As summer rolls in, things around us are opening up, and our attention is pulled to all the things that the moment calls us to address, the energy around us is changing.
On campus, weariness to move forward is certainly part of it, but excitement too. We want to be together again, which is the best part about communal living. While senior living communities are last or Phase 4 of any State or Federal ‘re-opening’ rollout, we continue current required restrictions and protocols even as our local areas step slowly forward and back through State and County ordinances.
We have, however, began internal re-openings wherever the local Health Departments have allowed and where community teams have completed all the behind the scenes preparations. Some of our communities have re-opened their Vitality Centers (gyms), adopting rather extensive Generations requirements in their operations, many of which were adopted from feedback of meetings with communities’ Resident Councils, including screening, reservations, and arrangements to ensure physical distancing and infection control. Where there is a way to make these spaces healthy and safe. Additionally, Vitality teams continue to work hard to bring recreation and meaningful activities to our people and are ready to engage residents at each phase of re-opening. We are invigorated by even the smallest lifting of local restrictions and celebrations have been fueled by sunshine and fresh air, such as some campus parades to celebrate milestone birthdays and graduations and musicians, singers, and circus performers have brought their talents to our courtyards and walking paths to fill the afternoons with music and silliness.
Some of our communities are re-opening their Salons, working closely with vendors on their commitments to be our campus/client-exclusive and COVID-response strategies, including getting tested, adoption of Generations and Health Department guidelines, and arrangements for staggered appointments, physical distancing, PPE, infection control measures, breaks between clients for airing out and disinfection, and screening residents.
Our Sales teams have embraced comprehensive direction on when and how move-ins might be allowed and are working with Executive Directors and those future residents, families and physicians on the myriad of precautions and requirements involved. (We are a little proud of the fact that even during the challenges of the pandemic, people are anxious and excited to join the family.)
Perhaps most anticipated, our dining rooms are phasing back service. It would be hard to judge who is most excited for this, but our Culinary teams have expressed being thrilled to see their resident friends again, as they spruce up the spaces, prepare new table menus, work through any regional food vendor limitations, re-work traffic flow and add seating hostesses (who in IL will also have resident screening duties), re-organize and limit headcounts with reservations for staggered seatings with disinfection periods between, remove all table pre-set and shared or self-serve items, and review details of all current and enhanced infection control measures related to culinary services. We are very proud of Culinary teams and their leaders for the tremendous work that has gone into this effort.
But the energy changing is not merely internal. As a company we know how many of our people are directly affected by personal life experiences and experiences of loved ones that protesters around the country are speaking to. I loved hearing our Human Resources Directors recently discuss our dedication to a culture for employees and residents that is inclusive of the mind, body, spirit, gender, ethnicity, race, generation, culture, sexual orientation, and any other way that someone is an individual and person. We treasure a culture of inclusion and appreciate the millions of individual efforts required to maintain and foster it. Thank you for not standing by when you hear an inappropriate joke or term. Thank you for having constructive conversations, even when they are difficult.
But being inclusive and “not racist” is not enough for America to heal. I believe it is important, especially for those of us with any degree of removal, to learn more about racial inequality. It is not the job of those who are experiencing pain to teach us; the responsibility for growth is always a personal one. If this resonates with you and you are looking to further understanding, some suggestions I have come across include taking up topic-focused reading material (such as How to Be an Antiracist, White Fragility, or So You Want To Talk About Race), following more broad or diverse people on social media, and watching celebrated films that bring to life the historical background (such as Just Mercy, Selma, and 13th).
Lastly, the energy around us is changing as we look to summer. This is a season light and our human selves cannot help but respond to it. I hope you make time to take a walk outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine on your shoulders – and feel the energy warm your heart with all the things we have to look forward to in days to come.
Thank you for standing with us.
All my best,
Melody Gabriel, CEO