Catonsville, Md. -- May 4, 2020 -- Betty Caldwell can usually be found exploring Charlestown's 110-acre campus in search of wildlife to photograph. But these days, instead of wandering about the Catonsville community with her camera in hand, she spends most of her time at home in her apartment, doing her part to flatten the curve of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I am trying to keep up with my photography," says Betty, whose apartment overlooks Charlestown's half mile-long nature trail. "We are lucky here to have such beautiful grounds, flowering bushes, and the lake. I have been enjoying the opportunity to photograph spring songbirds in the trees right off my balcony."
In keeping with the current guidelines for enjoying the outdoors, Betty also spends some time photographing on the grounds of Charlestown with her mask and of course, observing social distancing.
Before the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the U.S., Erickson Living, the company that manages Charlestown, enacted its emergency preparedness plan and assembled a task force of individuals across the enterprise.
"All across our family of communities, residents and staff are taking extraordinary steps to protect the health and safety of our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and caregivers," wrote Alan Butler, Erickson Living's chief executive officer, in a letter to the enterprise's 27,000 residents and 14,000 employees. "I am confident that we will look back on this unprecedented health event and be proud of how well we cared for each other."
Residents have been asked to remain in their apartment homes, while hundreds of staff members are assuming roles outside of their typical scope of work to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of the more than 2,000 residents like Betty who call Charlestown home.
Delicious dining, a bit differently
With seven on-site restaurants, dining with friends is at the heart of the Charlestown community. But to combat the spread of the coronavirus, Charlestown instituted a unique in-home dining program, preparing and delivering meals to more than 2,000 residents, along with heating instructions and a phone number to call with questions.
In addition to meals, a concierge service has been put in place to deliver groceries, prescriptions, newspapers, packages, and other items to residents' doorsteps.
"You can choose an entrée with veggies, soups, salads—and these incredible Charlestown desserts that you cannot resist no matter what," says Betty. "It's an astonishing thing to think about how many meals they prepare right here on campus and deliver to each resident's door! The concierge service is like what you would find in a hotel. There are even some things—toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.—that are delivered free of charge."
At a time when millions of American seniors are particularly concerned about their well-being, Charlestown residents like Betty can take advantage of a wide range of opportunities to remain engaged while safeguarding their personal health.
"Every day our in-house TV Channel 972 gives a briefing of what was going on in the community. It is terrific," says Betty.
The station also airs staff-led fitness classes, faith services, and streams educational lectures. Updates regarding COVID-19 and community information are aired several times daily.
"There are a ton of things going on to keep the residents engaged and connected to community life while everyone is social distancing," says Pam Stiner, director of finance at Charlestown.
Like many Charlestown staff members, Stiner stepped out of her normal role and pitches in by leading daily puzzles and bingo games via telephone and the video conferencing platform, Zoom. "It's been a lot of fun. We've had as many as 150 residents participate in the daily puzzles and 80 bingo players at a time!"
Thanks to technology, Betty's photography interest group was also able to meet virtually.
"We connected through Zoom. It was so fun. We had 17 people join in. We were so engaged and so happy to see one another. We talked about photography, which we love to talk about!" says Betty.
Attitude of gratitude
Some residents and their families took to social media to connect and posted messages of thanks and encouragement.
"And our super Fitness Director Teresa power walks our packages to our doors and our student servers deliver our meals to us, with muffins, chips, granola bars, and nuts. We are blessed!" wrote Judith P. on Charlestown's Facebook page.
Since moving to Charlestown four years ago, Betty has watched Charlestown's staff heed severe weather warnings, including staff members staying overnight during snowstorms, but she's never witnessed anything quite like this.
"All of the staff pitched in as needed," says Betty. "I have incredible respect for how they responded to the pandemic. It's a testament to their commitment to the people who live in this community."
About Charlestown: Charlestown, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 110-acre campus in Catonsville, Maryland. The community is located in Baltimore County and is home to more than 2,000 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,200 employees. Additional information about Charlestown can be found at CharlestownCommunity.com.
Photo Caption: Betty Caldwell, a resident at Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville, has enjoyed practicing her photography skills from the balcony of her apartment home throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Here is one such shot, of the many beautiful songbirds that reside in the trees on Charlestown's picturesque campus.
Photo Credit: Betty Caldwell