Strategic Connections to Build Community: Within and Beyond

June 17, 2024

Many studies have shown that interpersonal relationships and everyday social interaction significantly impact life expectancy and overall health. Senior Living Communities are expected to offer high-quality programming and environments that enhance the social well-being of their residents. What better way to promote wellness programming on your campus than by integrating organic social opportunities with the surrounding community that are easily accessible?

Rhonda Glyman, Executive Director of Assisted Living from Hebrew Senior Living's NewBridge on the Charles, and Nickie Doria, Sales and Marketing Director from Oak Hammock at the University of Florida, shared their insights during By Design 2024 on how they are implementing these programs in their communities. They also discussed how these initiatives are benefiting their residents and positively impacting their communities.

Start by Creating a Sense of Community:  

To Newbridge, community means two things: the group of people you live with, work, and share experiences with, and the physical location you inhabit. A poll conducted during the session revealed that an overwhelming majority (77%) considered a strong sense of community for their residents to be extremely important. This highlights the significance of creating environments where residents feel connected and supported.

At Oak Hammock, their partnership with the University of Florida allows them to fulfill a promise of satisfying intellectual curiosity and promotes a lifestyle of lifelong learning. Additionally, their affiliation with the University’s Health Center is essential in creating a sense of community by addressing health concerns among residents. By offering resources and information, they were able to alleviate fears, promote well-being, and build trust in the community.

Consider Adding Intergenerational Programming:  

59% of attendees reported promoting intergenerational programming on their campuses, but what can that look like?

At Newbridge, the vision of a multi-generational campus is supported by including educational programs for students as one of their programming objectives. An example of this is their partnership with a local school, where staff members, residents, families, and students collaborate to create programs that facilitate weekly interactions between students and the residents. The students were trained to work with dementia residents in memory support for long-term care and assisted living. The residents were given the opportunity to choose the programming and events they wanted to participate in. This interaction provided seniors with purpose and companionship, while students gained valuable insights and life lessons.

Residents at Oak Hammock are involved with the Gainesville Art Association, working together to judge shows by artists of all ages. Additionally, residents are engaged in mentoring, reading programs, tutoring, and are responsible for creating and leading these programs. One such program, developed by the residents, is a scholarship program to support the higher education of staff members. The residents wanted to show their appreciation for the staff’s hard work and created a scholarship fund they donated to and awarded. Last year, $42,000 in scholarships and rewards were provided to deserving recipients. Organizing, collecting, and awarding these scholarships helps foster a sense of fulfillment and gratitude among residents with the staff members. Due to the resident community's leadership, these programs are self-sustaining and continue to thrive.

Partnerships with External Organizations can Lead to Unique Opportunities:  

During the session, attendees discussed how partnering with external organizations such as schools, universities, clinics, museums, and libraries has resulted in the establishment of resident programming. These partnerships not only enrich the lives of residents but also contribute to the broader community.

One notable partnership highlighted was Hebrew Senior Life’s affiliation with Harvard. Harvard provides access to top teaching hospitals and academic centers and is home to the only long-term chronic care teaching hospital in the United States. This collaboration enables knowledge exchange and training opportunities for healthcare professionals, further enhancing the quality of care provided to Newbridge residents.

Oak Hammock’s partnership with the University of Florida has resulted in pharmacy students engaging residents by teaching them how to properly dispose of expired medications. The university library gives the residents access to their facilities to encourage lifelong learning. The proximity also makes it easier for student groups to organize performances for residents or volunteer their time with them.

At the end of the session, it was clear that building strong communities within senior living facilities is crucial. This can be achieved through transparency, engaging with different generations, showing appreciation for employees, and forming strategic partnerships with external organizations. By creating meaningful connections and collaborations, senior living communities can establish environments where residents can thrive and receive support in all aspects of their lives. Removing barriers and misconceptions about what senior living facilities offer, and inviting the outside community in, can be a successful marketing strategy. This approach can help reduce social isolation and increase profits simultaneously.

More sessions and topics like this one can be discovered during By Design 2025 on February 4-6th at Hotel Roanoke. To stay informed and get emails with By Design updates, please sign up for the newsletter here:

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