Alex Markowits

Alex Markowits, President & CEO at Spring Hills Senior Communities, Discusses Expansion Program.

Alex Markowits is no stranger to providing quality care, in fact he says it “was ingrained in his DNA.” He grew up surrounded by a family that was focused on helping others and giving to vulnerable populations. After college, he became a licensed nursing home administrator and he worked with turn-around specialists who would go in and improve nursing homes that weren’t being run properly. In 2000, Markowits and his family had a unique opportunity to raise money and save a community that was going to have to close, saving all of the employees jobs with it, and turn it into assisted living. Fast forward to now, and Markowits is continuing to aspire and create programs that contribute to the highest level of care with Spring Hills Population Health System.

Spring Hills Population Health includes the design, delivery, coordination, and payment for high-quality health care services using the best resources available, including accountable care organizations (ACOs), risk stratification methods, patient registries, and patient-centered medical home and other models of team-based care. Markowits says, “there is a big push to improve efficiency and outcomes while providing patient centered care. We believe that quality of life is just as important as quality of care.”

Though the last year has been challenging in senior living, Markowits believes it has allowed the industry to focus on critical changes that need to be made and allowed powerful ideas and initiatives to come to fruition. He says, “everything needs to align in order to provide and create transformational change.” Spring Hills intends to grow the program by engaging data consultants and partnering with health systems and payers, care specialists, and social service providers. Its team will leverage technologies that streamline communications and care provision to provide comprehensive population health services to patients enrolled in the program.

Aside from their population health plans, Spring Hills is eager to focus on building new communities and bringing existing communities into the future. At Spring Hills, “we believe the most precious thing that you can’t buy, is time, if we are able to give you the best quality of life and care, we are giving you time,” says Markowits. He and his team are leading by example, encouraging residents, staff, and the public to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations. Their pharmacy partnership has allowed easy access to vaccinations for all of their residents and Spring Hills has put focus on providing answers and assurance for people who may have questions or feel uncertain. One of Spring Hills main goals moving forward is to combat the isolation COVID-19 brought on by utilizing technology and cultivating meaningful engagement.

Markowits is enthusiastic about the future of Spring Hills and their Population Health Management Program and hopes that it helps to fix a healthcare system that is broken. While currently focused on building programs in New Jersey, Spring Hills intends to scale its population health management program to support the provision of health care across the organization’s care continuum. They are always continuing to look at evolving and groundbreaking opportunities to put into practice within their communities.

 

Appanage "The Grand" Bedroom

Introducing Appanage: A Modern, Wellness-Oriented Living Model Designed to Transform the Aging Experience for Baby Boomers

Appanage co-founders Eliot Listman and Daniel Stern have created a membership-based model that offers baby boomers access to private, intergenerational, turn-key living experiences. Listman and Stern aim to cater to the 10,000 people a day turning 65 in the US, and provide them with a wellness focused luxury lifestyle. Listman says, “our intergenerational living approach enables a sense of community and creates an organic sense of vibrancy within our residences.”

“Today’s senior living options do not address the personal wellness needs and preferences of the aging baby boomer population – whether they are 55 years old and downsizing or 85 and wanting to avoid institutional housing. I have personally seen family and friends struggle to find the right living solution to enjoy what ought to be their best years. This is what brought us to launch Appanage. Appanage is a modern and aspirational approach to aging well, living longer and better, and effectively transforming the living and lifestyle needs of baby boomers,” said Daniel Stern, co-founder of Appanage and senior housing industry expert.

A unique feature for baby-boomers who like to travel or be on the go, is that Appanage allows members to split their time between different residences. As they continue to create living spaces in New York, Los Angeles, Florida, Chicago, and Boston, members have the opportunity to travel between residences and personalize their aging experience. The first collection of residences are currently move in ready at The Grand at Sky View Park in Queens, NY, and at Popham Hall in Scarsdale, NY.

