By Steve Moran
Ultimately while providing care is critical to senior living (at various levels), there are ways to get care without living in a senior living community. But the one thing you cannot get is socialization. The challenge is that with the COVID-19 lockdown we have mostly gone from socialization to entertainment.
It has been fascinating to watch the things life enrichment teams have done to fill the gap, making sure residents are being served as well as possible.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to Interview Jamisyn Becker, the Life Enrichment Manager at John Knox Village of Florida. They are a single site, stand-alone CCRC/Life Plan Community in Pompano Beach. They serve just under 1,000 residents with about 800 in independent living.
Prior to the pandemic, they had a robust (an understatement) schedule of around 400 activities each month for residents, including informative programming (lifelong learning) and Broadway-caliber events both on and off-campus. They also had a number of robust off-campus relationships. Ultimately their big draw has always been lifestyle.
The pandemic hit and they found themselves needing to be extraordinarily innovative, because their entire goal was to keep residents out of isolation and fully engaged. The big question was this: How do you keep residents fully engaged and away from each other?
One of the things that gave them a significant advantage is that they have a full-time technology coordinator who is part of the Life Enrichment team. They created a bunch of “how-to” videos on things like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, and accessing YouTube for the less technologically inclined.
Once they did this they were able to facilitate things like virtual birthday parties, virtual book clubs, virtual TedTalks, and virtual fitness videos. They were also able to take advantage of their resident engagement platform to develop a whole-home enrichment section that included virtual museum tours, art classes, and entertainment — some pre-recorded and some live.
65-75% of their independent living residents have technology devices allowing them to access all their virtual programming. For those residents that are not using technology, they have been putting together a weekly brain book that includes things like games and crossword puzzles. They also have an inhouse television channel that has a variety of recorded programming.
I asked about how the residents have responded and was told that residents have been really delighted to be able to stay connected and engaged.
Reopening and Meals
We talked about reopening and dining. They, like virtually every other community, have been delivering meals to all of their residents. They are in the process of reopening their dining rooms for dinner with strict social distancing protocols.
They are also beginning to do some small group activities with 10 or fewer residents. The one thing they have been doing throughout the pandemic shutdown is a lot of outdoor activities like music in courtyards, and some exercise classes.
The full video interview is below and it includes a richness of additional content including:
- What a virtual birthday party is
- How they are reopening dining
- The impact all of this had on staff
- How they pulled off “Thankful Thursdays” as a way for residents to show gratitude to the team members
- Lessons learned that will carry on into the new normal