One positive outcome from sheltering in place is that the extra time together caused many families to strengthen their bond as a unit. For residents living in senior living communities, that togetherness includes other residents and staff. With many families unable to visit safely as often as before, staff found creative ways to celebrate milestones, and keep residents connected to special moments with their families. In this episode of Senior Living LIVE, host Melissa Lee talks with Mallorie Richardson about purposeful living over the last six months in senior living. Watch the recording for more about how staff stepped up to create deep connections and meaningful moments for residents in Arbor communities.

Video Transcript 

- Hello everyone and welcome into Senior Living Live. My name is Melissa and Mallory Richardson is my co-host today. Mallory, how are you?

- I'm great, how are you Melissa?

- Doing very well, thank you. Well, the pandemic has certainly turned everyone's lives it seems like upside down over these last six months, but one great takeaway we've been able to sort of run with here, is how it has allowed families to create a stronger bond or a closer unit. In what ways has that been the case for you and your family?

- Absolutely, my husband is a teacher and so in March he had to start working from home virtually. And with my job I travel quite regularly so this is probably the first time since we've been together that we've been home together. I haven't been traveling and he was working from home. So we've definitely spent a lot more time together, which is nice 'cause we do live in a log cabin in the mountains. So it's kind of been like we've been on vacation spending all this time together. So, it was definitely a blessing in disguise to be able to have all this time together. Yeah.

- That sounds terrible, Mallory .

- Yes, it is .

- It sounds terrible. It sounds like you guys are having a great time and I feel the same way. My husband and I are spending more time together now than we ever have in the 12 years that we've been together and it has actually been wonderful for our marriage. And we're thankful for this time because of that. These strong bonds certainly aren't limited to just our immediate families, but also the families, our work families, and those of course that are living in our Arbor senior living communities. The residents and the staff. In what ways have you seen these, the dynamic between those two entities creating deep connections?

- I think that our communities have always done a great job, having those meaningful moments and building deep connections with our residents, but during this pandemic and during COVID our residents haven't been able to see their families quite as often. So we've really had to step in and make sure that we are celebrating all those milestones. So we've really gone above and beyond on celebrating birthdays. Really been creative with car parades or we've had some families surprise residents with like yard signs outside their windows saying happy birthday. We've been celebrating anniversaries, you know making sure that they can at least have a meal together through the window. Or making sure that they're not missing those special moments like their grandchildren's weddings or baby showers or graduations, different things like that. We've made sure that they could join virtually.

- Sure, and what has stood out for you personally on that end, in terms of celebrations and how indifferent they look now than perhaps a year ago?

- Yeah, we've had several family members that were graduates this year. And so it was kinda nice. I got to attend my nephew's graduation virtually. So from the comfort of my house, but still be able to celebrate with him. And I think it was really exciting for him because this is something he'll always remember. He received his diploma through a car parade. So it was a really cool opportunity for him.

- Some good memories obviously made across the board from families to our residents and our staff. And on that end, we have an excellent example of all the things you just mentioned in terms of celebrating. Our community Eden Terrace of Spartanburg recently helped one of their sweet residents celebrate her 101st birthday. The engagement director there, Cindy Moore, she was the point woman in creating this wonderful celebration and many surprises along the way for a very, very special woman. Cindy Moore, the Engagement Director at Eden Terrace of Spartanburg joining me now. How is Spartanburg today?

- Spartanburg is hot, sunny and muggy . Just the norm for September. I almost said August . We just skirted right into September.

- Yeah right into that. Yes we did.

- September Cindy. That is crazy to me. It feels like the year has really flown by. And yes, it is just as hot and humid in Atlanta too. So I feel you on that end. We are chatting today about somebody very special. You have a wonderful resident there by the name of Louise, or also known as Mamaw who is 101 years old, just recently celebrated that big birthday. Tell me about this special woman.