Residents can expect an engaging, wellness centered lifestyle within their Appanage community. They offer an activity schedule from 8am-8pm every day, where residents can choose to participate in programs that interest them. They have relationships with nearby restaurants to provide a different dining experience, or they encourage residents to dine together in their residences. Appanage communities are equipped with gym facilities, yoga studios, and other wellness opportunities.  Stern says, “as we continue negotiations in Manhattan, we aim to choose buildings based on design, ecosystem, and what amenities they have to offer.”

Appanage has their own team of wellness experts who are trained in their specific program, these experts are there to check in with the residents on a regular basis, and assure their holistic needs and care are being met. It is extremely important to Stern and Listman to make sure families and loved ones know that someone is caring for their resident and they have the support and services that they need. Listman says, “wellness is proactive, healthcare is reactive.” Which is why Appanage focuses on creating programing that stimulates physical, mental, and holistic wellness. They encourage their residents to create meaningful relationships with people who have similar passions or interests to them across multiple generations.

Listman and Stern hope that Appanage meets the baby boomer generation where they are when they are ready to make a change. Their unique approach to living and wellness aims to attract older adults who aren’t quite yet ready for a traditional senior living experience. Appanage is eager to grow and offer residents a personalized, holistic, and multigenerational lifestyle.

Senior Living Operators Begin to Make COVID-19 Vaccines Mandatory for Staff

As vaccination rates increase and senior living restriction begin to decrease, many operators across the country are coming out with mandates for their staff to be vaccinated. Civitas Senior Living, Juniper Communities, Atria Senior Living, Silverado Senior Living, and Sunrise Senior Living are amongst the first to declare mandatory vaccines for all staff members throughout all of their respective communities.

In a press release sent on March 18th, Civitas Senior Living Chief Operating Officer Misty Miller said making the vaccines mandatory was imperative to not only protect all Civitas residents and employees but also return the senior living industry to pre-COVID normalcy.

“Due to Civitas’ vaccination efforts at our communities, we have seen incredible results,” Miller said. “As of today, we do not currently have any residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 at our communities. We credit this to our vaccination program, effective protocol, and the passionate care of our staff members. However, we recognize that the COVID-19 virus still poses a threat. It is up to Civitas and all of us to stay vigilant. We know that the vaccines are the way to the future, a future that not only benefits our residents’ quality of life but also the senior living industry. That is why we are requiring all of our employees to take that next step and get vaccinated.”

The goal of requiring all staff members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine is to protect the most susceptible and vulnerable population that they care for and interact with every day. Individuals who work in senior living are rather used to putting residents first and view the vaccine as an opportunity to continue to provide the best level of care and assure resident safety. However, not everyone is onboard with the mandate, as exemplified by the approximate 30 individuals who self-terminated at Juniper Communities in response to their vaccination requirement.

Although COVID-19 cases in LTC appear to be dropping, staff and resident vaccination is crucial in order to welcome new residents, staff, and visitors without fear of exposure or infection. Atria Senior Living and Civitas Senior Living employees have until May 1st to be fully vaccinated, and this trend is expected to continue throughout the industry. Companies do have the right to mandate their staff to be vaccinated, however there are certain medical / religious exemptions that should be honored according to law.

Wayne Powell, Co-Founder at Civitas Senior Living says, “the vaccine is the best way forward.” Senior Living Communities across the country are eager to return to a sense of normalcy and for some mandating staff vaccinations are another step toward a safer future. As more communities join the roster of mandatory staff vaccinations and many have 100% resident vaccination rates, hope is on the horizon for an industry that has been on lockdown for over a year.

HT Virtual Connect Panel

HEALTHTAC’s Virtual Connect Event Looks to the Future of Senior Living

On Tuesday, March 23rd, HEALTHTAC hosted its virtual connect event featuring three lively panels centered around hot topics facing the senior living industry as a whole. After over a year of hardships, challenges, and adaptations, leaders in the industry came together with positivity and resilience to move forward.

