Charlestown TV Studio

Staying informed and connected at Charlestown

In-house TV station plays vital role for residents during unprecedented times

Catonsville, Md. – July 1, 2020 – It’s unique for a retirement community to have its own in-house television station. It’s even more unique that the community’s residents make up the on-air and technical crews. But Charlestown, a continuing care retirement community managed by Erickson Living, isn’t your typical retirement community; and Channel 972 isn’t your typical TV station.

For almost four decades, Channel 972 has served as an outlet to inform and entertain residents of the scenic 110-acre campus. And most recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the station has played a vital role in the community’s response plan, serving as a primary communication tool to keep residents and staff fully informed on COVID-19 preparedness measures, and providing engagement opportunities for residents to stay connected to community life.

“Even in difficult circumstances, we recognize that maintaining the trust of those who live and work at Charlestown is paramount,” said Charlestown Executive Director Clara Parker. “By leveraging the full scope of our television production capabilities, as well as with other valued methods of communications, we achieved this goal by sharing information that residents and staff desired and have expectations of receiving.”   

Timely, accurate and engaging

Charlestown has continued to prioritize timely and accurate information sharing, especially when it comes to details about the community’s preparedness and response to coronavirus.

“Normally, community leadership addressed the residents via TV about once a week,” said Station Manager Tom Moore. “Once COVID-19 happened, it shifted. Leadership appeared on television daily to provide live community updates which were also recorded for later viewing. We also ran public service announcements on topics like how to properly wear a mask.”

Since its inception in 1983, resident volunteers have played an indispensable part of the station’s success, both in front and behind the camera, hosting television programs, developing show content, operating cameras, inputting data for the community’s electronic bulletin board, editing, and dressing the set. However, during the height of the pandemic, as these valuable volunteers practiced social distancing in their apartment homes, Tom and his team used the opportunity to keep the residents connected.

“It was probably the biggest rating boost we ever had,” noted Moore. “Suddenly everyone was watching because they wanted to stay connected and informed about what was going on. We put out a call to residents to send us their photos and videos of what they were doing during the pandemic and created interactive programming on topics such as fitness, education, trivia call-in shows, spirituality/faith, as well as arts and crafts, contests, and movies.

Must-see TV

Dawn and John Strumsky are loyal Channel 972 viewers who began volunteering at the station in 2011, shortly after moving to Charlestown from Millersville, Md. The Strumskys are among more than 50 volunteers who work with three full-time staff members, including Moore, who help residents create original programming.

“Some people, first thing in the morning, wake up and turn on the local news. I used to be one of those people, but now I turn on Channel 972 for the community news,” says Dawn. “It's actually become a habit for me to check for important updates. We always recorded the daily news and shows presented on 972 and then looked at them at our leisure, but during the pandemic, I needed to know what was happening before I started my day.”

Getting creative

In addition to keeping residents informed with the latest updates, Moore and his team have continued to engage and entertain with unique, creative programming. From fitness classes presented by Charlestown’s own professional trainers to help residents maintain their physical health to daily devotionals that provide spiritual connection, the schedule is filled with content to help support residents’ overall health and well-being.

For fun ways to stay sharp, there’s Johnny’s Jukebox, a daily name-that-tune game show, and “Friends of the Archives” trivia.

To stay socially connected, each Friday at 5:30 p.m., Resident Life Director Sherry Parrish hosts a Virtual Happy Hour, inviting residents to grab a drink and tune in while she sits down (at a safe social distance) with a different special guest.

Jeff Watson, Erickson Living’s Director of Operations, commends the broadcast professionals and resident volunteers at Charlestown for the ‘creative and high-quality programming’ established throughout the pandemic.

“Their innovative and hard work has resulted in a heightened level of communications that has kept those on campus connected, engaged, and healthy,” says Watson.

The proof may be in the pudding. Parker says feedback from Charlestown residents throughout the pandemic has been extremely positive.

“It has been amazing and impressive to see everyone come together as one community working towards one goal: keeping our community safe,” said Parker. “So many residents have told me they have felt safe, secure, and are appreciative of what the staff has done to keep them fully informed and engaged during a unique time. We are all learning to live together in different ways and the great thing is that we are learning more about each other every day.”

About Charlestown: Charlestown, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 110-acre campus in Catonsville, Maryland. The community is located in Baltimore County and is home to more than 2,000 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,200 employees. Additional information about Charlestown can be found at CharlestownCommunity.com.

Photo Caption: Charlestown employees record an update for residents in the community’s busy television studio, which produces innovative and informative programming to air on Channel 972. The closed-circuit station was a critical communication tool for Charlestown during its response to coronavirus, and helped to keep residents engaged and connected to community life throughout the pandemic.

Photo courtesy of Charlestown

Story written by Danielle Rexrode