Senior living communities are known for having a full schedule of leisure and recreation activities. Since recent restrictions due to Covid-19, many communities have had to re-imagine how to provide residents a healthy and exciting lifestyle. Our Senior Living LIVE host, Melissa Lee, sits down with Brandi Blizzard of The Arbor Company, to find out ways the Arbor communities have been adjusting to continue to offer engaging and fun activities safely.
Watch the clip below to learn more, and for a featured interview with Dixie, a resident at Arbor Terrace Naperville, about her favorite leisure activities and how she's been staying active during the shelter-in-place order, as well as her big plans as soon as it is safe to venture out again.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone, and welcome into "Senior Living Live." My name is Melissa, alongside Brandi Blizzard today. Brandi, thank you for joining me, how are you?

- I'm doing great. How are you? I'm doing very well. I know you've had a busy day, so I absolutely appreciate you taking the time to join us, to talk about leisure and recreation. Of course, it's something we all look forward to on our off days, if we're still working, and when we're retired, it's something we look forward to doing hopefully every day. But as you and I both know, Brandy, the coronavirus has really put a dent into all of that for a lot of people. You know, me personally, I love to travel. I can't really do that right now, but I am enjoying some new hobbies. I've started a little bit, delved a little bit into gardening, started some new types of exercising. What have you done? Let's phrase it this way. What have you done pre-COVID for leisure and recreation, and now post-COVID?

- Yeah, and just like you said, so many people's lives and plans have changed, and hobbies and things that they were doing to enjoy those recreation and leisure things for everyone, and certainly the same for my family. So something that comes to mind was this past spring break in April, our family had a cruise planned that we were all gonna take together as a family. And that changed with COVID. So we ended up adapting that idea of spring break to having a campout in our backyard. So it was so much fun. We turned our trampoline into a tent. We put a tent on top of it. And enjoyed doing campfire s'mores, and just all kinds of fun things right in our own backyard. It ended up being like one of the best vacation weeks ever.

- I love that story so much. And I just love that you were able to sort of make lemonade out of lemons, right, out of that situation. You had a cruise already planned. How did the kids feel about camping in the backyard?

- They absolutely loved it. And it's something we've been able to continue to do all through the summer. So it was, it was just, it was really great for us to get to do that and still enjoying it, everyone. I personally liked it too because my house was close by. So when I got tired of being in the tent, I could sneak in after they went to sleep and they didn't know.

- That's pretty good. I think you're giving a lot of people some ideas right now. So if you hear that, if you haven't tried camping in the backyard, you might want to. It sounds like a great way to keep the kids busy. Good thinking there, Brandi. And you know, as I mentioned earlier, when it comes to retirement and seniors, you spend all of your time hopefully, in leisure and activities and hobbies, and it is why so many people seek out senior living communities. So right now, Brandi, how do you think communities are meeting that part of the senior living checklist?

- Yeah, absolutely, that's a great question. Our communities are doing a fantastic job with this. The creativity among our teams, and how they've been able to adapt the recreation and leisure activities that our residents enjoy on just a daily basis. Lots of different things. They've been able to still continue to offer many of those just with some safety modifications. So some of those things where it'd be hallway Bunco games, and music programs outside in our courtyards with an outdoor entertainer. Ice cream sundaes on the patios. Hallway golf, hallway ax-throwing. So really just so many different ideas and activities that we're still offering, again, with just those social distancing precautions, and masks, and gathering people in smaller groups, and oftentimes with neighbors and friends that they visit with regularly. So, and another great idea that we loved was a resident that had, they did a takeout night for personal pan pizzas. And everybody in the community got to put in their order for personal pan pizzas. They had 'em all delivered, and everyone was able to enjoy those, just like going out and coming in.

- That's awesome, and you know, I hear it every week and just how creative the Arbor engagement teams have been. And it really is amazing. And then it's even more amazing when it comes across your desk, how creative the seniors have been in these communities. And we've got one we wanna introduce to everyone to today. She is living at our Arbor Terrace Naperville community in Naperville. And her name is Dixie Lorende, who planned a fun outing, if you will, for her neighbors by bringing one of her favorite places to eat right to the community. Dixie joins me now, Dixie, how are you today? And how are things at Arbor Terrace Naperville?

- Oh, I'm great today. And it's very nice here. The sun is out and it's beautiful out. It's gonna be a great day, I think.

- I love it. Well, you are joining us today to help us discuss ways to stay engaged through recreation and leisure. Prior to COVID, what types of activities did you do in your free time?

- Most of the time after I retired in summertime, I loved planting flowers and had pots and pots of flowers that I would take care of. And going out to lunch with my friends, meeting them 'cause we didn't see each other too often. After we all retired, we kind of went our separate ways, but we do try to get together at least once a month or maybe once every two months, depends. And that's what I would keep myself busy with.