- Louise also known as Mamaw, as you said, is a very sweet, mild-mannered, even tempered kind. She's the epitome of your grandmother. One that you would want to go and get in her lap and let her love all over you because she would. She is very giving and loving and is self sacrificing. And you can see that that's the way she's been with her family, by the way they are. I have met her daughter, her granddaughter as they've come here to visit. Louise grew up in Kannapolis, North Carolina on a farm. And she met her husband there. They married and he ended up having to go to Wilmington, North Carolina during world war two. They even waited to have children, when they went to Wilmington because things were so difficult. I was talking to her one day about what things were like during world war two. And she said, "It was a hard time for everyone." She was, and you could tell by her answer that she wasn't even really thinking about herself. She was thinking about other people, which is what she's really all about. Then she went on to say that you only got things that you really had to have. And when you go into her apartment, it is not furnished with a lot of things. She doesn't seem to be the type of lady who needs a lot of things around her. She's got a few pictures of her family. She's got her television in her comfy chair. If I go into her room, I often hear hymn singing going on by either whether radio or a DVD that she's got playing or a radio station or television station that she's got with the Gaithers. She loves the Gaithers. She even was singing with them one day when I went in. So this lady has a very strong connection to her faith. And when we asked her, why do you think you lived this long? She pondered and she thought, you know, I've often wondered why I'm still here and what helped me get there. And she said that it was being Christ like. And it was a mission of being... Sharing the gospel with other people. And she said that she tried to have good health habits and she tried to make sure she loved other people. So she was... It's just like I said, the epitome of the best grandma ever.

- So you had this task, right? Cindy, where you have to put on a... Do something special. Something big for 101, right? So what went into all of this planning to make this a special occasion for her in the middle of a pandemic?

- Well, we started out by asking Mamaw what her favorite meal would be that we could have for her that day. And out of all of the things that she could have, she asked for Turkey and dressing, with cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes and deviled eggs.

- Oh, wow.

- Eggs, I found out after the fact when she was sitting there about to eat those with her family sitting outside the window, eating the same food. She said, "The deviled eggs are for me and my son-in-law." Who is sitting out there. She said, "I wanted to make sure he had something special too." She said, "When I picked all of these things, it was things that everybody in my family enjoys. And I was trying to think of something he really likes. And the devil eggs are part of his request when the family gathered, I'd like deviled eggs." So we put out on the internet through face time, through Facebook, through all kinds of ways that we could get the word out, that we wanted to make Mamaw a special day by getting as many birthday cards as we could. Hoping to get 101 birthday cards for her. So they started coming in and we collected and collected. And by the day of her birthday, there were 250 birthday cards.

- Wow.

- Which in fact, the next day there came another stack and the next day came another stack. So the birthday cards were a pretty big deal. So we also invited the family to come to share with her on her day. They were seated outside, like I said at a table. They were also enjoying the same meal she was, which was very special for her. Then we had balloons everywhere inside and outside. We even got one of those special displays that said she's 101. We actually walked with her outside to let her look at those balloons, which was very exciting for her. We took pictures of her in front of that. We also got a very large sheet cake that said, "Happy 101st birthday Mamaw. She was so excited about that. She just kept staring at that big, huge, sheet cake. And after that big meal she ate a piece of it. She said, "I have to cake." And we thought, well, yes, you do. And lunch for the residents was already over. But I said, "Mamaw, would you like for us to share your birthday cake at supper with the rest of the residents?" And she said, "Oh, by all means." So we sent it to the kitchen, they sliced it up and everybody got a piece at supper. The other thing was, is that WYFF came and interviewed her for her birthday. They did that. And that made her feel very special. And we told her, "Now you're quite famous." And she just said, "I'm not famous. It's just 101." So she's still very, very much interested in it not being focused on her. That's just the way she is.

- Yeah. And if she got to make the local news that evening on-

- She did. Yes she did. And she went back to her room and took a big old nap and drank a cup of coffee. And we took a lot of things back to her room the family brought gifts and such. And then the next day I went in and she was sitting there working through all those birthday cards. There was a pile of envelopes on the floor where she was throwing them and I got them up for. And then she said, "Somebody jokingly said, 'It's gonna take her 'til she's 102 to get through all the birthday cards.'" But she was working her way through. And she said, "Just look at all these people that sent me special wishes." It meant a great deal to her.

- Maybe this is a good time. Through you from Mamaw to thank everybody from... And I assume from all over the country, that-

- Yes, yes. We had cards that were from... I think the farthest one was California. she had a lot... We held even the ones from the relatives that sent their wishes as well. They were from all over the United States. It was very special for her. And she really, really did appreciate that. So yes, thank you to all of the Arbor family, other facilities, the family members, the Facebook family, everybody that was able to send her a card. 'Cause she really did genuinely appreciate those cards.

