Comfort for our residents is a top priority for Arbor communities. Dana Goldfarb, Executive Director of Arbor Terrace Middletown, provides insight into senior living community design, pulling back the curtain on the considerations that go into creating a space for seniors that prioritizes comfort, access, navigation, and safety.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone, and welcome into Senior Living Live, my name is Melissa. I hope you're having a fantastic day today and we thank you so much for finding us here via video or via podcast. Well, many people have no idea how much senior living has changed over the years with many of those changes tackling of course, care, comfort, safety, and then implementing technology. Today we are going to discuss comfort. We have not to really discussed this topic at all, and we realize that we should, because comfort is one of our top priorities at the Arbor Company. Dana Goldfarb, she is here with me today, she is the Executive Director at Arbor Terrace Middletown, a community in New Jersey, how are you today, Dana?

- I'm well, Melissa, thank you for having me.

- Oh, thank you so much for being a part of our show and for helping kind of pull back that curtain of senior living and what it's all about, and I'm excited about today's topic, but before we get there, let's talk a little bit about you and tell us your background and what you do for the Arbor Company.

- Well, as you mentioned, I'm the Executive Director of Arbor Terrace Middletown. Prior to that, I was the Marketing Director here at Arbor Terrace Middletown for five years, but I started my career about 20 years ago in the industry, and started off as a dementia care coordinator, and really fell in love with the seniors there, and then I moved into the sales and marketing aspect, and now I'm coming full circle in the operations role and back as the Executive Director of a community that I love, so it's been great.

- Awesome, we love that so much. Great background, great experience. Now, we created a video about a year ago with a few designers of Arbor, senior living communities and they make it very clear that literally no space is wasted, and there is really careful considerations made for residents as they blueprint and begin construction of new communities. Can you describe some of the considerations that might be noticeable to somebody coming in for a tour and maybe some of those items or places that are not so noticeable to the naked eye?

- I'll tell you one thing, people notice how bright it is and brightness means lively. It's very interesting, something you might not know, Melissa, our community was actually renovated and we were not a build from the ground up, and the first person that came into the community to the designer, designed it 'cause it looks like an old ski, it looks like a ski lodge. So designed it with those warm reds and golds and greens, and that's a really great idea, but it makes it dark. And actually as the marketing directors, one of my things that I brought to the attention of our corporate office was that we were getting a lot of feedback that our community was dark and sure enough Arbor didn't waste any time, renovated the community, again, gave it a nice refresh and brought in those lighter colors and what a world of difference it's made, not just for the residents that live here, but for everybody that comes in, because we do have, it's amazing how bright it is now and really just brings a different air into the community.

- Yeah, so that was actually one of my questions because I think natural light is so important, it doesn't matter where you're at, it could be a senior living community, it could be a Walmart, it could be literally anywhere, an office building, you've gotta have natural light if you're gonna be there, you're gonna live there, people call this home. So I'm so glad that you pointed that out, that was actually one of my questions. So one other aspect that I find important in literally any building or community is navigation, optimizing for seniors, how to get from point A to point B, access, safety for residents, and independent assistant memory care, what does that look like in your community? And how is that sort of similar to other communities with Arbor?

- Whenever we're talking to a prospective resident we always take an account how well they can move out, and move around, so when that comes into play, if somebody has a difficult time remembering, if somebody has a difficult time moving their legs, or if they're in a wheelchair they can't navigate necessarily on their own, that's really where we start having that conversation of the right place for their apartment to be located. Once we've chosen that optimal apartment with that new resident and they do move into the community, it's very crucial for them to be familiar, help them build a routine around what their day is going to look like so they feel comfortable coming to and from, because that helps them acclimate into the community better. So helping them navigate the community, it's everyone's responsibility, we make sure that all managers touch on them every, at least every day for that first month to make sure that they're comfortable with navigating, not just physically, but who do I call to make a hair appointment? Those kinds of things, it really helps 'em stay involved, helps 'em acclimate easier, it reduces stress. So making sure they understand those, if they have to get in touch with somebody, do they call the front desk for something? Do they hit their pendant for something? We also have pull cords on the wall to make sure they understand how they feel comfortable using those different tools to navigate through their day. So there's lots of different methods to help folks navigate through their day, whether it's just their activities or actually physically getting somewhere.

- Yeah, and one thing I hear all the lot of from feedback from residents is that they feel safe at these communities, and I know that safety is taken into account from the exterior of people who come in, what does that process look like day to day?

