Every Saturday at 7 p.m., Nancy Sherwin and her neighbors at Judson Park step into the hallway to “holler” — and then they meander toward the elevator, where there is a cozy lounge with sofas so they can catch up for an hour.
The tradition started amid the pandemic as a way for community members to socialize from a distance. But Hallway Holler was such a hit, the concept stuck, and residents took the activity into their own hands.
“We got tired of standing in the hallway, so we decided, why don’t we move this to the lobby on our floor?” Sherwin relates.
“We talk about odds and ends, our personal lives, what’s going on at Judson,” she says. “The majority of Hallway Hollers, we get most people from the 10th floor to join us.”
Another pandemic adaptation that was so well-received it’s now “a regular” is bingo. “I’m the caller,” Sherwin says, adding that her boisterous voice is probably why. Her enthusiasm has recruited many residents to join the game.
Judson Park independent living residents previously didn’t have organized bingo, although the activity was typically on the docket at Judson Manor.
“They were looking for something to do at their doorways and had volunteers to call bingo,” says Kristina Webber, community life programming and transportation director. “They’d sit with their TV trays, and I would distribute paper bingo sheets. I’d put candy bars in the mailboxes of whomever won.”
Now, bingo continues at the building’s common area. “It keeps growing,” Webber says.
Growing community is exactly what happened during the pandemic and has resulted in new ways of delivering activities and experiences — some of which have become the New Normal.
“Residents really stepped up and got involved,” Webber says. “They wanted to stay active.”
At Kingston Residence of Vermilion, admissions team member Kristi Foss says, “We were always very close, but during the pandemic we had to bridge the gap with families not being able to be there.”
Even the little things have become part of community culture that residents want to keep. “Our dining service manager still clocks out for the day and then sits down and has coffee with the ladies because he knows how important it is,” Foss says.
Some residents simply aren’t into the large-group social thing. They’d rather pass on meeting in a common room for bingo or art or happy hour. But with the pandemic, communities like Eliza Jennings began individualizing activities — bringing experiences to residents’ doors.
For holidays, staff dressed up and delivered goodies. Residents could see each other up and down the hallway and chat with neighbors if they chose.
“You don’t have to leave your room to participate,” says Sheryl Sereda, vice president and chief advancement officer. “This idea that we can socialize and entertain individually and collectively has been a real treat.”
The together-but-separate events continue. “For opening day, staff will dress up and residents can wear something baseball and we’ll deliver Cracker Jacks,” Sereda says. At Halloween, staff dressed in costumes and walked the hallways with a candy cart. “Residents can come to their doorways and see others and be part of a collective social activity.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of people who say, ‘Well, Zoom really saved the day,’” Sherwin says. She agrees and loves the option to attend board meetings and not drive — and especially the way she can keep in touch with family in California.
“I’ve seen more of my family and my two youngest grandchildren since the pandemic,” Sherwin says. Their last in-person visit was several years ago. “The little kids show me pictures they’ve drawn and things they make. They show me their pictures.”
Eliza Jennings also helped residents set up Zoom or FaceTime sessions with their families and friends. “They could see new babies, talk to their grandkids and keep in touch with family living out of state,” Sereda says. “Those things we recognize we can replicate whether there is a pandemic or not.”
When group activities halted at the pandemic’s onset, Jennings at Brecksville recorded exercise classes and activities to broadcast on the campus closed-circuit cable channel.
“Residents wanted to stay physically active,” says Sarah Barger, executive director. “Even though we now meet in person, we have kept playing those classes because some residents enjoy participating privately or adding additional fitness times into their day.”
Judson Park moved its wellness and exercise classes to the auditorium, where there is more room to spread out. Turns out, the larger location vs. the exercise studio attracted more residents to join. “Now, I get a lot of feedback if I put a program in the auditorium and exercise doesn’t take place there,” Webber says.
Video chats with the Garfield Heights mayor to find out what’s new in the city and connecting with students in Africa are some of the lively, interactive alternatives Jennings maintains as part of its programming.
“We have accessed a variety of classes for painting and projects that residents create, and our IN2L (It’s Never Too Late) system also has individualized activities and programs,” says Danielle Paluscak, director of life enrichment at Jennings’ Garfield Heights campus. “Residents quickly grew more accustomed to using and enjoying technology.”
Judson assured Cleveland Orchestra subscribers that they could still access concerts. The orchestra gave Judson access to its Adella Live platform.
“We show the concerts on a large screen,” Webber says. “Some of our residents can’t go to Severance Hall physically, and a lot of them now opt to stay here and watch it.”
Because Adella Live shows concerts after they occur, some Judson subscribers go in person and watch performances again on the screen.
YouTube grew a following at Kingston of Vermilion. “Our residents were very interested in bird watching and the live cameras at different zoos,” says Kristi Foss, part of the admissions team. Now that residents have grown used to accessing live cams and videos, they incorporate it into activities. “They’ll play bingo and then enjoy birdwatching.”
Fun and Games
Thinking beyond bingo, Kingston started holding indoor cornhole tournaments — and still does. “It’s easy to social distance, too,” she says.
Judson Park moved art from a studio to the floors, with their art therapy students in residence leading weekly classes. The accessibility attracted more community members to participate, so this format continues.
“We’ve always had great art program attendance, but now that it is more one on one, we are finding that people who didn’t do art before are getting involved,” Webber says.
And as for entertainment, residents also stepped up. With buildings closed to outside guests until recently, regular in-person music performances stopped. One resident who is an art therapist now plays piano four days a week on two units.
Planning something to look forward to became more of a priority, too. At Kingston Residence of Vermilion, first Fridays became pizza lunch party days. Webber says, “We ordered pizza for residents and staff, and we enjoyed it together — something we’ll definitely continue.”