Activity Professionals Week: Adapting and Overcoming
Published on January 28, 2021
Activity Professionals Week is January 24 – 30. With restrictions due to COVID-19, Lifestyles and Activity Professionals are faced with developing new and creative programming to keep Community Members safe. We asked V!VA Lifestyles Managers Karen (V!VA Barrhaven) and Michaela (Waterside) how their Teams are adapting.
Before we begin, tell us a bit about what you do!
Karen: Our job within Lifestyles is to provide meaningful and engaging programs for our Community Members to help fulfill our purpose of Making Today Great!
COVID-19 has certainly been a challenge to navigate over the past year! How do you still fulfill that purpose during a pandemic?
Michaela: For starters, we strictly follow the provincial and regional public health guidelines.
Karen: We’ve also implemented standardized physical distancing and hand sanitizing, including regularly scheduled sanitizing and disinfecting of high contact surfaces throughout the Community.
Michaela: We had to close our pool which was unfortunate for a lot people who rely on it for arthritis relief. While there is nothing like the benefits of a heated saltwater pool for mobility and strength for Community Members with arthritis, we are seeing an increase in the use of our senior-friendly cardio equipment in the V!VAfit Studio, such as our treadmill and Nu-Step.
What about group fitness?
Michaela: We’ve reduced the V!VAfit programs to four days a week, with only 9 people allowed plus an instructor. We’ve doubled the physical distance to 12 feet apart. Ironically, the engagement of our fitness space and programs at Waterside is being used now more than ever. With increased 1:1 training, we have new Community Members rotate through after each wipe-down. We’re seeing Community Members who never used the gym before participating in these programs or sign up for 1:1 training.
Karen: We’ve seen the same thing at V!VA Barrhaven. When our V!VAfit Studio was closed, we transitioned to hallway exercise on each floor, where a Lifestyles Team Member would go through a workout routine with Community Members who could participate by sitting or standing in the doorway of their suites. It increased engagement in fitness programs and that engagement has maintained since the gym opened once more.
Funny, it sounds like the Community has come together while being forced to stay apart.
Karen: Definitely. Cognitive, social and emotional needs still need to be met, and addressing social isolation is certainly a priority. We wanted to continue to promote one of the benefits of large group programming which is a ‘sense of Community’, therefore we needed to be innovative.
Are there examples of that beyond fitness?
Michaela: When the pandemic first started, and capacity in our amenities reduced or closed altogether, we had sign-up sheets for activities we’d planned to ensure we abided by our safety guidelines on distancing. The activities kept filling up, so we quickly pivoted to activities that now encompass the entire Community.
How did you manage that if capacities were limited?
Michaela: The same way Karen brought group fitness to the doorway of each suite, we replaced many of our themed dinner nights or socials with themed carts that would go door-to-door dropping off dinners, playing music, offering games and fun. A great example is our celebration of National Popcorn Day. Team Members worked hard to prepare and deliver over 200 bags of different kinds of popcorn to Community Members in their suites, who then had to vote on which one they liked the best. It was a wild success – fun and safe. We knew we were on the right track.
Karen: We also took advantage of the Community building itself through scavenger hunts, which have become very popular, and is a great way for our Community Members to get moving while staying safe.
What about families or friends? How have Lifestyles Teams at V!VA adapted to include them?
Karen: Nothing will ever replace a warm touch, but circumstances being what they are, the pandemic has propelled us deep into the world of technology which has certainly has helped maintain and, in some cases, increase our connectivity – especially with video-chat software like Zoom, and FaceTime. Our in-house TV channel, which is used to provide up-to-date information, is now also used for in-suite exercise programs and games! We also take advantage of online virtual tours and sightseeing; traveling across the world!
That sounds fun! Are Community Members able to get outside?
Karen: Yes! While excursions and day trips stopped for a while, going on walks on the Community’s walking paths, or around the neighborhood are slowly ramping up. We’re also providing trips aboard our shuttle bus with fewer people at a time.
How does riding on a bus work with distancing measures?
Michaela: The buses are made to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers, so there is extra space. We also sit in staggered positions, in every other seat – and always with masks.
Anything final thoughts to add?
Michaela: All of these changes have only been possible to accomplish thanks to the entire Team. To see both Team Members and Community Members, who would otherwise not have had the opportunity, rise up in the midst of these challenges and prove themselves to be compassionate, kind and caring leaders has been incredible.
Karen: That goes for all V!VA Retirement Communities. Pandemic or not, there is always major cross-team communication across our own Community Teams, and all V!VA Retirement Communities Lifestyles Managers and Team Members, to exchange and develop creative ideas, have more meaningful communications, and give each other personal support.
Thank you both for your time!