Innovative changes for extraordinary times
In challenging times, we pull together to care for each other. This has become the motto at Erickson Living-managed communities across the country, as staff and residents have found innovative ways to stay safe, healthy, and connected during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ann's Choice, an Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Bucks County, Pa., has made a number of important changes, asking employees across the enterprise to take on responsibilities outside their assigned role. A new concierge service leaves mail, packages, and essentials on the shelves outside residents' doors, so they don't have to venture out. And the dedicated culinary and dining teams deliver three days' worth of healthy, nutritious meals and snacks every three days.
Executive Director Chris Donati says, "The health and safety of our residents is always our top priority. We've been following all CDC guidelines to the letter and taking extra precautions. It's a real team effort, and it works."
Community member Camille Zagaroli has high praise for the staff. "I'm so grateful to be at Ann's Choice," she says. "I feel safe here, I really do. They're just wonderful, and they put themselves on the front line for us every day."
A married couple wrote in an email, "The meals have been simply wonderful, (varied, healthful, bountiful and, yes, fun!) And the young people who deliver them—with smiles and graciousness—are outstanding. We are so grateful for this and mindful of how fortunate we are here at Ann's Choice. Thank you, again and again."
Donati says positive feedback like this inspires the staff every day. "It isn't only from residents. Their children write and call to thank us," he says. "We're honored to have their trust. We will see this through together."
Technology in action
Ann's Choice tapped into technology to keep everyone active, engaged, and connected. "Now more than ever, human interaction is vital," Donati says. "We're putting every resource we have to work in new, imaginative ways."
The community TV station has become a hub of activity, offering programs that address residents' spiritual, cognitive, and physical needs. The station broadcasts recorded prayers and faith-based readings to provide comfort. Residents are staying fit with televised chair yoga, aerobics, and weight-training classes. Films, from classic to contemporary, air regularly. And Donati holds fireside chats and releases updates in recorded phone messages.
Technology also enabled spouses living independently to have virtual visits with loved ones in continuing care. "We set up regular phone calls and FaceTime chats on iPhones, so spouses can spend time together," explains Kelly Wright, director of continuing care. She added that in another case, the staff arranged a distance visit for a resident celebrating her birthday. "Her family brought a huge sign, and we [went out onto the balcony], so she could speak with her loved ones. It was special."
For the many clubs at Ann's Choice, virtual meetings on Zoom and Skype became the go-to for socializing and conducting business. "Everyone missed meeting in-person, but these platforms are a great substitute when we can't be together," Donati says.
The value of community
Donati noted that living in a caring, resource-rich community like Ann's Choice is especially beneficial in unprecedented times like these.
"Many seniors like the idea of 'aging in place,' where they remain in their family home," he says. "Unfortunately, this can be isolating, because you lack the resources, as well as the community and activity that provide a sense of purpose. Our residents are in their apartments, but they are not isolated. In fact, they are finding incredible ways to stay in touch while staying apart."
Resident Harry Beam agrees that community has never felt more important. "Every day at 3 p.m. my neighbors across the courtyard, Bill and Karen Frye, hold mini concerts from their balcony," he reports. "Bill plays guitar, and everyone sings together. We feel connected and safe at the same time."
To learn more about Ann's Choice's commitment to senior health and wellness, please visit our website at AnnsChoiceCommunity.com.
About Ann's Choice: Ann's Choice, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 103-acre campus in Warminster, Pennsylvania. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,900 residents and 1,000 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Ann's Choice can be found at AnnsChoiceCommunity.com.
Written by Dorrie Anshel