Activity Ideas for Residents That Maintain Social Distancing

Jennifer Werdel, director of marketing and communications, Rose Villa

Jennifer Werdel, director of marketing and communications, Rose Villa

With COVID-19 requiring that residents in senior living facilities maintain social distancing, facilities have to re-think and restructure many of the activities that they have designed for residents. Social isolation can be stressful and lonely, so the more creative ways that facilities can find to keep seniors safely involved, the better.

Creating Fun and Connections While Social Distancing

Rose Villa, a continuing care retirement community in Portland, Oregon, got creative when designing activities to keep residents connected and having fun. One of those activities is a resident-run “Today Show.” This show features musical performances, interviews with residents, and information about new technology that residents can use for learning while social distancing. The show is delivered by Zoom video conferencing.

Residents also enjoy front porch happy hours. Residents are encouraged to sit on their front porch while enjoying a beverage each day, or to take a walk through the campus. This resident-driven happy hour provides a valuable opportunity for residents to socialize while still maintaining a safe distance.

Social distancing has also seen a change to Rose Villa’s monthly Resident Forum. Normally, this forum is a one-hour in-person engagement where the facility shares news and information, kudos, and updates with the community. “During COVID-19, we had to find nimble and creative ways to connect, especially as the appetite for information is exponentially greater now,” explains Wellness Director Rene Swar. “The weekly Q&A is now delivered via a live, private YouTube channel. Residents can ask questions of various senior leaders in real time.”

Sharing Information and Updates

Rose Villa took things one step further when implementing these social distancing activities and changes: The facility created a #TogetherAtRoseVilla social media campaign. Jennifer Werdel, Director of Marketing and Communications, explains that the goal behind the campaign was to share Rose Villa’s response to COVID-19 in a way that showcased the resilience and adaptability of the community, as well as the creative efforts at keeping the residents and staff safe, healthy, and home. “The goal of the campaign was to continue to spotlight all the ways we are still together, even as we are physically apart, providing comfort and sharing stories from Rose Villa to people who might otherwise feel isolated.”

The campaign spotlights the creative ways that Rose Villa has shifted its operations since the stay home mandate was enacted. “Because residents are encouraged to stay home at all times (except for walking around our 22-acre campus), and maintain a minimum six-foot distance, we sent one of our onsite staff members to gather messages of hope and inspiration from them during one of their 4 pm WalkAbouts/Porch Happy Hours. We provided sanitized pens and paper for them to write their messages and then shared those pictures to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels,” says Werdel.

“When a local tulip farm offered to donate a bouquet to every single one of our 220 homes, we filmed our staff delivering the flowers and capturing resident feedback via video and photos,” Werdel explains. That post reached four times as many people as any previous posts. Additionally, staff members including reception and food and beverage staff, as well as the Executive Director and Wellness Director have shared positive messages about how everyone is working together.

The campaign has been hugely successful. The campaign’s content includes the highest-performing posts that the facility has had to date. According to Werdel, “family members of residents have posted their thanks to our dedicated staff for taking such good care of their loved ones. Residents have shared the content to their own feed, and we’re seeing higher than ever comments and likes.”

Additional Activity Ideas

Rose Villa’s story is just one example of ways that facilities can pivot their programs and activities to maintain social distancing. Additional social distancing-approved activity ideas include:

  • Movie nights where residents simultaneously watch the same movie on TV in their own rooms, then can discuss the movie over video chat or phone
  • Hallway Bingo/ice cream socials/meals that give residents a feeling of community
  • Facilitate window visits with friends and family, pet therapy, concerts, and other visitors
  • Facilitate video calls with family and other residents
  • Hold a block party with music and special foods for residents to enjoy from their porches
  • Help residents to access church services or prayer groups through video chat

Putting extra effort into new and creative activities can help to assuage residents’ fears and loneliness and establish a sense of normalcy for both residents and staff.

Topics: Activities , Departments , Featured Articles , Resident Care