Although these are unique and challenging times we are all experiencing due to the pandemic, life at Carol Woods continues to center around a community of support, collaboration and friendship.
Residents and staff have come together to support each other in new and innovative ways. Resident volunteers help deliver meals, make sure morning newspapers get onto doorsteps, set up Zoom chats and check in on one another. Gift Shop volunteers host outdoor sidewalk sales in addition to running an online ordering system. Members of the Flower Committee safely distribute the donated flowers that Carol Woods receives weekly. Staff initiated a grocery delivery program where residents and employees can order essentials and have them delivered.
Although the fitness center is closed, online and outdoor exercise classes continue, as well as a new outdoor fitness circuit. The pool was able to reopen with timeslots and protocols. Croquet, bocce and a temporary table tennis area also are available.
A popular resident activity continues to be gardening – around homes, in the two community gardens or in the garden beds maintained by the volunteer Garden Gophers. Early in the pandemic, the grounds department arranged a plant sale to support the sudden urge to garden.
Our beautiful 120-acre campus and numerous outdoor spaces are appreciated now more than ever. Walking paths, including the one-mile Harkness Circle, are being thoroughly enjoyed. Residents, families and friends gather while socially distancing at the Blue Heron Patio, Mill Stone Garden, labyrinth, dog park and outdoor dining area. The Learning and Leisure Garden is a special oasis with its lovely waterfall, blooming flowers and vine-covered pergola. In addition to the shade of our towering oak and pine trees, we have set up temporary umbrellas near the pond and two temporary outdoor canopies.
Spontaneity is found throughout campus. Inspirational community art projects pop up unexpectedly. Little treasures and figures are spotted along the walking paths. Staff dress up for Wacky Wednesday themed days. Refreshing ice cream novelties are handed out. Goats even came to campus for a couple of days. Their job was to graze on an overgrown section of campus, but they also entertained all who passed by.
Gratitude for our dedicated staff is seen and felt throughout campus. Staff appreciation parades and words of support written in sidewalk chalk brought some employees to tears. A thank-you card and an appreciation check also were handed out and free bagged lunches are offered daily.
Challenges, of course, are many. Temporary protocols have been put in place in an effort to limit the COVID risk to our on-campus residents, and these protocols can lead to frustration and stress. The dining rooms are closed, our weekly concerts and lectures have ceased, indoor spaces such as the popular Social Lounge are off-limits. The chatter in the hallways and buffet line is greatly missed. Many of our 88 advisory groups, committees and special interest groups can no longer meet in person like they used to. Outside visitors are not allowed to come into residents’ homes – only outdoor visits are allowed.
Perhaps the most difficult restriction is the governor’s order that visitors are not allowed in our Higher Levels of Support unless for end of life or other compassionate care reasons. Staff throughout the organization are stepping in to fill the void by spending time with those living in our Health Center and Assisted Living buildings. Staff members spend time with residents, go outside to the gardens and help facilitate telephone and video calls with family. The time spent is a reminder of why we all decided to be a part of this community in the first place – to support each other.
Communication and a listening ear are always available to discuss the stresses that come about during these trying times. The CEO hosts outdoor and Zoom conversation hours with small groups of residents to make sure their concerns are heard and addressed. She also records a daily message to update everyone on the current protocols, gives any health status updates and delivers words of inspiration reminding us all to appreciate the present moments.
Getting through this pandemic is more bearable with friends and neighbors by your side and the support of a great staff. Now more than ever, Carol Woods is a great place to live and work.
Please click on the links to the left to learn more about our protocols and campus health status. You can also follow our journey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carolwoodsretirementcommunity/