Since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, assisted living and other senior communities have limited or entirely stopped, allowing visitors in their facilities. And with good reason, as COVID-19 can run rampant in congregate care settings.
However, social interaction and seeing family and friends is essential for everyone, but none more so than seniors. Fortunately, senior living communities across the country have shown great imagination in keeping their residents active and connected. The following demonstrates some of the creative ideas.
LeadingAge, an education, applied research, and advocacy group for aging-focused organizations, asked its members for stories about how they were connecting during the pandemic. They received a treasure trove of ideas; a few of which are:
- Drive-Through Visits – A community in Lansdale, Pa., organized a day of drive-through visits as a way for residents to get just a little closer to their families without breaking social distancing rules. They built booths of wood and plexiglass for residents to sit behind, and families drove up to the booths for 10-minute visits. Visitors had to stay in their cars, and the booths are sanitized between uses. The staff and local volunteers supervised the process, and the visitors gathered at a nearby parking lot beforehand.
- Beefed Up Resident/Family Portal – A community in Lake Oswego, Ore., enhanced its existing resident and family portal by providing updated information about the crisis for residents, families, and staff. The portal includes 26 apps with a variety of topics for users such as infection control, news updates, a video series featuring their leadership and videos related to coronavirus, and an FAQ that covers questions for residents and families.
- In-House Television Studio – A community in Basking Ridge, NJ, created an in-house TV studio that live-streams content on all residents’ televisions. It has live entertainment, church services, a daily update on what’s going on, rehab and wellness classes, art therapy, music therapy, yoga, and an evening “Tonight Show” type program. They plan to include lectures as well. How did they do it? According to the LeadingAge story, “A construction project on the campus has allowed them to set aside space for three “studios” along three walls of ample open space. The sets include a presentation set for classes and entertainment, a living-room style set with a piano, and a board room setting that is being finalized. The staff has made it possible for calls to come in so that Q&As can be provided.”
- Using Social Media – A community in Roseville, Minn., is using an existing link and its Facebook account to help residents and families who can’t visit. Residents are posting photos of themselves holding signs for loved ones, video chatting with families (with the help of staff), receiving notes of encouragement from children, and operating a pen pal program that can also include phone calls. People interested in being pen pals can visit the link to volunteer for the program. Residents can express interest on their end, and a connection can be made.