Peabody, MA -- As the last few pages roll off the 2020 calendar, there's no doubt this holiday season looks a little different than in years past. At Brooksby Village, an Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Peabody, Mass, residents and staff have worked together to navigate a year of unexpected circumstances.
Here are the top five takeaways from 2020.
1. Creativity rules the day. Staring down an extended time at home, residents and staff at Brooksby Village got creative. Roles changed, workspaces were reimagined, and people found new ways to connect. The on-site television studio leapt to a new level of importance. Brooksby Village TV, which airs on channels 918 and 919 and is available in all apartment homes on campus, offers closed circuit programming to support communication and engagement across the community. "Our television studio has been an invaluable asset throughout the COVID-19 response at Brooksby Village," says Executive Director Tracie Bettano. Fitness staff recorded workout videos for residents to stay active in their apartments. Resident life staff created trivia contests and craft videos. The pastoral ministries team produced virtual worship services. Residents also hit the airwaves, producing new television content from their apartments and connecting virtually via Webex and Zoom.
2. There's always a reason to celebrate. Brooksby Village's Student Scholars program is one of the community's most enduring philanthropic efforts. Each year, the Philanthropy Committee awards scholarships to eligible graduating high school seniors employed in dining services and in Brooksby Village's on-site continuing care neighborhood. This year, student scholars were an integral part of the COVID-19 response at Brooksby Village as they helped prepare and deliver meals to the community's nearly 1,800 residents. "I couldn't be prouder of [our student scholars]," says Ron Sullivan, general manager at the Overlook Restaurant. "They've gone through a lot in their senior year due to the pandemic, and now college might look a little different than they expected." Thanks to the generosity of Brooksby Village's residents, the Philanthropy Committee awarded scholarships to 55 students this year. Each scholarship is worth $10,000, paid directly to the student's institution of higher learning. The funds are distributed over the course of the student's academic career, with installments paid each semester. "We're used to celebrating special moments in person," says Brooksby Village's Philanthropy Manager Maureen Jerz. "This year, we had to ask ourselves how we could capture those moments and celebrate them in a new and different way." In lieu of a ceremony, student scholars recorded messages of thanks and appreciation for the residents, crediting their work experience at Brooksby Village for developing their communication skills, their ability to work effectively under pressure, and for building resiliency in the face of challenges. Scholars were also celebrated during the community's socially distanced Fourth of July parade, with award certificates handed out during an informal gathering as the parade ended.
3. Self-care matters. When life turned upside down, it was unsettling for many. Self-care played an important role in maintaining equilibrium. The resources at Brooksby Village proved vital during a challenging season. "I want to make sure you're all feeling healthy, staying safe, and keeping yourself strong," said Fitness Specialist Sharon Graves, before leading residents in a 30-minute workout program that aired on Channel 919, Moving in Your Own Space. The Pastoral Ministries team also created opportunities for residents, moving their staff-led activities outside during the pleasant summer months, including a drum circle, guided meditation, the Rosary, tai chi, and interfaith prayer. "I had an opportunity to observe the outdoor drum circle, and I was reminded how soothing rhythmical drumming can be," says Bettano.
4. Communication is key. As in any crisis situation, communication is key. And Brooksby Village's communication with residents and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic made the most of channels already in place. Channel 919 aired regular updates and information from Bettano, Associate Executive Director Justin Paradis, and department managers. "The extraordinary efforts, connections, and communication between Tracie Bettano, the staff, and residents have been an unquestionable success," says Joan Santeusanio, chair of the Resident Advisory Council. The My Erickson app also proved to be a valuable tool, giving community members an at-their-fingertips option to pull up the latest news, activities, and updates from around the community. Available for download from iTunes and Google Play, residents can access the free app on mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or personal computers. Erickson Living's social media channels were another place to engage with one another, sharing information and words of encouragement. "Brooksby Village has always been a great place to live, but the Brooksby Village staff has really stepped up to the plate to ensure that Brooksby Village residents are safe and well during the COVID-19 crisis," resident John Evans wrote on the Brooksby Village Facebook page.
5. Continuous improvement creates strong communities. As one of 20 Erickson Living-managed campuses across the nation, Brooksby Village benefits from being part of an enterprise that's built on innovative best practices. This year, the Resident Advisory Council reorganized into seven committees, including the newly formed Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility Committee. "Our goal is to ensure and expand our atmosphere for civil dialogue, learning, and growth," says Judy Selesnick, co-chair of the Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Responsibility Committee. The committee plans to develop and expand additional social responsibility activities within the local community, whether it's with food banks, social services, children's activities, or community events. "Our purpose is to enhance the lives of seniors within, as well as beyond, our Brooksby Village community," says Selesnick.
Photo: Rev. Chad Kidd, left, pastoral ministries manager, and Rev. Marcus Lisle lead a drum circle with safe social distancing measures at Brooksby Village.
About Brooksby Village: Brooksby Village is one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living® and is situated on a scenic 90-acre campus in Peabody, Massachusetts. The not-for-profit community, located in Essex County, is home to 1,700 residents and is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community. Additional information about Brooksby Village can be found at BrooksbyVillage.com.
Written by Sara Martin