- Well, the safety of our residents is the most important thing. So obviously we have our maintenance and housekeeping team safely cleaning down everything, making sure there's no debris anywhere, if there's weather outside, making sure all of the sidewalks and everything's shoveled and that our grounds are completely clear so they could do their walks that they like to do, and then inside the community we wanna make sure that, of course, you have any kind of rugs or what have you that have any damage to them that could hinder any kind of walking in the community, and when they move into their apartment, oh, we never encourage them to bring throw rugs, 'cause that's always a trip factor. So safety is something that we take from maintenance through sales, through dining, through everything. Everything is taken into account for safety from the minute people we walk into the door to the next day. It's just something that we have to be constantly thinking of, because that's why they're living here, they're living here to reduce any falls that they have, reduce any stresses that them and their families may feel, and provide a safe environment so they can thrive.

- Yeah, and then getting down to that little micro level of things that are there for considerations of comfort that we don't think about, like furniture, how is that taken into consideration in terms of how it feels, how it's set up, how it's laid out? I mean, again, none of this is done accidentally, right?

- It's interesting that you say that, when we went through our two renovations in this community already since I've been here, furniture was a big part of it. What kind of furniture do we want? Do we wanna make sure that we have, you may fall in love with a chair that doesn't have arms on it, well, that's a problem for a resident, they need arms to be able to lift up and off that piece of furniture safely, so while couches look pretty, most residents aren't sitting on a couch, they're gonna sit on a chair with arms. Or in the dining room, do we need to have wheels on the bottom of our chairs so that the residents can roll out better? Or is that a hindrance for them? Maybe it's too much. So in looking at every little aspect it's really important, like we talked about before, throw rugs is a no-no, and that's something that I don't wanna say argue, but I suggest strongly the families don't bring, because even though mom might love that throw rug, can we turn it into a tapestry instead just to make sure that she's safe? So that's all of those pieces, lighting, all of those pieces are crucial in making sure our residents stay safe in the environment, not just in their apartment, but in the community at large.

- Yeah, and then the personal living spaces, we've talked about the community, some things inside of an apartment or cottage, wherever somebody happens to have their private space. Can you talk a little bit more about that kind of ease of use that again, those little details are taken into consideration for somebody, whether it's the bathroom, the shower, the toilet, how does that look like to someone who's never been in a senior living community before?

- Well, what you wanna see first and foremost is that it's ADA appropriate, right? You want those showers and those bathrooms to be appropriately modified for folks that are in wheelchairs and walkers. So our community, when they redid it we have kind of like a barn sliding door for the bathroom. So there's none of that odd navigation with a door opening and closing. In the shower, you can wheel a wheelchair in and there's a built in seat, so it's a large shower where somebody can provide assistance in the shower if necessary, whether they're in a wheelchair, in a seat that we've provided, and I have some folks that like to bring their own shower seats, that's fine. The bathrooms are big enough that you can push a wheelchair in and bring your wheelchair in and spin it around without hitting anything. All of those things are really important. Is it accessible for a wheelchair to roll up to the kitchen sink and be able to get to wash their hands or dishes if they have in their apartment. Plus you wanna make sure that they have enough room of course, for their personal belongings, is there a curio cabinet that I need to bring? And is there enough room for me to navigate? So all of those things come into consideration, and I think that they did a beautiful, Arbor does a beautiful job with making sure that these apartments are well appointed, or cottages, for folks that have those needs and making you feel homey at the same time.

- Yeah, and that, that is really the bottom line at the end of the day, and you think about even the little things, like you mentioned, like light switches being at a certain level so that you can reach 'em, you don't have to struggle. It's just, everything really is taken into account, and I'm so glad that you have been able to kind of break even more of that down that people don't even think about, you literally don't think about, like you said, being able to turn a wheelchair completely around in a bathroom, that is so important, so key, and this is why we have this conversation today. So great job detailing that comfort and ease of use when it comes to senior living, because at the end of the day, as you mentioned, our residents call these communities home, and it should feel welcoming and should feel like an Oasis, away from the rest of the world. So thank you so much for your time today, Dana.

- Thank you Melissa for having me.

- Thank you, now, for those of you watching, this is one of many topics that we have covered over at Feel free to head on over and check out the rest of our video content available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As always, we thank you so much for being a part of Senior Living Live, have a great day, everybody.

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