senior Living offers signature programming that integrates the latest research in healthy aging to nurture emotional, intellectual, physical, and social wellness – all with the personal interests and preferences of residents in mind.

Some senior living communities provide priority access to on-site health care, including assisted living and memory care support so you’ll never have to move again.

While not all independent living communities offer continuing care, many in Central and South Florida do, including Sonata Lake Mary,and Sonata East at Viera independent living communities.

Setting Retirement Goals Guides Your Journey

People who have activities in mind to pursue before they retire are more likely to do them. Hobbies, self-care, learning new technology and skills contribute to a healthy body and mind.

Research has proven that staying active and engaged keeps older adults both happy and healthy.

According to The National Institute on Aging, participating in a social and leisure lifestyle helps you:

  • Lower your risk for health problems
  • Improve your happiness and prevent depression
  • Enhance your thinking ability
  • Cope more effectively with loss and grief
  • Live longer and in better physical and mental shape

How Independent Living Helps You Reach Your Retirement Goals

Most everyone wants to remain healthy and vibrant as they age. With a retirement plan in place, it is possible to avoid some of the typical problems associated with aging. Here’s how:

  • Exercise and Fitness
  • Social Engagement
  • Cognitive Stimulation
  • Amenities

Retirement Goal #1: Exercise and Fitness

According to the National Council on Aging, exercise has far-reaching and long-lasting benefits:

  • Exercise helps prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure
  • Exercise improves mood and can prevent depression and anxiety
  • Exercise prevents bone loss and bone loss or osteoporosis is a risk factor for fractures
  • Exercise improves the immune system

Some seniors won’t have the stamina for an aerobics class, but they will benefit from yoga, Tai chi, or weight-bearing exercises. Independent living offers a variety of fitness programs to fit most anyone’s ability level.

Retirement Goal #2: Social Engagement

In addition to all the senior-friendly activities in Florida, independent living activities offer another way to engage with like-minded people and make new friends both on and off-campus.

Social engagement is vital to cognitive and physical health and independent senior living in Florida provides ample opportunities to meet new people. From friendly card games and museum outings to history lectures and pool parties, the social events are as varied and diverse and they are meaningful and fund.

Retirement Goal #3: Cognitive Stimulation

Cognitive decline is complex in its causes, and research is looking at ways people can prevent memory loss, including music.

We know that the more you engage in activities that challenge your brain to think in new ways, the less likely it is that you will experience cognitive decline. In an independent living community, there will never be a shortage of ways to learn new things, whether you are renewing old hobbies or pursuing new passions.

Retirement Goal #4: Amenities

If you enjoy an active retirement lifestyle, independent living in Florida is a gateway to developing and achieving your retirement goals. In fact, there are at least five ways senior living communities can lead to a longer, healthier life.

But not everything can be about health and wellness. New construction in senior living features a level of luxury that has never been seen before by previous generations, creating more ways for older adults to enjoy their retirement years. Along with innovative safety technology, amenities at Sonata’s newest independent living communities take resort-style retirement living to another level. These include:

  • Poolside bar and grill
  • Bistro and wine bar
  • Rooftop terraces
  • Gas fire pits
  • Zero-entry heated pool and lounge areas
  • Off-leash dog park and pet spa
  • Golf cart parking and charging stations
  • Putting greens

Whether your retirement goals include better health and nutrition or simply more ways to write the script to your second act in life, resort-style living at Sonata means freedom to enjoy a worry-free lifestyle and social opportunities that make each day a richer experience.

Create your path to a healthier and happier retirement at Sonata Senior Living.

Call or schedule a visit to Sonata Senior Living to learn more about resort-style retirement living in Florida.


Find out how rent-based independent living at Sonata provides financial freedom and more time to live life to the fullest!


Nursing Home vs Assisted Living: Understanding The Differences

Nursing Home vs Assisted Living: Understanding The Differences

Most of us, at some point in our lives, will need long-term care. According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, people 65 and older have a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care services.

But senior living and care communities come in many different shapes and sizes. Choosing between an assisting living and a nursing home community can be tricky if you don’t fully understand the differences.

This article highlights the key differences between assisted living and nursing homes so you can make an informed decision for your loved one or yourself.

What Is Assisted Living?

In short, assisted living offers a more independent lifestyle while nursing homes offer medical assistance to those that need more advanced levels of care.

Assisted living is a great choice for seniors that cannot safely live alone but want to maintain an active lifestyle. They can stay active and independent while benefiting from support with daily activities like dressing, bathing, cleaning, or using the toilet.

Seniors in assisted living also benefit from more nutritious meals, personalized care, and socialization in a safe, comfortable environment.

What Is a Nursing Home?

A nursing home, also called a skilled nursing facility, provides the highest level of senior care outside of a hospital. Oftentimes, seniors move to a nursing home to recover after a hospital stay.

Skilled nursing facilities have 24-hour care for seniors with more complex medical issues, including those who may need more hands-on assistance and constant medical monitoring.

For example, some residents who need skilled nursing care may rely on tube feeding or may be confined to bed. Licensed physicians supervise the care and a nurse is available around the clock.

Nursing homes may also have the same medical equipment found in hospitals such as adjustable electric beds and X-ray machines.


Similarities and Differences Between a Nursing Home and Assisted Living Community

There are some similarities along with differences between the two types of senior care communities. Both types of facilities offer personal care for Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) such as dressing and bathing as well as assistance with meals, housekeeping and laundry. They both focus on keeping their residents happy and healthy.

