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The peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and parts of 2021 were challenging for many reasons. On top of the health anxiety that many were facing, people – especially those living in senior communities – missed socializing and interacting with one another.

Teresa Gregg, corporate director of life enrichment for Danbury Senior Living in Broadview Heights, and Diane Strunak, regional senior living counselor for Beachwood Commons, said their communities have been hosting activities for residents while keeping a safe and healthy environment.

Gregg credits the life enrichment directors and the entire staff at Danbury for working with residents and engaging them during these times.

“I thought we had done a lot over the past two years as precautions had changed from week to week, sometimes maybe even day to day,” Gregg said. “So I think the ability of staff and their willingness to wear a variety of hats has been so important during this time.”

Of course, these communities have had to adapt over time when it comes to activities and programming. Strunak said the residents at Beachwood Commons are fully vaccinated. Beachwood Commons also offers hand sanitizer in all spaces, and limits the amount of people that can ride in a van during outings.

“Right now, the cases are pretty high in Cuyahoga County,” Strunak said. “So rather than going out to lunch, we’re ordering lunch in. But up until probably Thanksgiving, we were going on outings. We have entertainers still coming in as long as they’re fully vaccinated and they have to provide verification.”

Danbury has partnered with Ohio Hospice to bring pastoral care services to residents for spiritual support. It also has exercise classes, offered both for small and large groups, as well as “purpose driven programs” that strive to give back to the community.

“I think that was so important for our residents,” Gregg said. “We have learned the impact of socialization on our residents and staff, just as human beings. I think it is so important, and we’ve learned the importance of giving back to our communities. We’ve done that in ways such as making dog treats for the local shelter. Some of them have done pet supply drives and given back to the local dog shelters.”

Gregg said the bottom line for Danbury is to focus efforts on providing meaningful, purpose driven activities.

“Now that we can gather a little bit more, the smiles are bigger and the conversation is much greater,” Gregg said. “I love that we are kind of opening those doors a little bit more and seeing some activities where we’re really supporting one another. Our residents are quite social. We’re just social beings and meant to be around people.”

Beachwood Commons has bingo games twice a week, which Strunak said is a popular activity. Residents who win prize bingo nights will win them “Beachwood bucks,” which is essentially fake money that residents can use at the Beachwood Commons store and buy things such as bottles of wine, chocolates or stationery.

Strunak said these programs and activities are important for the well-being of residents.

“It keeps our minds sharp, the cognitive stimulation, the socialization and interacting with one another,” Strunak said. “We’ve always taken a holistic approach to providing a healthy environment for our residents. And community living is very much a part of that – being together with other seniors and just enjoying the things we enjoy.”

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