When the first pandemic in 100 years hit about this time last year, the staff at Riderwood, a senior living community managed by Erickson Living, worked together to make sure that their residents had everything they needed and that they were secure without feeling isolated.
Because the corporate home office shared information between all of its 20 plus communities throughout the nation, Riderwood Executive Director Gary Hibbs says, “I was able to focus on building trust, alleviating fear of the residents and staff, and focus my time on what I could uniquely do.”
What he did in those first few months was go on the Riderwood TV station seven days a week at 10 a.m. to inform residents as to what was going on in their community. Hibbs talked with them about what Riderwood was doing in terms of adherence to public safety regulations, the creation of new protocols and services, reopening and recovery, and most recently, vaccinations.
“It's revolutionized the way I'm going to operate in the future, the power of media, and how we can bring people in,” explains Hibbs.
During the early months of the pandemic, staff members pitched in from different departments to deliver food, newspapers, and mail to their residents. It's especially extraordinary that they were able to do this at Riderwood--which has a resident population of roughly 2,300 people and is the largest of the Erickson Living communities--as much as was needed.
Communication was key. “Whether it was letters sent to residents, whether it was in the newsletter, voice messages that went out to the community, TV programming, or even literally calling residents floor by floor, we just knew that constant updates were necessary, and that's a commitment because it takes a whole lot of work,” says Riderwood Sales Director George Mishraky. “We provided pertinent information on how to keep our residents safe and how to reduce risk.”
For many months at the beginning of the pandemic, Riderwood offered a free concierge service for residents. If they needed toilet paper, toothpaste, deodorant or other toiletries, they could call staff for it. “Not only did they not have to leave their apartments, but we brought it to them,” says Hibbs. While staff made sure the residents understood the risks, they always had control of their own lives. If they wanted to, they could get in their cars and leave campus, which was never on lockdown. Hibbs says that it was their mission to keep people calm, while also stressing the seriousness of the pandemic.
Many residents went out of their way to make life happier. Hibbs says that a number of birthday parties were celebrated by someone putting a glass of champagne on the package shelf outside everyone's apartment on a certain floor. “They'd get a message saying, ‘Sally's turning 100. Go out of your apartment at this time, sing Happy Birthday, and make a toast.' That happened so many times,” Hibbs says.
Sulocha Fernandopulle, who has lived at Riderwood with her husband Greg for nearly eight years, says that she and the other residents are thrilled with how Hibbs and the entire staff handled everything. Everyone it seems, even some residents, pitched in to help.
In the early days when it was tough to get masks, Sulocha says that the Riderwood quilting group made two cloth masks for everybody. The Resident Advisory Council started a Call to Community in which residents volunteered to call everyone on their floor. Sulocha was one of these captains and says, “We kept in touch with the people on our floor, especially the ones who live alone, to make sure they were doing okay and weren't scared. If they had questions, they could ask us,” she says.
Regarding health care, Sulocha says that residents could use telehealth, but if someone really needed to be seen in person by a doctor, they could either go to the medical center on campus or a doctor would come see them in their apartments. “That worked out very well,” she says.
Now that 96 percent of residents have received their COVID-19 vaccinations during the Riderwood vaccination clinics, Sulocha is excited about the near future—being able to meet with friends for dinner at a restaurant and going back to the fitness center. “I'm so looking forward to seeing everybody,” says Sulocha.
Consider Riderwood if you're interested in living in an active senior independent living community. Beautiful walking paths, gardens, resort-style amenities, an on-site medical center staffed by full-time medical professionals, and new friends await. Request more information today.