Resident Engagement During Social Isolation

Part of: Member Ideas and Inspirations: Coronavirus

Providers and creative residents are building community and keeping active during the coronavirus crisis.

The Challenge: With social isolation in place, normal social activities such as meals, wellness classes, and other group activities have been halted. But providers and residents are finding new ways to socialize and keep busy.

Member Story #24: Local Teens Go the Extra Mile to Help Residents and Staff
Member Story #23: Pandemic Can’t Prevent Celebratory Music Video
Member Story #22: Virtual Fitness Classes Gain Popularity
Member Story #21: Member Helps Keep Residents Entertained
Member Story #20: Sheltering in Place? Why Not Travel the World?
Member Story #19: Memory Care Households Adjust to a “New Normal”
Member Story #18: Provider Surveys Residents for Thoughts on the Pandemic
Member Story #17: Keeping Residents Engaged During the Pandemic
Member Story #16: Provider Attends to Spiritual Engagement of Residents
Member Story #15: Resident Engagement With a Celebrity Twist
Member Story #14: Multi-Site Member’s Best Resident Engagement and Activities Ideas
Member Story #13: Residents Need Not Miss Church Services or Communion During the Pandemic
Member Story #12: New App Helps Build Resident, Family Engagement
Member Story #11: Chaplains Get Creative to Tend to Residents’ Spiritual Needs
Member Story #10: Easter Celebrations Go On Despite Lockdown
Member Story #9: A How-To on Celebrating a Community Seder
Member Story #8: Celebrating Easter Via Technology (and Eggs)
Member Story #7: Helping Residents Celebrate Passover
Member Story #6: Easter Preparations Help Residents Celebrate the Holiday
Member Story #5: A Virtual Seder to Serve Residents Sheltering in Place
Member Story #4: Member Creates COVID-Safe Outdoor Game
Member Story #3: “Lifting Our Spirits” Campaign for Resident Engagement
Member Story #2: “Play Ball!” Provider Celebrates Opening Day, Baseball or No
Member Story #1: Resident Engagement at a (Social) Distance

 

Member Story #24: Local Teens Go the Extra Mile to Help Residents and Staff

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, Commack, NY, has benefited from the generous efforts of local youth to make the lives of residents and staff easier.

Emily Rind, a 16-year-old resident of nearby Melville, NY, created 370 care packages filled with puzzles, word search books, activities, and other items to help keep Gurwin’s residents entertained and engaged. She calls her effort the "Put a Smile on a Senior Campaign."

Rind was unable to visit her own grandmother due to the state’s stay-at-home-order.

“I reached out to Gurwin to see which items were most needed, and then posted flyers around town to collect supplies,” says Emily. Affixed to the care packages was a note which read, “I know it must be hard not seeing your family and loved ones, so I hope this will brighten your day and put a SMILE on your face.”

Melville Girl Scout Troop 3650 dedicated their Bronze Award project to providing handmade PPE for Gurwin staff. Troop members created face shields using 3-D printers, as well as masks and ear guards, items that were in scarce supply during the onset of the pandemic.

Local Girl Scouts weren’t the only ones adding to the PPE inventory. Nick Borruso, a 12-year-old from Remsenberg, NY, also used 3-D printers to make face shields. With the help of a Connecticut doctor (who sent him the 3-D printing files) and a Go Fund Me campaign, Borruso was able to purchase additional 3-D printers and supplies to produce “NIH-approved shields for clinical use” for hospitals on the east end of Long Island. He also made enough face shields to outfit the Gurwin Center’s rehabilitation team.

“After talking with [the people at Gurwin,] I realized what a crisis this really is for health care workers who don’t work for the bigger hospitals,” says Nick, who visited Gurwin with his mother to drop off the face shields.

Member Story #23: Pandemic Can’t Prevent Celebratory Music Video

Despite sheltering in place because of the pandemic, Three Pillars Senior Living Communities, Dousman, WI, decided to continue its tradition (since 2015) of making a music video to celebrate the May observance of Older Americans Month.

Staff and residents were busy all month, preparing to celebrate this year’s national theme, “Make Your Mark.”

Past video projects were done in collaboration with student volunteers from KM Perform School for Arts and Performance, but the pandemic prevented that partnership this year. Even so, the community’s residents and staff produced a video to the song, “Get On Your Feet” as an upbeat compilation that features the creation of a piece of group artwork, some groovy dance moves, and a bit of lip syncing, too.

