Resident Life Director Creates a Vibrant and Supportive Community

Spend a few minutes in Resident Life Director Susan Bankston’s presence, and it’s easy to see why she’s a beacon of enthusiasm and passion. Celebrating her 19th year at Carlyle Place, she reflects on how she got her start in senior living, what she loves most about her current post and how she continues to foster and reinforce an active lifestyle.

How It Started

As an Exercise Science major, Susan’s involvement in senior living began in college when she rotated through different areas of fitness. At first, she thought children’s fitness was where she wanted to be, but by the end of her rotation in elementary fitness education, she’d quickly changed her mind. 

“My next rotation was in cardiac rehab, and that was really my introduction to working with seniors,” she says. “And I just fell in love with that population. So that was where I started pursuing more opportunities within the community.” 

From there, the opportunities started presenting themselves. Enter Carlyle Place.  

After Susan’s internship at Heartworks, a cardiac rehab program affiliated with Navicent Health Atrium, a spot opened up at Carlyle Place, where she began her career as the Fitness Coordinator. “I started out teaching the exercise classes, and I did that for five years,” she says. “At one point, we were ready to grow the program a bit, so we hired a Fitness Assistant, and I was promoted to Wellness Manager, and from there Patti Kunselman and I collaborated and brainstormed which direction we wanted to take the program.” 

Fourteen years later, that partnership continues.  

Patti and Susan initially focused on diet and exercise, but soon realized those two areas were only part of an even bigger picture. “In order to achieve total mind and body wellness, you need to look at other aspects of your life,” Susan says. “There are six pillars of wellness that we focus on, so residents can feel well-rounded and healthier overall.”

What are the six pillars? 

  • Social 
  • Spiritual 
  • Intellectual 
  • Emotional 
  • Occupational 
  • Physical

How It’s Going

When Susan eventually transitioned to her current post as Resident Life Director, she says it felt natural. Although the job responsibilities changed, Carlyle Place’s mission remains the same: Keep everybody as independent as possible for as long as possible.  

“Every resident has different interests, life experiences, retirement expectations,” she says. “So, you just have to figure out how to meet them where they are on their journey and help push them along.”

That ongoing challenge is also what makes her job exciting. “What I love about this job is that no two days are ever the same,” she says. “We have different things that pop up from day to day, and different interactions with residents and staff members. We get to do the cool things, the fun things. We get to go on the trips, we get to host the parties, hire the bands and do the decorating—all those wonderful things that you wouldn’t normally associate with a leadership position. Those are things that I get to be involved with day in, day out. And it’s fabulous. I absolutely love what I do!” 

How It’s All About the Residents 

How do Susan and her team come up with new activities and trip ideas? She says the answer is simple: Understand your audience.  

“Residents know what they’re looking for and what they want to do, and they’re not shy about telling us,” Susan says. “We’ve got an open-door policy in Resident Life. The residents know they are welcome to stop by with ideas, and they do!  We are constantly seeking feedback, be it through a formal survey or an informal conversation. When they tell us what they want, we run with it.”  

Whether it’s organizing a group of seniors headed to an Atlanta Braves game, coordinating fun-filled cruises or helping to justify building a pickleball court on campus, Susan credits the Resident Life team with listening to the residents and helping fulfill their wishes.   

“I love this population. My job is awesome, but it’s not just because of the residents; I would say that we have one of the best Resident Life teams anywhere,” she says. “Every single one of these ladies that I work with are fabulous. They are fantastic within their own respective jobs, but so much of what we do overlaps, and we share the workload which allows us to do more things and really just makes our team more effective. This isn’t just a job. This is my home and my family.” Experience central Georgia’s only Life Plan Community by scheduling a visit to our lush 58-acre campus just minutes away from downtown Macon. Call (478) 405-4544 today! 

Crowd Pleasers

Of the myriad events happening all year at Carlyle Place, one of the community favorites is Harvest Week, which is set to kick off October 10-15. 

From Tuesday to Sunday, residents will enjoy different activities daily, including:  

  • Boo Happy Hour 
  • Low Country Boil in the Courtyard 
  • Hayrides
  • Live music 
  • Spooky Stories (told by one of Carlyle Place’s resident storytellers) 
  • Bourbon and BBQ

What’s next after Harvest Week? Gearing up for the holidays with annual favorites including the Carlyle Chorister’s Christmas Concert and the Holiday Ball!

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