In the time of COVID-19, , a healthy life plan community in Shillington, Pa., is facing a unique challenge: protect the physical health and safety of its population, while keeping everyone emotionally healthy and happy during a difficult time.
“Staying connected to one another and engaged in life are always important parts of wellness and vitality,” explains Cheryl Anderson, the community’s Well By Design Director. “But in a time of stress and uncertainty, like now, they are essential. So we’ve been coming up with creative ways for our residents to remain as socially, intellectually and emotionally healthy as possible — while still adhering to CDC regulations and following the guidance of local health experts to minimize risk of exposure to COVID-19. Since congregating inside is impossible, we’ve encouraged everyone to get outdoors, where they can have fun and be together — while staying safely apart.”
In the past few weeks, Anderson and her colleagues at The Heritage of Green Hills have dreamt up several unique events and spirit-raising initiatives for the independent living residents.
- On a particularly lovely windy day, residents were invited to a silly “Bubble Parade,” where they filled the air with soap bubbles by waving their arms around. In order to ensure that residents remained more than the recommended 6 feet apart, the spots where they stood were marked with pinwheels.
- The Heritage Hotties silver poms cheerleader squad practiced their new moves outside. Set to the “Rocky” theme, this inspiring routine is specially choreographed to keep the cheerleaders together in spirit, but safely apart physically
- An Earth Day Nature and Gratitude scavenger hunt challenged residents to venture out on safely solo walks to enjoy fresh air and the campus’ lush springtime greenery while looking for list items, which they were encouraged to touch (smooth rocks, tree bark), look for (birds, animal footprints) or smell (flowers, old leaves).
- A short story writing contest with a $1,000 prize for the best entry encouraged experienced writers and newer scribes to create exciting new works to be shared.
- On the goofier side, “Maraca Mania” invited everyone to pick up maracas, feathers, googly eyes and other craft supplies in order to create funny characters out of the instruments.
- Members of The Heritage of Green Hills Sewing Club have been using their skills and talents to make more than 700 masks for their neighbors and others in the area who need them.
- The community has added more benches outside — spaced far apart — to encourage residents to enjoy the spring weather and the views.
- In order to ensure that residents stay connected to their families and friends who live off-campus, The Heritage of Green Hills has purchased extra IPads and TV monitors, and set up several stations where the residents can video chat privately with their loved ones.
- With the community’ restaurants closed to sit-down meals, the Food & Beverage team has individually hand-decorated the bags in which certain “room service” meals are delivered. Messages written on the bags include everything from heartfelt wishes of health and happiness, to silly puns, like “You’re Shrimply the Best,” complete with a cute doodle of a crustacean.
- The Heritage of Green Hills’ residents have been showing their appreciation for the staff’s hard work and dedication during this difficult time in creative ways, too. “Operation Friendly Flyer” saw residents writing thank-you notes to the staff and then turning them into paper airplanes and sending them flying off their porches and balconies. The planes were collected and hung up in staff areas for the team to enjoy. A staff appreciation event had residents serenading staff members with kazoo music, while their names were chalked out and decorated on the community’s driveway.
“We’ve been forced to get creative to fulfill our Well by Design mission, which includes nurturing and promoting several different types of wellness, including spiritual, physical, emotional, vocational, environmental, intellectual and social,” says Anderson. “It’s turned out to be very rewarding and a lot of fun!”
Using some out of the box thinking, staff members in the personal and memory care neighborhood at The Heritage of Green Hills have also been keeping everyone as active and engaged as possible at this time. “We’re setting up video chats and encouraging families to visit with loved ones through the glass front doors,” says Heather Setley, A&E Coordinator. “We’ve also given residents access to hobbies and tasks that can be enjoyed individually, such as gardening in raised beds, crafting and drawing, and caring for bird feeders.”