By Susan Saldibar

As communities continue to dig out from a horrific year, you might ask yourselves what you’re digging out to. Hopefully not back to a pre-pandemic, 2019 playbook. Too many communities were already taking on water before COVID hit. A return to 2019 seems like a sinking strategy.

A 2021 approach may be to take a more serious look at health and wellbeing. Health is on everyone’s minds these days. Maybe it’s time to explore health and wellbeing, not just as it relates to services and amenities, but as a central strategy geared to serve a skittish new clientele, more wary than ever of making a move. It is a strategy whose time has come, according to Regan Medzhibzher, VP, Marketing & Communications for Morrison Living, and Rachel Bell, Director of Communications. (Morrison Living is a Foresight partner.)

I asked Regan and Rachel what 2021 health and wellbeing should look like. “First of all, healthcare needs to take a more central role,” Regan says. “There is no more avoiding it. You can talk about amenities and lifestyle, but you need to address health as a central part of your community.” Given our current climate, that makes a lot of sense. 

It’s as Much About Staff as It Is About Residents

And they are stressing the importance of health and wellbeing, not just for residents but for staff members as well. “We put so much emphasis on resident health, and rightfully so,” Regan says. “However, staff members are on the support frontline. We ask so much of them, we need to ensure they’re taken care of.”

Prospects Will Ask. How Will You Respond?

Regan and Rachel outlined three key touchpoints to their health and wellbeing focus: residents, staff, and the planet. They also reminded me that March is National Nutrition Month. So this is a good time to take a look at what Morrison Living is doing to promote health and wellbeing with their community partners:

1. Residents

Regan and Rachel talked about “meeting residents where they are”, across all levels of care, from independent living to assisted living to long-term care. “Now, more than ever, it’s so important to make every meal count,” Rachel says. “So we’re doing things like infusing immunity-rich ingredients into foods and amping up certain ingredients that we know to be efficient and effective,” she adds. “For those in memory care, we tailor a full culinary experience to meet their needs. That involves sensory cues so that they can smell the food and see it being cooked,” she says. “It cues them in a natural way that it’s time to enjoy a meal.”

She mentioned their partnership with Farm Shelf, a smart indoor farm that allows you to grow produce where you live. And it encourages residents to be actively involved in tending to the plants, harvesting them, cooking them in delicious, nutritious recipes, and enjoying eating them. “This leverages all key areas of wellness,” Rachel says. “Emotional wellbeing through participating in purposeful activities, nutrition in eating delicious, organic foods and planet health in sourcing their own vegetables.”

2. Team Members

Morrison Living has created what they call “associate wellness programs” to pulse how team members feel about being at work. “We look at emotional wellbeing as well as physical wellbeing,” Regan says. Morrison Living recently hosted a virtual client town hall meeting to focus on helping employees find a sense of purpose and belonging. Leadership shared some of the things they are doing for their staff members to give them the same 5-star service they provide for residents. Some of the ideas include supporting educational goals, celebrating important milestones (graduation, achievements), making amenities like pop-up groceries available to staff as well as residents, providing career counseling and training, and last, but not least, regular check-ins to ask them what they need. 

3. The Planet

Morrison Living has always been about sustainability and has long been at the forefront of fostering a cleaner, more efficient way of sourcing and preparing healthy, organically grown food. They have dozens of stories of their work with senior living communities, helping them not only incorporate the freshest possible ingredients into their foods but to support local growers.

One that really stands out is Foxdale Village Retirement Community, located in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. Just down the road from them is family-owned Way Fruit Farm, which grows everything from pumpkins to peaches. Morrison Living’s Food and Beverage Director, Melody N. Dear, regularly loads up her car with fresh broccoli, corn, peaches, and other home-grown foods and takes it all back to Foxdale. Now the residents and staff enjoy Way Fruit Farm fruits and vegetables all year long. Pretty cool.


What does all this mean for those communities trying to get back on their feet again? Regan and Rachel see an opportunity, through a focus on health and wellbeing programs, for communities to not only survive 2021 but leapfrog past old programs to something that transforms how senior living approaches health and wellbeing. 

My sense is that it couldn’t come at a better time. 

Morrison Living has put together some amazing programs for each week of National Nutrition Month to get communities focused on health and wellbeing. Only those within their communities are lucky enough to enjoy them but you can get a sneak peek of their activities by following Morrison Living on social media: 





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