A friend of Three Pillars, Andrew Ferstadt, volunteered as drone videographer for the project, and the musical group Snowday graciously shared their cover of the song. Amanda Cornaglia of Snowday commented, “Though our stage shows are still on hiatus, we got a beautiful reminder of why I love, love, LOVE my job. I can’t stop smiling. This is why I make music.”

See this year’s video. All 6 of the videos can be seen on Three Pillars’ YouTube channel at bit.ly/3PMusicVid2020YT.

Member Story #22: Virtual Fitness Classes Gain Popularity

Social isolation, and the physical and mental damage it can cause, is a major concern for aging-services providers coping with shelter-in-place orders and social distancing. Providers have gone to great lengths to find ways to offer remote, virtual activities using teleconferencing technology and in-house television systems.

One LeadingAge member, Acts Retirement-Life Communities, has asked its fitness trainers to find ways to offer their exercise and wellness classes remotely. Not only have residents continued to join the classes, the organization has discovered that the number of residents participating is actually greater than in the previous in-person classes.

Trainers have found that residents love the flexibility the classes give them.

Some residents use equipment—hand weights, balls, or exercise bands—loaned to them by the fitness staff. The trainers have also creatively incorporated household items in their classes. One fitness director, for example, extols the value of cans of soup as weights.

“We have been able to reach so many more residents who never went to the gym. Videos allow us to add variety to our programming as well as offer classes in the evenings and weekends,” says Kimberly Huff, Acts director of fitness and wellness.

Some fitness centers have remained open, with smaller class sizes, social distancing, and frequent sanitizing of equipment. But with most residents required to stay home, trainers are nonetheless making connections with residents.

Trainer Maryjo Loucks says, “This experience has given all of us, residents and staff, a new appreciation for each other. It has really brought our community closer together.”

Member Story #21: Member Helps Keep Residents Entertained

Two HumanGood communities in the Philadelphia area are creatively helping residents stay engaged during a time of sheltering in place.

At The Mansion at Rosemont, Bryn Mawr, PA, employees are keeping residents in touch via preprogrammed activities on the community’s Touchtown in-house TV system. Activities include Qigong, tai-chi, a comedy hour, sing-along karaoke, and a concert series.

A live weekly “Name That Tune” BINGO is held via Zoom, accompanied by in-house resident pianist Charlie Niesley, age 91. Enjoy a short video here.

Weekly email links help residents find virtual places of interest and exploration, including museums, concerts, free college courses, gardens, and more. Residents also enjoy a mobile wine and hors d’oeuvres bar.

At Spring Mill Pointe, Lafayette Hill, PA, residents enjoy intergenerational storytelling between children and residents, themed food carts that deliver to resident apartments (recent examples celebrated National Hummus Day and Cinco De Mayo), and virtual happy hours, featuring a hit crooners playlist and a cocktail delivered to resident rooms.

Residents can also do their own herb gardening, with plants delivered to rooms. Available video content includes performances by Broadway singer Keith Spencer.

Both communities were part of the Presby’s Inspired Life system, which affiliated with HumanGood in June 2019.

Member Story #20: Sheltering in Place? Why Not Travel the World?

Two residents at Edgewater at Boca Pointe, Boca Raton, FL, have not allowed sheltering in place to disrupt their desire to travel.

Gary Elsner and Sharon Nottingham hoped to celebrate their first anniversary in a meaningful way. Unable to book an extravagant vacation with parts of Florida still under stay-at-home orders, they instead decided to travel for the special occasion—virtually.

Their virtual vacations have taken them to the South Pacific, the Himalayas, the top of Mt. Everest, Antarctica, and France. Their “travels” have come in the form of documentaries about places that interest them. When their friends suggested they send postcards, they created virtual ones using photos found on Google images, and they have also distributed links to the resources they used.

“France was such an exhausting trip,” Elsner jokes. “When we arrived back in Boca we decided to kick back and think more deeply about our next trip. We decided to share the experience of visiting our original homes virtually, and other places that shaped us.”

