Although we experienced unique and challenging times due to the pandemic, life at Carol Woods continued to center around a community of support, collaboration and friendship.
Residents and staff came together to support each other in new and innovative ways during the pandemic. Resident volunteers helped deliver meals, made sure morning newspapers got onto doorsteps, set up Zoom chats and checked in on one another. Gift Shop volunteers hosted outdoor sidewalk sales in addition to running an online ordering system. Members of the Flower Committee safely distributed the donated flowers that Carol Woods receives weekly. Staff initiated a grocery delivery program where residents and employees could order essentials and have them delivered.
Although the fitness center closed for a while, online and outdoor exercise classes continued, as well as the addition of a new outdoor fitness circuit. The pool was eventually able to reopen with time slots and protocols. Croquet, bocce and a temporary table tennis area also were available.
A popular resident activity continued to be gardening – around homes, in the two community gardens and 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 were appreciated more than ever. Walking paths, including the one-mile Harkness Circle, were thoroughly enjoyed. Residents, families and friends gathered while socially distancing at the Blue Heron Patio, Mill Stone Garden, labyrinth, dog park and outdoor dining area. The Learning and Leisure Garden was 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 set up temporary umbrellas near the pond and two temporary outdoor canopies.
Spontaneity was still found throughout campus. Inspirational community art projects popped up unexpectedly. Little treasures and figures were spotted along the walking paths. Staff dressed up for Wacky Wednesday themed days. Refreshing ice cream novelties were 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 was 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 appreciation checks also were handed out and free bagged lunches were offered daily.
Challenges, of course, were many. Temporary protocols had been put in place in an effort to limit the COVID risk to our on-campus residents. The dining rooms closed for a time, our weekly concerts and lectures have ceased for months, indoor spaces such as the popular Social Lounge were off-limits. The chatter in the hallways and buffet line was greatly missed. Many of our 88 advisory groups, committees and special interest groups could no longer meet in person like they used to. For what seemed like a very long time, visitors were not allowed to come into residents’ homes – only outdoor visits were allowed.
Perhaps the most difficult restriction was that visitors were not allowed in our Higher Levels of Support unless for end of life or other compassionate care reasons. Staff throughout the organization stepped in to fill the void by spending time with those living in our Health Center and Assisted Living buildings. Staff members spent time with residents, went outside to the gardens and helped facilitate telephone and video calls with family. The time spent was 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 were always available to discuss the stresses that came about during these trying times. The CEO hosted outdoor and Zoom conversation hours with small groups of residents to make sure their concerns were heard and addressed. She also recorded a daily message to update everyone on the current protocols, give any health status updates and deliver words of inspiration reminding us all to appreciate the present moments.
Getting through this pandemic was 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/