The first panel of the day titled, “On The Cutting Edge: What Role Will Technology Have Moving Forward” tackled the various ways in which senior living was pushed to adapt over the last year, and what we can expect as we come out on the other side. This panel featured an esteemed group of leaders: Lisa Cini, Mosaic Design Studio, Tod Petty, Lloyd Jones Senior Living, Parsa Famili, Cognistat, and Scott McCorvie, Alta Senior Living. The group discussed the challenges, benefits, and room for growth for technology in senior living. A common consensus was that the pandemic provided an opportunity for a much-needed technology upgrade across the board. Even during a time of isolation, technology allowed these leaders to provide communication, programming, and a safe environment for their residents. Communication was needed more than ever over the last year and being able to connect loved ones with their seniors was something that was a top priority in communities across the country. The panelists were impressed and inspired by their residents resiliency and ability to adapt to the use of technology as part of their every day lives. They also agreed on the importance of the basics, such as strong wifi within communities, noting that communities have to be equipped to handle the industry’s ever-changing needs.

The second panel confronted an important industry topic, ageism. Now more than ever, older adults are at the forefront of the media and there are still many stereotypes facing them as well. “Reinventing Senior Living: Shifting the Narrative and Tackling Ageism” is an extremely important and timely topic for not only the senior living industry, but for individuals across every generation. The group of passionate wave-makers shared their drive to combat ageism and create a more positive world for seniors to not simply age in place, but to truly live. The panel featured: Lisa Brown-Kennedy, Sunrise Senior Living, Matthew Griffin, Griffin Living, David Haack, Cadence Senior Living, and Nathan Mills, Solstice Senior Living. A key take-away from this session is that tackling ageism starts on the individual level and shifting our perceptions of aging as a society.  The panelists all agreed that it is crucial to center programming around residents’ needs, abilities, and passions, in order to keep them alert, engaged, and well. Lisa Brown Kennedy encourages folks do shut down ageist jokes and remarks right in their tracks, she believes it is important for us to continue to educate ourselves and challenge the stereotypes that face older adults and senior living overall. All of these panelists are long-time industry experts that are leading by example within their communities and strive to create a ripple effect across the industry.

With all the challenges the last year has brought, the last panel of the day aimed to look forward. “Building for The Future: Shaping Communities For Safety”, featuring Mandy Hampton, Ridge Senior Living, and Pilar Carvajal, Innovation Senior Living, focused on what safety in senior living communities will entail as vaccination rates continue to rise. Both Hampton and Carvajal stressed the importance of technology and how it truly will help to power and ground communities of the future. In terms of occupancy, both leaders believe there will be a demand for senior living and are already experiencing it firsthand. By shaping communities for safety and creating a desirable senior lifestyle, they are confident that people will let their guard down and know their loved ones are safe within a community.

HEALTHTAC’S virtual connect event allowed for leaders across the country to come together and collaborate. The next Senior Living event is set to take place June 27th-29th, at the Ritz Carlton Key Biscayne in Miami, FL, where it will be incredible to be able to reunite in person once again.

In person visits can resume according to new CMS guidelines

Breaking Down the New CMS Guidelines for Senior Living

On March 10th, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released new guidelines with revised visitation recommendations. This news has been a year in the making, as many older adults and families are eager to reunite. The latest guidance comes from CMS in collaboration with the CDC, as a result of more than three million doses of vaccines having been administered within LTC communities.

According to the updated guidance, facilities should allow responsible indoor visitation at all times and for all residents, regardless of vaccination status of the resident, or visitor, unless certain scenarios arise that would limit visitation for:

 

  • Unvaccinated residents, if the COVID-19 county positivity rate is greater than 10 percent and less than 70 percent of residents in the facility are fully vaccinated;
  • Residents with confirmed COVID-19 infection, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met the criteria to discontinue transmission-based precautions; or
  • Residents in quarantine, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated, until they have met criteria for release from quarantine.