“This took us to Central New York, Berkeley, California, Kampala, and Uganda, among other places. We were able to visit all these places very easily with Google Earth,” Elsner adds. “The happiness people have shared with us about their own past and future travels has brought us even more joy than the wonderful virtual experiences on our itinerary.”

Read more about the couple’s travels on the Acts Retirement-Life Communities website.

Member Story #19: Memory Care Households Adjust to a “New Normal”

The Cottage at Cypress Cove, Ft. Myers, FL, serves residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, in 4 neighborhoods of 11 apartments each.

The Cottage was designed to allow residents, says Recreational Therapist Ally Cummings, “the freedom to interact with other residents, and to move throughout our secure environment without restrictions.”

Staff was forced to adapt to visitor and activity restrictions brought by the pandemic. Activities need to be in small groups only, using social distancing, and without in-person family interaction.

The purchase of additional iPads, Facebook Portals, and Amazon Fires enabled regular video calls with families and friends. (One resident, age 102, was able to maintain her regular talks with a friend of 50 years.)

Musicians who normally visit the Cottage have switched to live virtual performances in each of the households. Cummings’ 5-year old daughter was the first of many employees’ children to begin writing to residents as “Grand Buddy Pen Pals.”

“The joy on the faces of our residents when they receive these notes is priceless,” says Cummings.

Mary Franklin, associate executive director, addresses an additional concern—how to protect residents living with dementia during a frightening situation like the pandemic.

“Another challenge […] is keeping natural fear and anxiety from affecting residents,” Franklin says. “Because of that, we prohibit news programs in our common areas and advise our team not to speak about the virus around our residents.”

Family members are also encouraged to keep their conversation with loved ones positive and joyful: “Step into their world where the virus does not exist,” says Cummings. “Insulated but not isolated” is how one resident’s husband describes the environment.

Member Story #18: Provider Surveys Residents for Thoughts on the Pandemic

Buckner Retirement Services, Dallas, TX surveyed 140 residents in its 6 Texas retirement communities for their thoughts about the coronavirus pandemic. A few results:

  • 96% of residents agree with the social distancing and visitation restrictions in place.
  • Residents were asked what they do with their free time during the pandemic; 74% reported reading, 29% reported napping, and 63% reported talking on the phone with loved ones.
  • More than 75% listed family visits as something they miss most. Other top activities missed within the communities include going to church (56%) and group dining (54%).
  • Asked about inconveniences brought on by the pandemic, respondents listed wearing masks, visitation restrictions, and a lack of group activities as their top answers.
  • When it comes to video chatting, 55% admitted they had never used the technology before shelter-in-place orders. However, 52% of residents plan to continue using the technology beyond the pandemic.

Member Story #17: Keeping Residents Engaged During the Pandemic

Employees of Springpoint Senior Living, Wall Township, NJ, are going all-out to maintain communication and engagement among residents and staff.

Here are some examples of how 8 Springpoint communities are keeping residents connected and engaged:

The Atrium at Navesink Harbor is delivering resident meals to their door, then following up with phone calls to see if the food is to their liking, if they need anything else, and to reassure them that the team is there to keep them safe.

At Crestwood Manor, staff created a video that includes greetings and reassurances from employees to residents. One employee created a hand washing video for posting to in-room TVs. Others are delivering bags of games to residents’ doors—stuffed with candy, crossword puzzles, and games.

Meadow Lakes has launched a Mindful Movements exercise class on the campus lawn for residents, featuring physical fitness, meditation, and stress reducers, while practicing social distancing.

Monroe Village has created a small store in the community bistro with food and snack items; staff members fill resident orders and deliver them to their doors.

Residents at The Moorings at Lewes are sewing face masks and giving them to staff and other residents. Residents are also supporting local restaurants by selecting one and calling in individual orders that a Springpoint employee picks up and delivers to residents.

Residents at The Oaks at Denville are keeping the popular weekly trivia game going, using printed questions delivered to apartments. Completed forms are picked up and tallied. Popular happy hours have been canceled, but replaced by “Happy Hour at Home”; staff leave small bottles of wine or beer at resident doors on Fridays, if requested. (We’re not sure if the trivia games and the happy hours coincide.)

At Stonebridge at Montgomery, employees took a crash course in video streaming, and now all Stonebridge residents can enjoy daily exercise classes, concerts, movies, lectures, and religious ceremonies from the in-house TV station. Stonebridge residents have created a call chain of 35 volunteers who make check-in phone calls to their Stonebridge neighbors every day.

