Work is a stress reliever for Terry Neilon. As the community life specialist at Brickstone by St. John’s, Terry arranges social, recreational events, and programs for the residents at Brickstone. “[My role] simply involves finding ways to engage people naturally.” Discovering new ways to help people continue embracing life comes rather naturally to Terry and fits his personality perfectly.
Before taking on his current role Terry was a real estate agent for 10 years. He then joined St. John’s as move-in coordinator and marketing associate during the lead up to opening Brickstone. It took only three years to complete the duties of that position, after which he was hired for the position of community life specialist.
Terry studied English Literature and Art History in college before going on to graduate school with a concentration on Museum Studies and Art History. His background has helped him in his position as many Brickstone residents have similar interests. One way he shares his love of the arts and history with residents is by arranging for live classical musical performances at Brickstone throughout the year.
His hobbies and interests outside of work also serve him well in professional life. “The position allows me to incorporate my personality and identity into the job, which is not easy to find in a career.” One of Terry’s passions is cinema. “I am a huge old movie buff, especially movies from the 1900s-1940s.” In his office, there is a large bookshelf filled with old movies. He uses his love for film as a gateway for conversation with the residents, many of whom share an interest in classic cinema.
Another unique hobby of Terry’s is his growing collection of antique hats. For decades he has collected hats from periods spanning the 1820s all the way into the 1930s. His hat collection even inspired an event where residents were encouraged to bring in their own collections or handmade creations.
Another favorite recurring entry on many residents’ social calendars are the weekly lunch trips they take on Fridays. With Terry leading the way, residents travel to restaurants across the region where they may have not yet had an opportunity to visit. They are able to experience new foods, unique cultures, and travel to nearby towns. “[The residents] get to experience all these cool places to eat while also gaining relationships.”
Terry also knows that impromptu chats with residents are an expected aspect of his job. That is why his office door is always open. “Brickstone is a small enough campus that everyone gets to know each other very well,” he explains. Through the programs that Terry coordinates, residents and employees get to know each other well and become a close-knit community.
Over the years, Terry has learned that listening is the most important part of his job. He is always receptive to any suggestions or concerns residents may have about social events. Additionally, he is also always willing to listen to the residents, hear their stories, or just chat. “It is all about the residents and a big part of that is letting them talk.”
It is not just the residents that benefit from the social programs and events. “They help me as much as I’m helping them.” Working with older adults encourages Terry to utilize his own unique sense of humor and has taught him to follow his instincts and not always live life so seriously. Whether he is telling jokes during Friday morning chats, leading a group of residents on another out of town adventure, or having a private conversation with one of the many residents he considers friends, Terry has found a home at St. John’s.