Staying Connected: Thriving While Surviving
October 16, 2020 -
In the middle of March the global pandemic forced us into what has proven to be a prolonged period of relative social isolation. In the September 1 New York Times, an article titled The Coronavirus Made Us Socially Awkward Kate Murphy cites research on the effects of social isolation. She emphasizes “the importance of blocking out time every day to connect with others.”
So how do we manage to do this during these most strange and unprecedented times? Carol Woods staff and residents have worked together to offer opportunities for connection starting way back in March (which feels like about 16 years ago).
- Early on, the Health and Well-Being Advisory Committee (HWBAC) organized a group of 32 residents (Call Partners). When visits to the Health Center and Assisted Living areas were suspended, the volunteers began to call those residents who had requested a Call Partner. The availability of Call Partners was made known through CWOL and the Friday Memo, and continues to be offered to ANY and ALL residents, wherever they may live.
- Throughout the spring posters and CWOL Announcements appeared with photos of our campus designed to encourage residents to get outside, enjoy the emerging spring beauty, and connect not only with each other, but with nature.
- When it became apparent that we were in this for the long haul, the HWBAC provided helpful suggestions in the Staying Connected flyer that was distributed in our monthly bills and posted on CWOL.
- Then… just when were all beginning to seriously mourn the disappearance of fun social activities, the Special Events and Festival Committees came to the rescue with the colorful and Creative July 4th Parade and the delightful Chatham Rabbits "mobile" performance (see photos). A heartfelt thank you to everyone who worked on these two wonderful programs.
- Resident committees and interest groups consistently and creatively found ways to keep on keeping on. Some had virtual meetings on Zoom. Others braved the elements and met on the Magnolia Terrace or under the Big Top. Croquet devotees took to the court the moment it re-opened for business. The Dog Interest Group celebrated National Dog Day with ice cream (and other things... but ICE CREAM!!!). Speaking of ice cream, do you remember how early on in "pandemic time" our staff actually came around offering us ice cream? Seems like that "food group" is the universal panacea for whatever ails you.
- Anne Fishel, chair of Newcomers, and her committee of 12 have stayed actively engaged helping new residents feel a part of the community. Their first effort was to include a document entitled Impact of COVID-19 on life at Carol Woods. Rebecca Brent, who coordinates Newcomers 101, reported that folks embraced Zoom to facilitate social connection among the residents who moved to Carol Woods in 2020. They have been able to add outdoor face-to-face meetings every other month. They also started two meet-up groups in April and a book group organized by Betsy Brinson. When new residents were able to begin moving to campus in late spring, Newcomers formed two more meet-up groups, coordinated by Sue Smith and Katherine Savage. They have also held one face-to-face meeting with Early Acceptance residents. This fall they are planning a campus walk and a committee information fair.
- All residents were offered an opportunity to exercise their artistic muscle through the Community Art projects and what about that Gift Shop? So many fun and creative opportunities to engage in a bit of retail therapy outdoors! It’s actually hard to keep up with the offerings because they seem to increase on a daily basis.
- We are now having virtual Wednesday Evening Concerts and Thursday Evening Programs again (more about this in a future blog post).
And then there’s the STAFF at Carol Woods who have shown incredible determination and devotion in their commitment to keep us connected virtually and in person.
- In early spring, many of the residents in the Higher Levels of Support (HLOS) were partnered with staff members through our Staff Stand-In Program. Staff members have served as surrogate family members during this time when residents have not been able to visit with their loved ones. They have reached out to their designated resident’s family members to get to know more about their resident “partner”. They visit with their residents each week to help connect them with family members via video calls, to engage them in activities they enjoy, or to spend time outdoors with them.
- At the beginning of June, prior to receiving permission to begin window visits on campus for those living in HLOS, staff arranged a Family Parade.
- A real lift-up for staff is bringing the Building 5 Clothes Closet to the “coat closet” across from the Dining Room. Residents will again be able to donate clothing and all staff will be able to select new items for their wardrobes.
- The Social Work Team offered a series of four hour-long discussions for independent living residents about cultivating resilience and enhancing the ability to find joy during these uncertain times.
- Fitness guru Erin Fines- Crawford inured that class instruction was recorded and made available to residents. Then, some classes were switched to Zoom so that it “sort of almost, maybe” felt like we were actually with other human being during the class. The pool is reopened, fitness equipment was made available for lending, and out classes and personal training sessions began. Residents stepped in to offer Yoga and Tai Chi and Qigong on an ongoing basis.
- Our fearless leader Pat Sprigg held a series of small group meeting during which everyone had an opportunity to voice their concerns and get their questions answered.
- In spite of their own personal challenges and ongoing stress, our staff are there for us and consistently go the extra mile to soften the hardships of these past months for all residents.
So many more residents and staff have contributed so much more to our ability to stay connected. A heartfelt THANKS and virtual hug to each and every one for what you have done individually and collectively to make these past seven months easier in so many ways.
We will not just survive… We will THRIVE!
- Beth Schultz and the HWBAC