“Employees are putting their uncertainties aside, selflessly serving our residents, and going above and beyond,” says Mary Kelly, corporate communications specialist. “Their tireless efforts and compassion for others is an inspiration.”

Member Story #16: Provider Attends to Spiritual Engagement of Residents

At Elim Park, Cheshire, CT, staff is helping residents stay engaged, including attention to their spiritual needs.

Elim Park gives substantial discounts on entrance fees and monthly service fees to retired pastors and missionaries, 4 of whom live in the community. These residents have an opportunity to continue their ministries—doing devotionals, visitations, and helping out with various other needs under the direction of a full-time chaplain.

Using its CCTV system, Elim Park provides daily devotionals from the retired pastors, plus other staff. There are also hymn sings. As CFO Zell Gaston says of the latter, “This is not interactive, but many of this generation grew up on hymns and can sing along by heart. They have found this very spiritually uplifting.”

There are Sunday church services every week, Catholic Communion on Wednesdays, and Bible study sessions in the evenings.

Elim Park has its own on-campus venue, The Nelson Hall Theatre for the Performing Arts, that hosts shows for residents and also the surrounding community. It is often used for recording resident programming.

A “surprise performance of the day,” which residents and staff participate in, often occurs in the afternoon. A “reading room” program features a resident sitting in a Victorian chair in the theater, reading inspirational stories or poetry. One resident, a puppeteer, performs there; other residents do comedy or read stage plays.

“It is amazing what hidden talents we all have,” Gaston says.

The CCTV system allows the wellness/fitness director to do 3 levels of exercise programming each weekday. An interactive Wheel of Fortune game, plus category bingo, is available a couple of times each week by phone. Twice-weekly live broadcasts from Brian Bedard, president and CEO, include inspirational spiritual messages and campus updates.

A volunteer team calls each resident at least once a week to chat—an expansion of a long-time practice of the assisted living team. Staff also send out notes to residents several times a week with updates, encouraging words, scriptures, and occasionally small gifts.

With the state planning to open up soon, Gaston says Elim Park is making plans, and purchasing some outdoor tables to be set up around campus to allow limited family visits (distanced, and sans hugging). It hopes the community’s 7 neighborhoods will be able to have outdoor barbecues, one at a time, as well.

Member Story #15: Resident Engagement With a Celebrity Twist

Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care, North Riverside, IL, needed to adapt its activities schedule to life under a shelter in place order. It did so with celebrity help, enlisting actor Nick Gehlfuss, star of the television series “Chicago Med,” to call a virtual bingo session for Caledonia residents.

“We’re ever mindful of social and mental health,” says Caledonia CEO Gus Noble. “As the residents were in their rooms, what could we do? One generous donor had given us iPads and a smart TV system that enabled us to beam a live feed into every resident room.”

With help from a public relations company, Noble connected with Gehlfuss, and the remote bingo game took shape. (Noble later realized he had met Gehlfuss before. “When I’m not here, I play bass in a honky-tonk band,” Noble says. “We did a [local] fundraiser and the cast and crew of Chicago Med showed up. Nick is a guitarist and singer and he played with us.”)

Residents played bingo from their rooms, each with a noisemaker. Employees with radios were stationed in corridors listening for the noisemakers. When a resident won, Noble was notified and he would relay the news to Gehlfuss, who was calling each round of bingo.

Caledonia Senior Living & Memory Care is using the new television system to find more ways for residents to stay engaged. Noble has arranged for Scotland’s national chef to host a live video cooking demo on Mother’s Day. Ensembles from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, who in normal times visit Caledonia to play music to accompany resident readings of their memories, will extend that practice to the virtual world. Museum tours are being offered on the channel.

A Scottish Highlands dance group—which Noble says has been visiting the community for generations—pivoted to becoming pen pals with residents. One group of dancers showed up in full dress with a bagpiper and performed in the gardens and courtyards outside resident windows.

“This community, which is the oldest charity in Illinois, has been around for 175 years,” Noble says. “We’ve been through the Great Chicago Fire, the 1918 pandemic, the Great Depression, and 2 world wars. We’ve delivered life’s most important things—home, family, and love.”