- Sure, and so you mentioned, obviously you're retired. Tell us a little bit about your background and your work, and you worked for a company for a very, very long time.

- Yes I did, I was born and raised in south of Kansas City, but when I graduated high school, I went to Kansas City, got a job at a Sears mail-order plant. Worked there for 12 years and I met my husband. He was stationed near Kansas City in the service. And he was from here, his family was here. He was born and raised there. So then we went together for a while. And then I moved here and transferred with Sears from Kansas City to a mail-order plant and, or to the catalog telephone sales office in Lombard, Illinois, and was manager of that until they closed the catalog. And then they transferred me to Oakwood, Illinois. It was retail, and, so I was happy. We got married. I have a little, well I had a boy, but he's 49-years-old now, so, but I enjoyed very much what I did. I retired from Sears. I had 45 years full-time, and five years part-time. I retired when I was 74-years-old, so. And I miss 'em, seemed like Sears was my life too, you know? I was with them so long.

- Yeah, and, and I mean, I can just hear it, even in telling us a little bit about your life, but as you said, you're a people person. You like to be with people.

- Yes.

- And I know one of the things you enjoyed doing was, you know, you traveled many places across this country. You also traveled out of the country. And you did something quite unique. Tell us about that.

- Okay, well, me and my friends decided to go to Italy one year, and we was able to get an audience with Pope John Paul at his pass, and got to meet him and shake his hand, and it was wonderful. That was the trip for me, although Rome, and Florence, the other cities were beautiful too, but I just enjoyed meeting the Pope and shaking his hand. And you didn't want to let it go. It was so warm and soft. You just wanted to hold on to it. And lotta good food too, I ate a lot of good food.

- I bet, lots of great memories there. And as I said to you earlier, before we started the interview, that I've never met or spoken to anybody who's met a Pope before and you were able to do it, so that was fantastic. That just sounds like a wonderful trip. And these are things we can't do anymore. We can't travel right now with COVID-19 and in the middle of a pandemic. So I wonder, Dixie, how has that sort of free time, the recreation, the leisure changed? And in what ways are you still able to fulfill that part of your life?

- Well, here lately, we're not doing like what we did before 'cause we couldn't all get together and be close together. You know, we always, always wear our masks and everything, but once in a while we've had bingo in the hallway, you know, but it's kind of hard. Or once we had exercise. We had chairs outside our door and we would exercise sitting on our chairs. So, and then I do a, well, I don't know if some of the other residents like to read, I do a lot of reading or puzzles or crossword puzzles. They give us this daily Chronicle paper. I love reading that about years ago, what happened, and it brings back memories for me on some of this stuff. So I usually, I don't just sit in my room constantly. I'm usually doing something. Of course now we can't go out in the hallways that much or anything like that, but I'm always doing something in my room, you know, to occupy my time.

- Yeah, a social butterfly. And that's been taken away from you a little bit, but you did do something pretty cool. And I really liked this story. You decided to plan an outing if you will, for your community at Arbor Terrace, Naperville, and you had food delivered in because you couldn't go out. And this was to your favorite place with your favorite sandwich at Subway. How did you come up with this idea, Dixie, and how well did that go over with everyone?

- Well, either Saturday night or Sunday night, you think you'd just like to have something different, and Subway had a special going. So I asked some of the girls that I've become friends with and they thought it was a great idea. So I ordered Subway sandwiches and had 'em brought here, and they really enjoyed it too. And I also did, even though we was gonna have our meals delivered to our room, we all saved until like the next day or whenever we ate them. But just to have something different for a change. It was very, very nice and made the girls happy also.

- I bet, so you won Neighbor of the Year, I think, at the community for doing this and giving everybody a little taste of the outside and outside food for a change. So, you know, you did a nice job of explaining some of the things that you're able to do now while still in the midst of the pandemic. But when you moved to Arbor Terrace Naperville, it was prior to the pandemic.

- Yes.

- So in what ways, Dixie, do you feel that living in a senior living community compliments your lifestyle as it relates to leisure and recreation?

- Well, I really, when I first moved there, well, I still enjoy living here, but I really, I thought, "Oh guys, I don't know if I'm gonna be able to handle this," 'cause I just was so active all the time. Even after I retired, I wasn't a person to just sit around, but they had so much going for us, and doing things that, from morning to night, you was almost, you could choose to do something. They had so much going. And I really enjoyed that 'cause then I wasn't bored, and people were so friendly. I couldn't get over how everybody was really very friendly. You could just talk to them and right away, seemed like I started making friends, you know? And so I thought, no, I'm very, very happy here. I love it, yes.

