The impact of COVID-19 on senior living communities has been tremendous, especially when it comes to keeping residents engaged and connected.

Keeping residents connected and engaged with family members plays an imperative role when it comes to the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional health of your residents.  Doing so ideally without staff intervention, is that much more empowering for all involved.  Here are easy ways to stay engaged with your residents and help them connect to what matters:

Video Chat With Family and Friends

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than being separated from friends and family. Since many millions of Americans over 65 already struggle with depression, developing a way for your residents to video chat with loved ones is crucial. Being able to see the faces of those they care about most can also help lower stress, anxiety and loneliness.

Fortunately, chatting virtually is easier now than ever. Consumer software solutions, like Facetime and Zoom, allow residents to video chat with their loved ones and can be accessed on mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets. These can be challenging as they require staff time and coordination, and possible wipe downs after usage, and offer small to very small screens, potentially challenging the resident. There are also community engagement platforms that allow residents to interact with each other and their staff while in common areas.  These also require extensive coordination with family members as well as residents.

Another option is in-residence technologies that residents can access through their televisions with zero staff intervention required. These are not free like other systems, but also allow for other services to be delivered into the room, such as broadcast messages, delivery of activities and exercises on the TV, faith services, menus, community calendars, etc. With so many advances in technology, there is an opportunity to pick the option that will best serve residents and staff alike.

Create Surprise Gift Boxes

To keep your residents looking forward to something, create surprise gift boxes out of shoe boxes or paper bags. Each resident can decorate theirs to their liking and place the box or bag outside of their room. Staff, care providers, and family members can brainstorm what they would like to surprise the resident with each day and the staff can ensure the surprise is in place the night before. Some ideas include books, favorite snacks, activity books, poems, uplifting quotes, crossword puzzles and letters.

Set up a Call Panel

If your facility has the capability to set up a call panel this is a great option to connect residents with each other and staff. This is a chance to connect weekly so that staff can update residents with news and announcements while allowing residents to feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves.

Encourage Fresh Air When Possible and Safe

Social distancing poses serious threats for the elderly and can lead to higher blood pressure, higher risk in heart disease and obesity, depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s important to encourage residents to get fresh air when possible, and of course, only when safe. The benefits are boundless, but include a greater sense of vitality, sensory stimulation to decrease boredom, increased physical activity, increase in immunity, and enhanced feelings of overall well-being.

Get Creative With Contests

Everyone loves some healthy competition through some engaging contests! Contests are a fun way to keep your residents connected to something light-hearted and stimulating. Whether it’s a coloring competition or coming up with their best quarantine outfit, there are endless options.

Regardless of how you decide to keep your residents engaged and connected, Independa is here to offer a helping hand in any way possible. These times are unprecedented and trying, but together we will rise above and move forward.

For more insights, check out the webinar we did with Senior Living Foresight where we talked about using technology to engage residents, family members and teams during COVID-19.

Stay safe, stay strong and stay connected!