- That is awesome. I'm sure that just made her feel so special on her birthday

- It did. The day that she wanted everybody else to feel special. You know, we talk about purposeful living and deep connections all the time. And a lot of special bonds have been created and strengthened during periods of lockdown throughout the pandemic. What have you been able to learn about Louise during this time that maybe you didn't know about her?

- Well, I knew that she was a very strong Christian when I met her the first time. You go in a lot of our residents rooms and the Bible is sitting right by their chair. And the next day it will be open to a new place. It's not for looks it's genuine. And that runs pretty much across the board here in our building. But for her, I asked her, I said, "What do you think has been really important for you in your lifetime?" And she said about the staying alive for 101 years. And she said that I really think that the reason I'm here still is to share the message. And you know, so that others see Christ in me that if I said, you know, "Mamaw, you're one of the sweetest people I think I've ever met in my life." And I said, "And I know why it's there and I can tell why it's there." And she said, well, "I really appreciate that." She said, "because I hope that that's what everybody sees when they meet me." That I want them to know what it's like to live a Christian life and that they can do that too.

- Wow. That's fantastic. I love that. So as we start to wrap things up, one thing in our discussion before our interview, as we were talking about Louise, Mamaw. You know, one thing I think we can both agree on that we appreciate about her so much is her ability to appreciate the simple things in life, right?

- Yes. Yes. Like I said, in her room, there is not a lot of froufrou. I mean, it's not fancy. There's not a lot of stuff. It's what she needs. And that's the way she presents herself. She is the epitome of the little Southern lady who still wears little skirts, sweaters, and always has her hair done perfectly. She is not prideful but she always wants to look nice. Has her jewelry on. And she's just the epitome of the Southern lady who wants to be an example to other people and to young people. Because we have a lot of people that are young here and she wants them to see that life doesn't have to be so complicated. She and I had a conversation one time about technology and she said... I said, "What do you think is most interesting about the technology that has taken place as we've aged in our lifetimes." And she talked about electricity and the telephone. Very easy simple things that you and I would take for granted and came into the world with. And those are the things that she's focused on and not the things of today at all. It's simple. Life's not that complicated. And she's done well without all of the new frangled whatever we have now. And it's a good message to other people that keep life simple .

- We can all learn something from her. Well Cindy, we appreciate you sort of peeling away the layers of Mamaw. And for really doing a wonderful job and helping to make her feel special on her special day to celebrate her 101st birthday.

- Yes, yes. It was a great day for her. And she did tell me she was worn out but it was perfect. Yes, couldn't have been any better.

- Melissa, I just love how many people contributed to making this day so special for her. She is somebody who, you know, can really, you can tell how much she has given to so many other people. And it was so great to see how many people contributed to making this day special for her. All the balloons and the cards and the people that came out to celebrate with her. Was truly amazing. It was so refreshing to see that.

- Yeah, and I think for those of you watching, if you did contribute to sending her a card, I guess she got cards from all over the country. We wanna say, thank you for really helping make her day very special. She was so appreciative. She was so surprised. And we know she will still be sorting through all of those cards in the weeks to come. So thank you for all of that. And, you know, I think even more now than ever, Mallory, it is so important to recognize and celebrate these special moments. So much of the normal day to day that we've grown used to over the last couple of years really looks so different than it did perhaps even six months ago.

- Yeah, I think the Arbor company has always done a really good job of celebrating those meaningful moments and making deep connections. Who we are and what we are. But with the pandemic, we've really had to step up and make sure that, you know, we're celebrating every single moment and making sure that while these residents aren't able to see their families, as much as they used to, That, you know, we've stepped in and we've become even more of their family. I mean, we've always thought of them as family. But over the last, you know, six months or so. That relationship and that bond has really grown. And it's just been really rewarding to be able to celebrate these moments and these celebrations with each and every one of them.

- I absolutely agree. And this is a course where we wanna hear from you. If you're watching, how are you creating and strengthening deep connections with family members or friends? Let us know. You can visit your community's Facebook page and tell us your story by using the #StayEngaged. Mallory, thank you so much for joining me today.

- Thank you. And lemme just take this moment to tell Miss Louise happy birthday from all of us at the Arbor company. And thanks for letting us share that with her.

- Great way to put a ribbon on it Mallory, excellent job. And yes, happy birthday to the Louise. Once again, celebrating her 101st birthday. Now we thank all of you for joining us. Feel free to head over to our website, Where you can catch all of our video content and as always have a great day everybody.

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