- Yeah, and what were some of the activities that you enjoyed before COVID?

- Really the exercise, I always want the exercise. Then we would do crafts. They had lady come in and she brought us these, brought these ceramics in, it was a heart. We painted it and then she would bake them, you know? And we put designs on 'em, I loved doing that. I'd never did anything like that before, but I was kind of proud the way it turned out for me, you know, 'cause I'm not that great at art or anything like that. But I loved doing that also. And it was just, they always had something going for us, yes.

- Dixie, I do have to ask, when we are free and clear of COVID, what will be the first activity that you do.

- Activity, I know first thing, I'd go to the beauty shop, but as far as activity, say, you know, we would, they have a bus here to take us to the stores or somethin', I'd love to just go to a store again and walk around. I haven't been in one, I think since last November, 'cause I haven't been able to go. And so that would be one thing I would like to do is just go shop at Walmart's or Kohl's or Target or any of 'em, just walk around and see what's going on now, if anything's changed since a year ago, you know? And I wouldn't know how to act. It would be so exciting.

- And so getting out to a store, I hear you on that, but I hear you more than anything, Dixie, on getting back to the beauty salon.

- Yes.

- That is all of us right now. Yeah.

- You're just gonna be waiting, waiting for them to open up and get in and probably spend a little extra time there, and enjoy it this time, right?

- Yes, that's correct, yeah. I won't know what to ask her to do first. Either color or curl and dye, I don't know. I think color it and cut it is gonna be the first thing. Yes, yes.

- That sounds like a good idea. We'll have to come back and check in on you whenever you do. Dixie, you are such a ray of sunshine. I know you're that for us and you're that for your community at Arbor Terrace Naperville. We absolutely appreciate your time today, and look forward to seeing what great idea you can come up with next at your community.

- Oh, thank you so much, I'm just happy to do it for you.

- Oh my goodness, she just, she has brought a big smile to my face. And I am totally relating to her comment about getting back to the hair salon because we are all definitely looking forward to not having to be our own hairstylist and colorist at home, and painting our own nails. And I know I'm definitely looking forward to making that appointment back at the spa to get a little pampering.

- And I felt that too. I felt that deep in my core when she said that she wants to get back to the beauty salon, we do too. And something else she mentioned there, Brandi, that I thought was key. You know, she said she hasn't been to any of her favorite department stores in so long. And she's looking forward to getting out to Kohl's. Once this pandemic is sort of in the rear-view mirror, what's one of the first places you plan to visit?

- Yeah, so personally for me, and I'm just not like a huge shopper. So that part hasn't been as difficult for me because I love Amazon shopping. Like me and Amazon are like this, and my delivery driver, if he's not coming to my house every few days, he would probably be checking on me to make sure I was okay. But I do, I am really looking forward though, to going to Marshalls home goods stores, one of my favorite places to shop.

- I hear you on the Amazon. I'm the same way when it comes to shopping. It's just so convenient. So on that end, so we've talked about some of the things we hope to do. And you talked about how your family is staying together with activities during this time, through this pandemic, what will be one of the first places your family will go after this pandemic has finished?

- Yeah, so we are, again, are just a really big family-oriented family and I am really looking forward to the time when we can all get back together and have like a big family gathering and cook-out with all my brother-in-laws and sister-in-laws, and have all the cousins together, and just be together as a family.

- Yeah, that's a great answer. That's a fantastic answer. And, and you know, we're all feeling that right now, right? You know, big family gatherings are no-no right now. And so, you know, we hope that this can be, run its course before the holidays, so we can all get together for the holidays, that seems like it's just right around the corner. And so this is kind of where we open it up to those of you who are watching. And we wanna ask you the same thing. When it comes to leisure and recreation, what is one of the first things you plan on doing post-COVID? You can head over to your community's Facebook page, where you can tell us using the hashtag #StayEngaged. So we want you to be a part of this conversation for sure. Now, Brandi, before we go, any final thoughts?

- Yeah, I really just want to encourage everybody. I know that COVID has brought so many changes to everyone's life and we've all had to just adapt and change quickly, but it is still so important that you get out there and find things that you enjoy doing with some safety. You know, here at the Arbor Company, we are very, very set on making sure that we do provide some safety, but also keeping those things happening that bring everybody joy and vitality.

- Yeah, it's so important.

- Get out there and do something you love and stay active.

- Great message. What a great way to end our conversation today. Brandi, thank you so much. So we thank you, Brandi. We thank all of you watching today. And if you want to find more content about senior living, you can head over to For Dixie and Brandi, my name is Melissa, and as always everybody, thank you for watching. See you soon.


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