Takeaway: With nursing homes closed off to the outside world, Noble believes we must tell the stories of the good work being done there.

“The world does not see what’s happening behind these [now closed] doors,” says Noble. “Part of my job is to get to know the people who work behind those doors and tell their stories. I see literally the best of humanity happening, and I don’t think people in my position can thank their staff enough. I’m so proud of them.”

Member Story #14: Multi-Site Member’s Best Resident Engagement and Activities Ideas

At United Church Homes, Marion, OH, which owns or manages more than 70 communities in 14 states and 2 Native American nations, staff across multiple communities have been sharing their best ideas for resident engagement. Terry Spitznagel, senior vice president and chief growth officer, shared a few of them:

  • Staff found special face masks for interpreters and activities teams, to facilitate communication between staff and residents who are deaf or hard of hearing. The masks have clear plastic in front of the mouth so that residents can read lips.
  • In-house TV channels are being used to lead exercises, community-wide hymn singing, and even a talk show.
  • One community working with the larger local community to make inspirational yard signs to put on the lawn outside of residents’ windows.
  • One resident’s granddaughters drew sidewalk chalk pictures and messages to cheer up residents outside the building.
  • Hallway bingo using Eversound has been a big hit!
  • One site is creating a community prayer that is a collection of what residents say they are thankful for.
  • Some communities are doing grocery delivery for residents. At one community, 2 staff members are shopping and picking up medications for up to 40 independent living residents every week.
  • One independent living resident, who once led a group art program, has adapted to provide a new “Brown Bag Painting” program. Brushes, paint, paper, and a picture for inspiration are delivered to apartments in a bag; residents are to replicate the picture. Once completed, they can call him and he will provide a new picture.
  • Residents in one community are writing a story. It starts with one resident, who sends the story down the hallway; everyone gets to add to it by adding a paragraph each day.
  • One community is giving cups with fertilizer and seeds to residents, who can grow plants in their rooms.
  • Activity door tags allow residents in independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing to select what they want to do that day.
  • In one community, the leadership team members each has 5-8 residents they check in on each day. They follow a checklist that includes a basic 1:1, a check that toiletries and basic needs are being met, and an offer to call families.
  • In one community, the regular jewelry classes have been adapted to social distancing. Participants are now offered bracelet kits to make in their rooms.

Member Story #13: Residents Need Not Miss Church Services or Communion During the Pandemic

At Covenant Village, Gastonia, NC, residents who are sheltering in place can attend church services remotely, and even have Communion delivered.

Rev. Dr. Joan Martin, chaplain at Covenant Village, holds an ecumenical Communion service on alternate Wednesdays, via an in-house TV channel. Before each service, the residents can sign up for pre-filled communion packets (obtained online through Cokesbury or Lifeway), and the chaplain delivers them before the service.

Martin says the community has Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians partaking. The Episcopalians, she says, have supplied their members/residents with wine and wafers so they can participate.

Member Story #12: New App Helps Build Resident, Family Engagement

One Ohio member is keeping residents engaged during social distancing in a variety of ways.

Maple Knoll Communities, Cincinnati, OH, has redeployed staff to assist with one-on-one activities, including Skyping/Facetiming, 24-hour educational programs on an in house TV station, hallway bingo, and more.

Maple Knoll is also requesting letters and well wishes for residents on our social media, and through outreach to local media, churches, volunteer groups, universities, and others. “We are on our 4th week of delivering a personal card or note to every resident in each level of care on our campuses,” says Megan Gresham-Ulrich, vice president of marketing and business development. “That is nearly 1,000 cards each week!”

One route to keeping families engaged is a new app that allows all family members to access information about Maple Knoll and keep up with developments during the crisis.

The new family app is similar to a resident app that was launched in November 2019, through TouchTown. Launch had been planned for summer, but the release was moved up to make it available during the pandemic. It includes a special section with relevant information about the changes in operations during the pandemic, along with other services and happenings in the community.

Maple Knoll is also continuing to offer modified congregate meals and activities in assisted living and skilled nursing by implementing new rules that allow for 6 feet of social distancing.

Member Story #11: Chaplains Get Creative to Tend to Residents’ Spiritual Needs

Covia, based in Walnut Creek, CA, is helping residents stay spiritually connected every day, and especially during Holy Week in April 2020.