 

Another addition to the new guidelines emphasizes that “compassionate care” should be allowed at all times, regardless of a resident’s vaccination status, the country’s COVID-19 positivity rate, or an outbreak. Compassionate care visits are defined by CMS as “a resident whose health has sharply declined or is experiencing a significant change in circumstances.”

Joanna LaFleur, Founder and CEO of Memory Lane Assisted Living has already begun to put the new guidelines into effect. She says, “We are thrilled to finally be able to allow our residents to see their loved ones again and welcome them back into our homes. Last Monday we opened it up to have 30min indoor visits 5 different times per day with a COVID vaccine or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the visit. Only 1 family can come at a time so we can manage the visits. They have to double mask and use hand sanitizer and get a temperature and health screening when they enter. They are visiting in the residents’ rooms and they are allowed to hug them as well. This is the first time in a year that our families have been able to touch or hug. I feel like that’s incredibly important because of the power of touch. I can see the change on the residents faces after they receive a visit.”

Even with these new freedoms, CMS continues to urge senior living communities to follow the core guidelines of COVID-19 prevention control, such as wearing masks, physically distancing when possible, following disinfection protocols, etc. High vaccination rates within the communities, as well as diligence from staff members, has helped to significantly lower the risk of transition across LTC communities.

“CMS recognizes the psychological, emotional and physical toll that prolonged isolation and separation from family have taken on nursing home residents, and their families,” said Dr. Lee Fleisher, MD, CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of CMS’ Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. “That is why, now that millions of vaccines have been administered to nursing home residents and staff, and the number of COVID cases in nursing homes has dropped significantly, CMS is updating its visitation guidance to bring more families together safely. This is an important step that we are taking, as we continue to emphasize the importance of maintaining infection prevention practices, given the continued risk of transmission of COVID-19.”

While it is not required, CMS encourages to offer testing to visitors if it is plausible, or instead encourage visitors to get tested on their own. They also encourage visitors to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, but it will not be mandated to show proof of a vaccine to enter or visit a community.

Senior Living Communities on Stand-by as CDC Restrictions Lift for Vaccinated Individuals

On Monday, March 8th, 2021, the CDC issued their first set of guidelines as to how vaccinated individuals can interact safely with others. Senior Living Communities across the country are hoping this announcement sparks new direction for Long Term Care as the restrictions for fully vaccinated individuals shrink. The guidelines listed on the CDC website are as follows:

• You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.
• You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
• If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms.
• However, if you live in a group setting (like a correctional or detention facility or group home) and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.

The release of these guidelines has provided a beacon of light within the industry regarding visitation. No announcements have been made yet specifically regarding long term care, however, industry professionals are hopeful we are heading in that direction. For the past year now, most communities have relied heavily on technology to keep their residents engaged and in contact with loved ones. LTC communities are eagerly awaiting more updates from the CDC, as well as their local state guidelines.

At Arboria of Long Grove in Illinois, effective March 10th, families will have opportunity to schedule visits inside. Jeff Altschul says, “We have modified two of our living room spaces into private visitation areas. There will be a plexiglass divider between the guest and their loved one. Masks are required, and temperature checks are taken at the front desk.” Altschul is enthusiastic about the opportunity to resume in person visits and believes that they “need to be treasured as opportunity to refuel current family/customer advocacy of your community.”

In Watercrest Senior Living’s March newsletter, Senior Vice President of Operations, Whitney Lane, detailed changes that their communities are making for fully vaccinated residents.