In addition, both assisted living and skilled nursing facilities offer a safe environment for seniors. The architecture and floor plans may differ, but each are designed for senior safety and security.

Both types of facilities also provide some form of medication management. Seniors living alone may forget to take medication or take the wrong dose, so caregiver assistance with medications is vital to a senior’s health and well-being.

In addition to personal aides and caregivers, other medical professionals such as physical therapists are also involved in providing care at both skilled nursing and assisted living communities in the form of supplemental services.

Senior Health Considerations

The unique health considerations of older adults are emphasized in both assisted living and skilled nursing communities.

Nutrition is important for seniors and many older adults struggle to eat properly when living at home alone. Both types of facilities prepare well-balanced meals designed to meet the nutritional needs of older adults.

At communities like Sonata Senior Living, a registered dietician plans and reviews every menu for nutritional value and features options for those with special dietary needs.

Seniors who live alone are also at greater risk for health problems such as depression. Aging and social isolation also increases our risk of developing chronic illnesses and health conditions.

Assisted living underscores the importance of socialization by offering activities that support the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of older adults.

Differences Between Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing

One of the biggest differences between nursing homes and assisted living is the physical layout. Nursing homes typically look and function more like a hospital or medical facility due to the around-the-clock medical care they are designed to deliver.

Residents of assisted living communities need some assistance, but generally not 24-hour care. In fact, an assisted living facility is more likely to resemble an apartment or residential community. Some rent-based assisted living communities even offer luxury amenities like those found in an upscale resort.

In contrast, nursing homes emphasis medical monitoring according to a plan of care ordered and supervised by a physician. Residents are less likely to have the acuity level needed to engage in social or recreational activities.

Another key difference between the two types of senior living is cost. Rent at a nursing home can be almost twice as expensive as assisted living due to the extra care provided. Many older adults who can remain independent find renting an assisted living apartment more affordable.

What Services Do Assisted Living Communities Provide?

An assisted living community offers services and amenities to encourage all aspects of senior health and wellness. They focus on more than physical health and may offer:

  • Outings to local theaters, museums, and stores
  • Housekeeping, laundry, and apartment maintenance
  • Restaurant-style dining, social activities, and events
  • Wellness services such as fitness classes and nutrition counseling
  • Entertainment and activities such as games, fitness classes, painting, etc.
  • Amenities such as hair salon, art studio, library, and theaters
  • Caregiver assistance with dressing, grooming, medication, and bathing
  • Transportation to and from medical appointments
  • Accommodations ranging from studios to two-bedroom apartments
  • Safety features like emergency alerts, ADA-accessible doorways, and grab bars
  • Access to continuing care such as memory care assisted living, home care and hospice

Some assisted living facilities offer supplemental care such as visiting physicians, therapy, home care and hospice as well as licensed nursing supervision to help with the transition to a higher level of care.

Keep in mind, services and amenities will vary largely by community and location, so it is important to explore all your options.

What Services Do Nursing Homes Provide?

The goal of a nursing home or nursing care center is to provide comfort and safety to older adults that need the most care, often following a health event. In addition to many of the same services provided in assisted living, nursing homes offer more advanced medical care and resources, including:

  • Care by licensed health care professionals, 24-hour nursing and supervision
  • Assistance with prescription medication, including administration of injections and wound care
  • Monitoring of a written plan of care ordered and supervised by a physician
  • Meal options to meet special dietary needs like tube feedings, liquid, and pureed diets
  • Skilled therapy and rehabilitative services such as vocational, speech, occupational, respiratory, cognitive, and physical therapy
  • Access to palliative or end-of-life (hospice) care

Senior care aides at assisted living communities are trained to provide some assistance with personal care, but generally not medically certified to provide advanced levels of care. For this reason, the licensed health care professionals at a nursing home may be better suited for those recovering from an injury or surgery.

Senior Care Licensing and Regulation

Another big difference between nursing homes and assisted living facilities is the regulation and licensing.

Both federal and state laws govern nursing homes. Since they receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid, skilled nursing facilities must follow the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987. This Act states that nursing homes must offer a written plan of care for each resident.

In contrast, assisted living facilities are regulated at the state level. For example, in Florida, assisted living facilities must be licensed by The Agency for Health Care Administration to provide personal care services.

Some communities such as Sonata Senior Living are also licensed to provide limited nursing services, which can be helpful to those who qualify for assisted living, but may need nursing services for a short time.

How to Determine Which One Is Right For You

Determining which senior care facility is right for you or your loved one depends on your health and how much support and care is needed.

For more serious health conditions that require advanced medical care, many doctors will recommend a nursing home. For older adults who are independent, but require some assistance, assisted living may be the best solution.

Choosing a senior care community can be one of the biggest decisions your family will make, so don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor, social worker or friend, and consider scheduling a home visit from Sonata Senior Living. We can help you determine which type of senior living is right for you and your loved one.

In the meantime, if you are wondering if your loved one will qualify for assisted living, take our short quiz.

Schedule a visit to Sonata Senior Living or call today to learn more about our independent living, assisted living and memory care communities throughout Florida.

Expect More At Sonata

Visit a Sonata community and find out why putting service first has allowed us to continually raise the bar in senior living and exceed our residents' expectations.