South Charlotte

She enjoys planning activities at The Ivey

Kelly Gibson is enthusiastic about her job as activities director at The Ivey.

The nonprofit day care center in the SouthPark area is carefully designed for the comfort, safety and specialized needs of the people it serves.

Gibson, who has worked at The Ivey for a little more than a year, has about 16 years' experience planning activities for older adults. She has credentials from the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals, an accrediting body with headquarters in Virginia Beach, Va.

Activities led by Gibson and a team of staffers run the spectrum - from spelling bees and crossword puzzles to cornhole, art projects, a movie discussion group, dancing and yoga.

"It's like a show, a Broadway show. You walk in the door and you're on," Gibson says.

Sometimes members reveal hidden talent, like the woman who had a knack for pointillism, a painting technique.

A demonstration kitchen created for members sits apart from the main commercial kitchen, where a chef prepares meals. You might notice one major appliance missing: There's no stovetop above the oven in the demonstration kitchen.

That's not an oversight. Its absence is meant to prevent cooking accidents.

Gibson says the ability to work with older adults is innate. "Activity people have it in them. You can't teach it," Gibson said.

She recommends someone interested in entering the field first take a class from a community college. Students pick up the necessary medical background and how to plan an appropriate activities calendar. Burnout can be an issue among activity professionals, so a supportive environment is beneficial.

Gibson and her husband, Bob, reside in Concord. They have two grown sons who live in Cornelius.

Clients at The Ivey include individuals who may be dealing with Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's or another long-term health condition.

The facility offers a pleasant atmosphere for those who come. It features cedar and stone and has a homey, lodge-style ambience reminiscent of a pleasant mountain retreat or upscale club. It does not feel institutional.

Rustic browns and greens on the building's exterior help it blend seamlessly into the natural environment. Flickering lanterns outside beckoned visitors on a recent morning, and a fountain trickled peacefully just inside the front entryway. A black-and-white movie played unobtrusively on the television in a plush sitting room, and library was open on the right.

"You walk in and there's an atmosphere," said Gibson. "There's an aura around here."

Dance and exercise are activities Gibson says she most prefers doing with the clients. "They see movement and they will follow," she said.

Laughter therapy is another favorite.

Membership fluctuates at The Ivey, and the center has not yet reached daily capacity. It charges a one-time enrollment fee to register, which covers initial assessment of a person's needs, and a daily rate.

There are individuals who come to the center as many as five days a week and others who visit once or twice weekly.