Dallas, Texas--Relationships matter. In a year when social distancing is imposing a sense of isolation on people of all ages, the value of community has never been more evident. Those who live at Highland Springs, the Erickson Living-managed community in North Dallas, are embracing friendships, connectedness, diversity, and new beginnings this holiday season.
"Times like this remind us how important it is to be part of a strong community," says Tom Neubauer, executive vice president of sales, marketing, and communications for Erickson Living. "Residents who have been members of our communities for some time will tell you that the best part of living on campus isn't the modern fitness center or delicious variety of dining options, it's the friendships they've developed with their neighbors and staff and the community they've built."
Betty McComas and her husband Ken are excited to explore all that Highland Springs has to offer. The couple sold their Garland home of six years and moved to Highland Springs in August 2020.
"Pre-COVID, Ken met with a group of men for lunch once a week," says Betty. "One of the men in the group lives at Highland Springs. Ken came home from lunch one day talking about Highland Springs and said, 'I think we should go check it out.' I was surprised, because I'm usually the one who initiates change."
Ken and Betty dropped by Highland Springs for an impromptu visit on a Sunday in October 2019.
"We were wowed," says Betty, a journalist who wrote for the St. Petersburg Times [now the Tampa Bay Times]. "The community was active and upbeat, and people were so friendly. We thought it was great."
The couple returned in January 2020 to have dinner with Jim Kildebeck, Ken's friend from the lunch group.
"At that point we were anticipating a move to Highland Springs in the summer of 2021," says Betty. "Then the pandemic hit, and we realized that if we became ill, our children live across the country and wouldn't be able to get to us."
The realization spurred Ken and Betty to reconsider their timeline. "We decided it was a good time to move," says Betty. "Highland Springs has all the on-site amenities we need, including a medical center and restaurants. We put our house on the market, and it sold in 24 hours."
When the pandemic swept the nation, Highland Springs' executive team took decisive action in the early weeks of the viral spread to limit the risk of resident exposure. Staff quickly put programs in place, like meal and mail delivery and concierge services, for residents. As Highland Springs implemented its phased reopening plan, residents found fresh delight in reconnecting in person once again.
"By the time we moved in August, certain activities and amenities were just starting to reopen with measures in place to ensure social distancing," says Betty. "We've found one of the best ways to meet new people is to share a meal in one of the restaurants. It's a great way to learn their stories."
It doesn't take long for cordial introductions to blossom into meaningful, supportive friendships, thanks to the built-in opportunities for socialization through Highland Springs' on-site amenities, clubs, and activities.
"I was checking my mail when I started visiting with two ladies by the mailboxes," says Betty. "They invited me to join them for girls' night that Saturday. I came home and told Ken that's the neat part of living here. People aren't sitting alone watching television. There's opportunity for community involvement."
The difference between staying at home in a single family home versus a community like Highland Springs is a strong support system. Instead of feeling fearful and isolated, Highland Springs' residents have everything they need to not only survive, but to thrive, even in challenging times. As the community continues to reengage, shared interests, both past and present, strengthen the bonds of friendship.
"We found a note on our door from friends we'd known long ago," says Betty. "They live in the apartment above ours, two stories up. I called, then went up and visited them. It was fun to reconnect."
Betty's also looking forward to making new friends through clubs and activities as they safely resume. She wants to join an art class and a writer's group.
"We're happy to be here," says Betty. "A year from now we're going to look back and be glad we made the move when we did.
Written by Sara Martin
About Highland Springs: Highland Springs, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 89-acre campus in North Dallas, Texas. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,150 residents and 520 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, Inc., who provide independent financial and operational oversight of Highland Springs. Additional information can be found at http://highlandspringscommunity.com.