A recent blog post outlined how the organization’s chaplains are tending to residents’ spiritual needs. A few highlights:

  • Chaplains recorded Palm Sunday and Easter services to be broadcast on internal TV channels, with bulletins distributed to residents so that all can participate.
  • For Passover, one chaplain worked with Well Connected, Covia’s phone-based activity program, to develop a virtual Seder to be offered via Zoom. A coronavirus-related Haggadah was made available for all participants, and individual Seder plates were delivered to resident apartments. Other chaplains connected residents to other virtual Seders via CCTV
  • On an everyday basis, chaplains are making phone calls to residents and offering whatever one-on-one support they can.
  • One chaplain is offering daily Compline services for residents; another is offering a weekly meditation class.
  • Chaplains are providing daily emails with reflections, spiritual practices, poems, and meditation practices for staff.
  • As you might guess, the chaplains are rapidly becoming Zoom experts!

For much more detail, read the blog post, which also includes the chaplains’ best advice for keeping spirits up during a difficult time.

Member Story #10: Easter Celebrations Go On Despite Lockdown

Schowalter Villa, Hesston, KS, is pulling out the stops to help residents celebrate Holy Week and Easter. Executive Director Treva Greaser wrote to LeadingAge with the details:

“Because of the COVID requirement to discontinue gatherings, morning devotions (previously given in the dining room at breakfast) have been rescheduled to 9 a.m. in the chapel, Monday through Friday. Mid-week worship is also provided in the chapel on Wednesdays. The morning devotions and mid-week worship are provided in the empty chapel and broadcast across our interval TV channel for any resident who wishes to participate in their home.

“During Holy Week, our morning devotional time is following the daily readings from the Book of Common Prayer. On April 8th, the mid-week chapel service reflected on Palm Sunday. On April 10,Chaplain Gary Blaine will offer a Good Friday/Easter service. On April 15, Blaine will lead the mid-week service.

“We broadcast the local church services that are available online across our internal TV channel. There is a weekly schedule so residents can see when their preferred church service is being broadcast.

“Life Enrichment is providing daily verses and word puzzles, stories, etc., to assisted living residents in their mailboxes. Multiple music playlists have been created for Holy Week and Easter for health care residents to enjoy on individual headsets with iPod Nanos or on personal speakers in their homes.

“The life enrichment team is coordinating a time for baby animals to visit the central garden courtyard, which residents can view from their windows.

“On Easter Sunday, the culinary director and dietitian are coming in to be with residents at noon. The culinary director is planning to wear an Easter bunny suit. In addition to the traditional dinner including ham and sweet potatoes, the culinary team is making chocolate covered peanut butter eggs and chocolate dipped strawberries for residents to enjoy.

“We have a tablet dedicated to each neighborhood, used to facilitate Facetime-type communication for any resident and family. These conversations are facilitated by social workers, life enrichment coordinators, and/or nursing.”

Member Story #9: A How-To on Celebrating a Community Seder

Los Angeles Jewish Home, Reseda, CA, is hosting a community Seder while maintaining social distancing.

The Home has purchased 1,000 individual Seder plates. And there will be a few food substitutes. "But overall," says Rabbi Karen Bender, "the Seder will be the same, but more personal, more tangible for our residents."

Families cannot be invited onto the campus this year, but many residents will celebrate with their families via Zoom, which staff is helping residents install on their computers. Members are being asked to participate and read portions of the Haggadah.

One site, Fountainview at Eisenberg Village, is hosting a teleconference Seder. Lauri Kamiel, activities coordinator, says balloons in the hallways will substitute for the decorations normally put up in the community dining room during the Seder dinner.

Rabbi Ron Goldberg says that no matter how the residents participate in the Seder—whether via teleconference, Zoom, or closed-circuit television—his goal is to instill hope. "Passover is the holiday everyone remembers because it's participatory," he says. "I want to show how, even though this is a trying time, we can come together for Seder. We may be isolated from each other right now, but we are not alone."

For much more detail on the Los Angeles Jewish Home’s preparations, see this how-to on its website.

Member Story #8: Celebrating Easter Via Technology (and Eggs)

Logan Manor Community Health, Logan, KS, is helping residents celebrate Easter, despite the lockdown and social distancing required.

