Planning distanced activities for seniors during coronavirus requires creativity and adaptability. Spectrum Retirement Community teams across the country have embraced the challenge and are determined to make sure residents stay active, engaged, and safe during these unprecedented times.
The novel coronavirus is causing us to rethink the way we do practically everything. That’s especially true for Senior Living residents who are used to communal dining, group activities, socializing with neighbors whenever they want, and visiting with family.
Despite the disruption to normal programming, Spectrum Retirement residents participate in new and unique distanced activities for seniors during coronavirus, plus some reimagined familiar favorites.
“We’re here to bring light, love, and positivity to the people we serve,” says Terri Baroden the entertainment and programming director at The Enclave at Cedar Park Senior Living in Texas. When asked where she gets her ideas from, Baroden jokes that she often finds inspiration while in the shower. “A lot of stuff morphs from something done years ago to something that’s adapted to do now in our current reality,” she says. Things like … a prom.
A Prom of Pandemic Proportions
The Enclave at Cedar Park prom was already on the calendar before quarantine guidelines were put in place. That didn’t stop the team members at Cedar Park from making it a memorable occasion.
Residents and team members provided photos for a prom picture collage. A team member presented the collage room by room for residents to enjoy and to participate in guessing “who’s who.” Baroden says the residents got a kick out of the contrast within the collage of resident photos mixed in with staff prom pictures — many of whom had attended their prom only a few years ago.
Earlier in the day, residents enjoyed the first of two parades. Members of the Austin Miata Club circled the community, honking and waving flags in a sports car parade. That evening, in an encouraging show of bridging the age gap, students from the Hyde Park High School’s softball team and medical club conducted a second car parade. Students decorated their cars with balloons, crepe paper, and window markers, sharing messages like “stay strong.” “It was a touching show of community support,” Baroden says.
Making Mother’s Day Memorable
Families are an integral piece of a senior’s life and vitality, so Spectrum Retirement team members constantly develop creative ways to involve family while maintaining physical distance. Things like a Mother’s Day car parade.
Car parades are the perfect solution for creating a festive atmosphere while maintaining social distancing. “We had an amazing turnout for our Mother’s Day parade,” says Brittany Kendjorsky, entertainment and programming director for Three Creeks Senior Living in Ohio.
Spectrum contacted every family with a mother in the community via email and called each individually. On Mother’s Day, a car parade of nearly 60 decorated vehicles wrapped around the building. Family members waved and honked. They delivered flowers, cards, and balloons to the front door. Residents, family, and staff smiled, laughed, and shed plenty of tears, Kendjorsky says.
In Arizona, The Enclave at Chandler Senior Living coordinated a Mother’s Day parade of a different sort. “We knew that many of the families were disappointed that they couldn’t spend time with their mom on Mother’s Day,” says executive director Debbie McElroy. “We asked families to create poster boards recognizing their mom.” The poster boards were mounted onto wood stakes and “planted” throughout the grassy common areas. Residents walked along, enjoying the “sign garden” of love, well wishes, and hope while families honked, cheered, and yelled “We love you!” from their cars in the parking lot.
Even the Little Things
Not every activity is a big extravaganza. Some distanced activities for seniors during coronavirus are designed simply to keep residents engaged and active.
“One of the luxuries of moving to a senior living community is that residents can walk downstairs or step outside their apartment and bump into someone, have a conversation,” says Diana Magilton, sales director at The Enclave at Chandler Senior Living. “I know that has been the hardest change.” She says that now, even the small things — things formerly taken for granted — like sitting on the back porch, enjoying a piece of delicious watermelon or an ice pop are more important than ever.
The Enclave at Cedar Park Senior Living residents can subscribe to weekly Brain Boost packets which Baroden fills with word puzzles, DIY art projects, brain games, motivational quotes, a fun activity to try, and the chance to win prizes. Two activities residents in Memory Care absolutely love (noodle ball a game using pool noodles to bat balloons back and forth and kickball using beach balls) are so popular they’ve become daily activities.
While the weather remains pleasant, team members take every opportunity to get residents outdoors. Three Creeks has six large plots, allowing six residents at a time to enjoy planting flowers, herbs, and even some veggies. From courtyard yoga to an outdoor book club to watercolor painting at the open-air patio, residents have many choices.
The Enclave at Chandler Senior Living’s large pool is always filled to physical distance capacity for water aerobics, and the weekly outdoor patio/balcony music concerts are extremely popular. “Music is universal,” McElroy says, “so we find that most people get involved.”
Hunker Down Happy Hours
Lemon drop cocktails, wine tasting, Cinco de Mayo margaritas, Choco-Tacos, and music. Happy hour carts are a definite fan-fave. Besides breaking up the day, “it’s a great way to check up on each resident and find out if they need anything,” says Paige Larney, executive director of Three Creeks Senior Living.
One weekend, McElroy was inspired to break away from the norm. “During this time, everything is very scheduled,” she says. Residents are used to a more fluid schedule. “They respond positively to those things that break up the routine, that doesn’t show up on the calendar,” she says. So, residents were more than pleased to be greeted with a Sunday sundaes cart, complete with all the fixin’s.
We’re All in This Together
Team members aren’t the only ones making a difference. In many cases, residents have stepped up to encourage and engage friends and neighbors.
At The Enclave at Cedar Park Senior Living, one resident, who had been a choral director, led the senior living community’s choir. The choir was able to perform for the first time since sheltering-in-place: a parking lot performance on Memorial Day. Another Cedar Park resident from Independent Living is a very well-known storyteller who volunteered regularly. Baroden now records her storytelling and plays them for residents in Memory Care.
A Three Creeks resident, Don, entertains residents by playing piano twice a week. The maintenance crew helps move, not a keyboard, but a full-size piano, through the halls on a rolling cart. “It’s a team effort,” says Kendjorsky. “We couldn’t do everything we do without the team working together.”