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It’s no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has hit senior living communities with brute force.  Families are restricted in the access to, and time with their loved ones.  Meals and Activities have adapted into small-group or individual affairs.  Some communities have lost beloved residents or staff.  That’s why so many of our members are determined to make this holiday season one to remember for residents.

So how do you throw a party, while keeping a safe distance? We caught up with Lynne Jensen, CTRS from Marquis Companies to find out what creative solutions their communities are coming up with to make the season merry and bright for all residents.  She tells us that technology has been indispensable for keeping residents connected and engaged, using social media, livestreams, virtual clubs and FaceTime.  “We provide multiple options for the residents, families, friends and their community to stay in touch” says Lynne.  There are recorded religious services, movies and tv shows to accommodate the preferences and beliefs of all residents.  Carts roll through the hallways providing snacks, activities, beverages and fun for residents in their rooms, and small group gatherings with proper distancing allow residents to socialize with each other.

Communities are decorating resident rooms and shared spaces in ways that reflect personal beliefs and traditions, and families are encouraged to drop off gifts to their loved ones, even if in-person visits are limited virtual, plexiglass, or window-visits.  “Everyone is celebrated, based on their cultural and religious beliefs” say Jensen.  To add to the merriment this year, some communities are arranging for outdoor, safely distanced carolers to serenade residents from afar (in keeping with local distancing guidelines).  Staff have dressed in costume or in theme for every holiday since Halloween to add to the festive environment.  One-on-one visits with staff members allow residents to reminisce about holidays past and share family traditions.

Engaging the residents within communities and making them part of the planning process has been key. “We ask them how they have celebrated in the past, how they would like to safely celebrate this year, making them part of the planning process.”  Being part of the “planning committee” gives residents additional engagement and generates excitement for the events to come.

And for New Year’s Eve?  Marquis communities are located primarily on the west coast, so they ring in the new year at east-coast midnight, to allow residents to keep their normal bedtimes and still whoop it up.  Jensen says they really go all-out for residents, providing: “Noise makers, hats, bubbly, snacks and of course sing the traditional: Auld Lang Syne!”

While communities innovate to celebrate this year, we can all be hopeful for more togetherness in 2021.  One day, we’ll reminisce about the year we learned to Party, Apart.