If you’re the sort of person who thrives in social situations, gratitude may not be top of mind after eight months of social distancing. Nonetheless, if you happen to live in Sunshine Retirement Living, you may have more to be thankful than you realize. “Sunshine residents haven’t gotten hit as hard with pandemic fatigue as some other seniors, as we are all in this together as a community,” says Wellness Director Lauren Dubay.
It’s business as usual for many Sunshine communities–and this means a full slate of social and recreational activities. Residents have the option to exercise daily and attend socially distanced musical entertainment, as well as virtual webinars hosted by outside professionals. On top of this, residents can go on scenic bus drives or participate in activities like Virtual Reality, crafts and decorating, or games and clubs. They can also get involved in a variety of charitable projects like this Elmo drive or this animal shelter drive. When it comes to spirituality, residents can attend live stream church services or bible studies in theater spaces (currently run by resident volunteers), or have phone or Zoom calls with rabbis.
Adjusting Activities for Safety
To keep communities safe, Sunshine limits numbers for group activities, although multiple sessions are held if there is sufficient interest. For example, Garden Way in Eugene, OR, delivers three sessions of Strong Bones and Balance exercise classes throughout the day as well as three sessions of Chair Chi per week.
In exercise classes, group leaders wear face shields, and guests and team members are required to wear masks. Residents have their temperatures checked before each activity and are encouraged to wear facial coverings and to wash their hands before and afterwards. Physical distancing is enforced in groups and all surfaces are disinfected after each activity.
Some games have been modified to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. For instance, only the Life Enrichment Director can touch the cards during blackjack games. Communities have also retired their regular bingo slide cards and now use printed and laminated cards that they can easily wipe down after a game. “We’ve modified everything to fit every community’s state and local regulations,” says Dubay. “It’s a little extra work but our residents are worth it.”
Creating New Holiday Traditions
Although holidays can be challenging when in-person visits are not allowed, Dubay points out that Sunshine has extremely creative teams working to bring new traditions to their communities. This Halloween, some communities held parades in which families, neighbors, schools, staff member’s children, and friends walked around the building in their costumes. For Veterans Day, some Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets or boy scout troops will be coming to honor veterans with a display in front of Sunshine buildings.
For Thanksgiving, Windsor Heights in Beachwood, OH, plans to host a big family video-chat dinner. (Residents will be able to see their families on a large screen in the dining room while a camera will capture residents eating in the dining room.) Over in Bartlett, TN, the Quail Ridge community is putting together a cookbook of family recipes. On Thanksgiving Day, families and residents will make and share these meals via video call. Families of Quail Ridge residents are also being asked to “adopt” a tree in the backyard of the community to decorate for the holidays for a tree lighting ceremony.
Throughout the year, facilitating phone calls and video chats, as well as indoors window or patio visits, is a primary focus for Sunshine communities that do not allow guests.
“I think the hardest part for our residents is not seeing their families, so setting up visits and calls is a high priority for us,” says Dubay. “We are trying to always give them a one extra to make them feel special and a part of our Sunshine family.”