Alexandria Briggs, left, works with a resident on an art project for Human Rights Day.

Alexandria Briggs: Working to Change the Stigma of Senior Living

By Sue McMurray

Alex is very passionate about her painting classes and loves it when she can get a new face in a class just to try it out.

Alexandria Briggs (’20 HBM) has something within her the world could use a little more of. That special “something” is a deep passion to nurture and bring joy to the lives of others. As a young girl, she loved taking care of children—and at times even felt like a mother herself, she says. As a teen, she volunteered with disabled adults, engaging them in fun activities while honing her own interpersonal and leadership skills.

When it came time for college, she chose the Carson College of Business hospitality business management program and found immense satisfaction not only with her studies but also in working on the hospitality Catering Services team under Executive Chef Jamie Callison. As the event coordinator, Briggs learned how to work with clients and solve problems, as well as strong leadership, preparation, and organizational skills.

Before taking Nancy Swanger’s Professional Development for the Business World course, she had no idea what type of opportunities were going to be available to her.

“I just kept wondering why everyone wasn’t taking this useful course,” says Briggs. “Dr. Swanger taught us how to write and format a cover letter, dress properly, interview, format our LinkedIn accounts—even how to properly shake someone’s hand! Her class made me so excited for my upcoming hospitality classes; I had never been more focused in a class than I was with my hospitality courses.”

The skills and experiences Briggs gained prepared her for any position of her choosing in the hospitality industry. Within six months of obtaining her bachelor’s degree, she landed a job as a lifestyle assistant at Revel Spokane, a 55+ seniors community, where she strives every day to change the stigma of what senior living is.

Helping Seniors Live Their Best Lives

“Alex’s innate caring nature, ability to focus, and high energy were a perfect match for working with seniors,” says Swanger, director and founder of the WSU Granger Cobb Institute for Senior Living. “Her willingness to gain hospitality experience beyond the classroom by working on the catering team gave her a robust skillset that would make her employable and very successful in this field.”

Briggs explains she has always been able to see beyond society’s expectations for seniors and could imagine herself pushing them to do what they want and not feel restricted by age or environment. When she heard that one of Revel’s residents achieved her bucket list goal of zip lining, Briggs threw herself into her work, getting to know each resident on a personal level and designing activities to enrich their lives.

“They call me their ‘Tasmanian whirlwind friend’ or ‘Flash,’” says Briggs.

She teaches Spanish, technology, and painting classes in addition to developing a monthly calendar of social, intellectual, physical, and spiritual activities. Next to her love for the residents, her favorite thing about her job is planning events for them.

“I absolutely love throwing events and being creative with them. It has been difficult with COVID, because we cannot allow anyone but essential visitors in the building, including entertainers,” she says. “We’ve been able to find creative ways to entertain, including balcony concerts, outdoor activities, and multiple sessions of activities with social distancing.”

Briggs says her goal is to get residents, especially the shy ones, out and socializing with their neighbors so they enjoy the benefit of community. “We are constantly motivating our residents to live their lives to the fullest,” she says.

Why Consider a Career in Senior Living?

Being in the senior living field makes a big impact on the lives of others, says Briggs. Often seniors aren’t able to stay in close contact with family members, and their only companions are the residents and team members around them. The current pandemic further compounds the isolation.

“Although all the residents at my community are independent and can live on their own, they don’t all necessarily want to,” she says. “My career is very rewarding. I am so grateful for the smiles I bring to their faces and the smiles they bring to mine. I love the residents, and they are why I work so hard and do what I do.”