• Fully vaccinated residents will not be required to be COVID tested unless they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
• Fully vaccinated residents will not be required to quarantine unless they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19
• Only non-vaccinated residents will be required to quarantine if there is a positive case of COVID at the community
• Fully vaccinated residents will be able to eat in the dining room at the same table as other fully vaccinated residents
• Fully vaccinated residents will be able to participate in off-site programming
• Fully vaccinated residents will be able to socialize in one another’s apartment if both residents are fully vaccinated
• All residents will continue to be required to wear masks when outside of their apartment and are asked to social distance at 6ft from others who have not been vaccinated
• Fully vaccinated residents will no longer have to be screened daily for COVID

Announcements such as these are giving hope to both residents and their families, many of whom have been physically isolated from one another for a year now. Isolation has proven to be especially difficult for older adults and the desire to safely reunite them with their loved ones in person is at an all-time high. Bobi Kruemberg, Executive Director of Watercrest, St. Lucie West, FL, explains how their new guidelines have improved resident morale.

“These wonderful residents have not been to a restaurant or a shopping mall in a year! There has been no church or temple. They have missed birthday parties, anniversaries and holidays. If nothing else, this had made all us acutely aware of “the little things” …that really aren’t so little after all. They were so thrilled to go to Walmart and Publix and pick out their own items and to try on new clothes. The most exciting thing is not having to quarantine! Every day, I have at least 4-5 residents ask me… “Ok, so if I go out with my family, what happens when I come back?” And the joy I feel when I say, “Nothing! Go have fun!”

It is the hope of the LTC Pharmacy Partnership Program that by the end of March, all residents in the partnering communities will have received both of the required vaccinations. Heather Tussing, Executive Vice President at Morning Pointe Senior Living says, “At Morning Pointe, we have been blessed to be able to offer vaccinations in 100% of our communities. We are excited to be reuniting residents and families in many states and look forward to continuing to safely re-open in all states where Morning Pointe operates as state and local guidance permits. The ability to reunite our residents with their families – in person – is the best medicine we can give our residents right now.”

According to the CDC COVID Data Tracker for the federal pharmacy partnership for LTC program, there have been over 7.4 million vaccines administered in LTC communities. Jeff Fischer, President at MBK Senior Living is closely watching and anxiously awaiting the go-ahead to bring back visitation and other “re-opening” activities as soon as possible. He says, “Bringing back open visitation will certainly boost morale for the entire community (residents, families and team members alike). It will serve to increase customer satisfaction/confidence and will improve the overall “life” within the community.”

After a year of uncertainty and isolation, there appears to be hope on the horizon for LTC establishments across the country. It is no doubt that safely reintegrated senior residents back into some sense of normalcy will be incredibly rewarding not only for the seniors, but for their families and community staff as well. Sheena Jeffries, Regional Director of Engagement at Watercrest Senior living has seen residents re-acclimate firsthand, “Many of the residents speak about feeling free again and are loving the chance to be part of the greater community again. It has also lifted the spirits of the staff, not having to say “no” all the time.”

Alta Senior Living

Scott McCorvie Discusses the Launch of Alta Senior Living

Douglas Brawn, Principal of Alta, and Scott McCorvie, CFO & EVP of Investments, are both senior living veterans who were looking to start something new. “Alta” is Latin for high, meaning that Alta Senior Living was inspired by the desire to provide the highest quality and value of care. “It is an exciting time to be in senior living,” McCorvie says. The duo believes that having investment, development, and management all under the same roof of Alta Senior Living will allow them to oversee and thrive in all aspects of care.

Alta Senior Living has hand-selected an experienced operating team and they have offices on both the East and West coast. Their team is filled with passion and enthusiasm about the potential to improve the resident quality of life. McCorvie explains, “we are 1000% focused on the resident experience. Our goal is to offer and sell an upgraded lifestyle.” They intend to focus heavily on programming and engagement activities, as well as providing quality dining experiences. Alta has already closed on two acquisitions, one in Sacramento, CA, and the other in Walnut Creek, CA, and they have started a ground up project in West Palm Beach, FL. Their West Palm Beach community is projected to open in the fourth quarter of 2021.

