The Arbor Company has worked hard to create a sense of normalcy for residents and staff during the last few months, which has required a lot of outside-the-box thinking.
Our Senior Living LIVE! host, Melissa Lee, sits down with Arbor Company staff member, Angel Allaire, to find out how families and residents are maintaining a bond during uncertain times.
Click the video above to watch the episode, and learn more about how to engage with seniors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hello, everyone, and welcome in to this edition of Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa. And as always, it is fantastic to see you.
How has your life changed over the last couple of months during this pandemic? I'm betting it's probably pretty different than your normal day to day. The Arbor Company has worked very hard to create a sense of normalcy for its staff and residents all through social distancing. And as you can imagine, there has been a lot of thinking outside of the box to make this happen.
My guest today comes from inside the Arbor Company, Angel Allaire, and she tells us a little bit more about how staff, residents, and family have all created a stronger bond during these uncertain times. And Angel Allaire is joining me now, the vice president for engagement and training at the Arbor Company.
Angel, always good to see you. How are you?
I'm great, Melissa. Thank you for asking. It's so nice to see you again.
Nice to see you. Even though it's not in person, it's still nice to see your face. And speaking of not being able to see you in person, this has basically been encompassing your entire job right now — how to keep people engaged when they can't physically be next to each other. So engagement, as we all know, is at the heart of senior living. It is so important to keep our seniors active and allow them to live that healthy lifestyle. How has engagement changed, Angel, over the course of the last four months during this pandemic?
Sure. Well, we were, prior to this, used to having group setting activities and programs and social events and things like that. However, for safety, our residents were in their apartments during this time, or maybe just able to sit in the hallway. So we brought the engagement and activities to them by providing, in their apartment, things that they really enjoyed to do. We called it a grab-and-go basket or something like that. So we put together activities like painting, or clay making, individual things, card writing, things like that. So we always made sure that they had opportunities in their apartment, as well as everyday one-on-one visits and meeting with them. And if they would like to get outside for a fresh air walk, we also provided that safely with social distancing, one on one with a staff member. One of the highlights of this time is that they really enjoyed having the traveling refreshment and beverage cart. Our engagement directors really went above and beyond and themed these carts, and decorated them and actually maybe even had a themed dress to go with it. And also, we made sure we definitely celebrated. We still celebrated our holidays. We still celebrated their milestone birthdays. We made sure that we didn't let this pandemic get us down, and we still connected and celebrated.
That's fantastic. I know Mother's Day — we had so many holidays, it seems, that have passed us by, but the community certainly didn't forget, did they?
No, we were able to still provide a really special meal. Our dining directors gave a great meal that they had in their apartment. Our teams in the community celebrated by sending them gifts and also family members connecting with them. But our engagement team really made sure they felt special by making sure every mother had a gift on that day, as well as notes and thanks for being a mom. Yeah. Well, Father's Day, too, of course — we can't forget our dads — also just celebrated that big holiday. We've got the 4th of July — so many holidays that seem to be passing us by during this pandemic. And, of course, celebrating it but remaining safe at the same time.
Now, we're talking about the community internally and ways to keep engagement going during this time. But what about outside of the community? I hear there's been a lot of support from local towns, cities, communities. In what ways have they stepped up to help?
We definitely have seen the community reaching out to us to want to do whatever they can to engage with the residents. We've actually had some people set up a pen pal program where they wrote letters to each other. We had a local theater group — actually, I'm sorry, a national theater group that found us and asked if we had any folks that had prior interest in musical theater. And we actually had a resident who participated in that and was on a YouTube channel, and was so excited that she was able to sing with this musical theater group and then show her family at a later time. She was thrilled.
Yeah, that's amazing. And that really is thinking outside the box. And we do just want to say thank you to all of those who have reached out to help and to volunteer and to be a part of this, whatever "this" is these days, to help out our seniors and keep them engaged, keep them active. So we've been talking about the seniors, but now, let's sort of pivot to their families, who have not been able to really have a lot of physical contact because of the virus. What creative ways have you allowed family members to still keep in touch?
Sure, absolutely. Well, we have used technology more than ever during this time, where we have video calling with families, which actually has really — what we have seen, families that haven't really connected in a long time have connected during this time because they live out of state. And we were able to video zoom them in to see their loved ones. They have had — connected to where if there was something, a special moment happening, a small wedding, we were able to zoom in that wedding, so that their family member was able to see the wedding. Also, we have had window visits, where our residents are safe inside our community. And we cannot have visitors at this time. The family member is safely in an area where the resident can see them, and they can talk over the phone or still using our technology.
Fantastic. And I guess now that we're starting to move in two phases of re-opening just around the country and at the communities, where are we at on that in terms of engagement? And how is it going so far?
So with that, for our family members, we actually — some of our communities have outdoor visits where we have a safe area, where we're socially distant and loved ones can see each other outdoors in our communities. And it's been a beautiful — families are very excited to see their loved ones. Our residents are happy to see their families as well, and it's been really great.
Well, Angel Allaire, you and your staff and those involved with engagement at the Arbor Company, I know you guys — you've put all your brains together to come up with really the most creative ideas that you can to make this really work and to keep seniors active and, again, living that healthy lifestyle that they seek when they look for a senior living community. So once again, as always, thank you for your time.
Thank you so much. It was great spending time with you today.
And thank you for all you do.
Again, we want to say thank you to all of you who have reached out to support our communities and residents during this time. We also want to send a virtual pat on the back to all of our residents who took the time to check items off the bucket list. A few of you have made some fantastic pieces of artwork. We even had one resident who finished a book during this time and actually signed some copies for his fellow residents. Congratulations on getting that done.
Now, if you have a story you'd like to share or want to check out more Senior Living Live episodes, you can log on to www.seniorlivinglive.com. Have a great day, everybody.