Easter eggs are being dyed, one-on-one, on April 8. On Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, staff will bring iPads around to residents, to allow them to watch online services for Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The same will be done on Easter Sunday, with the residents’ own churches’ services online, if available.

Children from a local daycare may come over to have an Easter Egg Hunt on the front lawn if weather permits.

Administrator Teresa McComb says, “We also spent all last week coloring pictures of Easter eggs and have them hung in the windows all around the building, so it can bring cheer to people walking by and getting exercise, or driving around to get out of the house.”

Member Story #7: Helping Residents Celebrate Passover

The Jewish Home Family, based in Rockleigh, NJ, is coordinating the arrival of Passover food with the airing of the Seder on in-house channels, and is inviting families to call their loved ones and hit “play” at the same time to “synchronize their Seder.” Temple Emanu-El of Closter, NJ, shares the Passover Seder with this YouTube video.

Every resident who wants one will be provided an individual Seder plate, complete with the ceremonial foods.

“We want to have a bit of the feeling of the shared holiday experience we have always been able to foster,” says Ezra Halevi, director of communications & technology at Jewish Home Family. “In other years we host very large Seders with family and friends joining elders at both our facilities.”

The organization is also delivering 350 hot Passover meals to seniors living in the surrounding community on April 8.

Member Story #6: Easter Preparations Help Residents Celebrate the Holiday

Residents of Paradise Valley Estates, Fairfield, CA, will be able to celebrate the hope and inspiration of Easter.

The community has pre-recorded an Easter Service that will be live-streamed on Easter Sunday.

“Our guest preacher will deliver a message of hope and inspiration as our music therapist (a team member) plays the piano and 2 residents sing as we practice social distancing,” says Jan Olson, director of wellness.

Olson says residents are right in the middle of the planning and orchestration of the Easter service. “They are selecting backdrops for the service, songs, and logistics in collaboration with our IT team.”

Residents can view the service on Easter Sunday on the internal network, PVTV. Andrea Bocelli’s Music for Hope concert, on his YouTube channel, will also be live-streamed.

The community is also hosting an Easter golf cart parade. Residents can decorate their own golf carts in their driveways or garage areas. Prizes will be awarded in 3 categories: “most creative,” “most fun and festive,” and “most original.”

Residents will pass out Easter Goodie Bags with chocolates and candies to all participants. The winners will be announced in the weekly Today in Paradise live-streamed TV show.

Member Story #5: A Virtual Seder to Serve Residents Sheltering in Place

2Life Communities, Brighton, MA, is helping residents celebrate Passover using delivered meals and a pre-recorded “Virtual Seder” with Elyse Pincus, 2Life Communities’ 2020 Rabbinic intern. (See her video on this page at 2lifecommunities.org, or on YouTube.) The recording will also be broadcast on local public access TV.

Marla Kannel, interim chief development officer, says that through CJP (Combined Jewish Philanthropies), Seder meals, using a special seder plate, are also being delivered.

Member Story #4: Member Creates COVID-Safe Outdoor Game

Christ’s Home, Warminster, PA, has created a new COVID-safe outdoor game, “Quarantine Quest,” for independent living residents.

“As soon as the game flyers were sent out, folks began to scramble,” says Vernon Morris, administrator for independent living, who co-created the game with Danielle Bishop, life enrichment director. “If you had a satellite view of our campus right now, it would look like a socially distanced ant farm. Diversion beats depression!”

Thirty small signs have been posted outdoors on the property. Each is numbered, and participants are challenged to find them all and log them onto a table on their rules sheet.

A score sheet with the game’s rules is available as a downloadable PDF from Christ’s Home, or in a Microsoft Word version that can be edited.

Member Story #3: “Lifting Our Spirits” Campaign for Resident Engagement

Beacon Hill at Eastgate, Grand Rapids, MI, began its “Lifting Our Spirits” campaign the week of March 31. The idea is to try to maintain programming and social connections for residents despite the restrictions that must be observed.

Independent living residents can participate in hallway activities that promote social interaction, while strictly observing limited human contact and maintaining 6-foot separation among individuals. One example is hallway-style cornhole for independent living residents.

Other hallway activities will include hallway bingo, paper airplane battles, water pong, ball toss, Michigan trivia, hallway tennis, and more, capped off with a dance party.

