Socially Distanced Garden Parties
Published on August 27, 2020
September is here, and we’re still ready to enjoy every last moment of the summer! Typically, that means enjoying many gatherings and get-togethers. Naturally, this summer is different, as everyone in Ontario is carefully navigating safe and healthy options for socializing. With some careful planning, summer garden parties are a great option to have fun with friends and family and still exercise caution. We (virtually) sat down with Dawn, Lifestyles Manager at Meadowlands – A V!VA Retirement Community, as she shared tips on having some physically- distanced summer fun.
Hi Dawn! Before we begin, tell us a bit about yourself and what you do at Meadowlands!
Hi there! I’ve been the Lifestyles Manager at Meadowlands for almost 18 years. I lead the Team there responsible for all the day-to-day activities, events, and programs that help us keep Making Today Great! here at Meadowlands for our Community Members.
Including Garden Parties?
Garden parties, too – if it’s a party at Meadowlands, our Team is likely playing a big “part” of the party.
So we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, where things like social distancing and wearing masks are key to mitigating risk of infection. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for a great party. How do you get around it?
Oh, for sure – we’ve had to navigate some interesting challenges in the ways we get together. But we don’t just “get around it”; we work with it. Like anything else, it comes down to planning and execution – in this case with added steps to make sure everyone is on the same page. For example, our Team Members are already very well trained in relevant health and safety protocols, so in this case, it’s important to communicate to our Community Members – weeks in advance – that we are having a party outdoors at this date and time, and what to expect as we implement additional protocols around the party.
Sounds like an invitation!
[laughs]] Yes, although now we remind them of our protocols, and that they should remain in their suites if they are feeling unwell. We include a list of symptoms, so they can feel assured. Normally, we don’t send out invites or ask for an RSVP, but those have been helpful in helping us manage the number of people and prepare for the party itself. It’s also helpful because the day before the party itself we send a reminder once more that it is okay to stay in your suite if you’re feeling unwell.
So right away you’re assuaging concerns for health, and safety, managed expectations, and have an idea for how many people might attend – all of which helps you prepare.
Yes. Granted we have a good deal of outdoor space here, so we can accommodate a larger number of people than if someone was having a garden party at home, but the principle is the same. Whatever the case, it’s important to know how many people are coming, so you can plan for the party itself.
Tell us a bit about that.
There’s the obvious stuff. Like masks, as well as having plenty of sanitizer on-hand (literally, and figuratively!). We section off the party area into dining areas, socializing areas, and game areas that are well away from one another – and each of those areas are also sectioned off to allow for appropriate distance between party goers.
If we’re serving snacks they are individually wrapped. Hot food and drink are each served at separate tables, each with their own server; having one person at each serving station mitigates risk.
That sounds like it could cause a lot of line ups and waiting.
It can, but we’ve already managed that expectation with the invite and communications leading up to the party. It’s also intentional – managing the flow of people is important to social distancing. With one person pouring drinks into cups and another person at another table serving food into plates, one Community Member at a time, everything is kept safe and moving along! We also place hand sanitizer at the beginning of the table and the end, too, so hands are clean from station to station. And after they get their meal, they can move over to a dining area.
Also, it doesn’t mean guests can’t expect to have fun while waiting. At each socially distant marker we often place a joke or a trivia question… It is a party after all. All the preparation is a lot of work, sure, but our Community Members are there to have fun.
Speaking of fun, you mentioned having an area for games earlier. What kind of games are good for a socially distanced garden party?
Virtually any kind of game you’d play outdoors in a backyard; we’ve played Bocci, Ladderball, and Corn Hole all with great success. We have a Team Member on hand to wipe down the equipment between turns. But surprisingly, the most successful games have been the ones with one person facilitating, everyone participating, and minimal points of contact like Pictionary, hangman– and all we need is a whiteboard and a dry erase marker!
All the preparation leads to a lot of fun!
Definitely. People know what to expect, and are able to relax and enjoy themselves.
So, you’ve given some tips for preparation before and after a socially distanced garden party… is there anything we need to know for after the party?
Clean up! The last thing anyone wants to do is pick up after a party, especially during a pandemic. We place plenty of blue bins and waste bins around for people to use when they’re done with their food and drink to help keep things as tidy as possible, with as little to clean up afterwards.
Tell us why throwing summer garden parties is important, especially during a pandemic?
Many older adults have a great sense of isolation prior to moving into a retirement community. The pandemic certainly exasperated those feelings. There is a mental health benefit to social gatherings, especially during the summer outdoors, and they really help keep spirits high. Most of our parties are themed – we recently had a Hawaiian Dress Up Party, with a costume parade. Our Community Members get right into it. There are physical health benefits, too! Sunlight provides vitamin D, which boosts immunity, and provides better sleep, which also means better overall health and wellbeing.
Wow – who knew there was so much more to a good party than just having fun. Thanks, for taking your time today, Dawn! Have fun at your next party!
To learn more about V!VA Retirement Communities and activities and programs – including parties – please contact your local V!VA location and speak with a Community Relations Manager.