“Covid-19 has affected us all and can be frightening, so we wanted to make sure that our residents had both safe activities along with some variety and levity as we make our way through all the required safety precautions and curtailed physical contact,” says Wellness Coordinator Domi Aouad.

Website posts and shares will complement the activities. For instance, “Caring for Our Spirits,” a weekly blog written by Chaplain Travis Jamieson, will provide thoughtful ruminations about this highly unusual time we are all experiencing while placing it within a spiritual context complete with related meditations from Scripture.

Other parts of the “Lifting Our Spirits” campaign will include:

  • Weekly meetings of the resident council to address resident concerns.
  • Added grocery shopping service.
  • In-room exercise programs.
  • Additional availability with Jamieson or an additional chaplain who will assist with resident visits.
  • Social enrichment activities such as: sharing family and pet photos; stories of kindness and gratitude; and Facebook live events that allow residents to feel part of a large event.

Residents are able to dine in one of the community’s restaurants: a community room has been converted into another dining area to allow for better social distancing, and reservations are 2 hours apart so that all surfaces can be disinfected between meals.

Here are more details on the elements of this program.

Member Story #2: “Play Ball!” Provider Celebrates Opening Day, Baseball or No

The coronavirus is rescheduling nearly everything, but for The Jewish Home Family, based in Rockleigh, NJ, baseball’s opening day—March 26—would not be denied.

Staff wore baseball gear, and Marina Umansky, assistant director of activities, wheeled a portable keyboard down the halls, singing “Don’t take me out to the ball game/Don’t take me out to the crowd/Don’t share your peanuts and cracker jacks/I can’t wait ‘til the season comes back …”

A cart of treats for the staff was also wheeled around. Wacky Wednesday will also begin the week of March 30, with staff dressing in whimsical garb.

Member Story #1: Resident Engagement at a (Social) Distance

Residents at Aldersgate, a life plan community in Charlotte, NC, are complying with social distancing requirements, but they, along with the Aldersgate staff, have come up with a wide variety of creative activities to build community.

  • Balcony singing of Irish songs by residents: It began on St. Patrick’s Day, when a few residents decided to sing old Irish songs, distributed lyrics sheets, and raised their voices on their balconies. It’s becoming a new tradition.
  • Balcony charades: Staff gave out sheets of charade topics and picked a time. Residents chose partners (on balconies opposite theirs) and had a great time.
  • Solitude selfies: Residents are sending in selfies to show how they are spending their time, and they will be merged into a community photo.
  • Lights: Residents are encouraged to put up their holiday lights and decorations to brighten up moods. Staff is putting up holiday lights in common areas.
  • Activity bulletin boards with mind engaging games: Bulletin boards throughout the community now have attached folders that puzzles and mind-engaging games.
  • Craft supplies have been given out to residents to decorate their windows and doors.
  • Plans are afoot to give small flashlights to residents for “light up the night” time each evening—along with Morse code sheets to offer an old-fashioned option for communication.
  • “Solitude Songs”: Residents and staff are asked to suggest songs of the day to create a coronavirus playlist: They can include inspirational, clever, and silly songs. Nominations are sent to a dedicated email address, and then the senior staff pick a song for the day and post links to the artists performing the song on the Facebook feed.
  • Sidewalk chalk has been placed outdoors (appropriately distanced) so people can write or draw messages to those whose windows face out.
  • A golf-cart decorating contest will end with a parade of “floats” with residents at windows voting on the winners.
  • Virtual museum tours and other attractions are listed on the internal communication platform. All residents receive iPads when moving in, loaded with the Wellzesta app.
  • A local immigrant-owned-and-operated bakery is supplying cookies and cakes for residents’ birthdays during the restrictions in place.
  • In a modified version of “Where’s Waldo,” staff will place 28 random items outside in the green spaces for residents to identify. The first one to call in will get a gift certificate to a local small business to use when restrictions lift.

Visit our COVID-19 resources section for more resources.

LeadingAge wants to hear from you! Tell us stories of how your organization is adapting and innovating to manage with the coronavirus crisis. We are looking for stories about: staff management, worker welfare, and recruitment; childcare; care and services for residents and clients; personal protective equipment (PPE); communication; food services; advocacy; resident engagement; and more.

Contact Gene Mitchell at gmitchell@leadingage.org or 202-508-9424.