COVID-19 is at the forefront of the Alta teams’ minds as they navigate both acquiring and building communities. McCorvie says, “we are dedicated to providing residents with the safest communities and implementing up to date hygiene protocols.” With the rollout of the vaccine, McCorvie and his partners have seen an increased demand for senior living, and they are excited to use their experience to improve and revamp the resident experience. Alta Senior Living intends to implement the latest technologies into their communities as well to encourage resident safety, engagement, and overall wellbeing.

McCorvie says, “Senior living is going to experience exponential growth over the next 5 to 10 years, and I want to make sure that we are staying disciplined in our growth, and that our industry remains focused on providing the best care options for our residents. Having a fully integrated company allows us to manage all aspects of the care – from the real estate, design, and offered amenities down to the programming, menu selection, and activity schedule.”

Chef Tre Wilcox

Edgemere Senior Living Partners with Top Chef Tre Wilcox to Mentor Culinary Team

Chef Tre Wilcox, a two-time James Beard Award nominee and “Top Chef” and “Iron Chef America” alum, will take on an advisory role at Edgemere Senior Living, where he will provide guidance and training to the community’s executive chef and culinary team. Chef Wilcox will advise and collaborate with the Edgemere culinary team in steering the development of recipes, signature dishes, plating concepts, and menus.

In the fall of 2020, Edgemere staff identified a unique opportunity to enhance and elevate the culinary program at their community. It became apparent that a mentorship/partnership program “could have strong potential in a retirement community setting and Edgemere would be a fertile garden to pilot and grow such a program,” says Tanner Thorp, Regional Culinary Director. Chef Wilcox will work one on one with Executive Chef Armando Can-Cen, the pair will participate in resident town halls and food committee meetings to gather feedback and recommendations from residents in addition to hosting cooking demonstrations from time to time.

Thorp explains that they didn’t just want a short-term partnership, but something that would last. “What we really wanted,” he says, “was to partner with a local, highly regarded, and established chef who had the culinary prowess to command respect, mentor, enact change, and create enduring growth within our culinary team. After conversations with many local chefs, we found an incredible partner who shared our vision in Chef Tre Wilcox. Chef Wilcox’s dedication to excellence, his noted accomplishments in the culinary field, and his humble approach lend exceptional credence to his ability to teach and mentor our culinary team and we are very excited to watch as his expertise influences our culinary program long-term.”

Chef Wilcox started his culinary career as a young teenager cleaning chicken in a fast- food restaurant, which he explains is where he discovered his love for food. His goal in collaborating with Edgemere is to not only to assist them in acquiring new skillsets, but to also provide support to hone-in on the skills they have already mastered. Edgemere’s culinary team is focused on providing exceptional dining experience to their residents, and is confident that Chef Wilcox’s ideas, flavors, and guidance will further accomplish their mission.

The residents’ well-being is at the core of this exciting new culinary partnership. Bridgette Walshe, Executive Director, says, “the residents are the ones who get to enjoy our food, so it makes sense for them to have a voice as well. The partnership is truly a collaborative undertaking, and having residents involved will only ensure its success in elevating our culinary program.” COVID-19 has brought on various challenges in regard to dining in senior living, but Edgemere hopes that Chef Wilcox’s presence will spark excitement and engagement within their communities and bring joy back to mealtimes.

“In my 29-year career, I’ve developed a strong love for teaching,” said Wilcox, who will dedicate 40 hours each month to the Edgemere partnership. “The unique opportunity to provide mentorship at a senior living community piqued my interest, and I’m eager to see what the response will be from seniors. In my experience, people nowadays are more open to global foods and trying new things, so there’s great potential in what we can achieve from this partnership.”

Mrs. Blooms Direct

Mrs. Blooms Direct Founded the Petalz Program, a Flower Delivery Service for Senior Living That Also Benefits the Alzheimer’s Association

Oren Shaprio, Founder and CEO of Mrs. Blooms Direct, began his flower journey in search of more meaning while he was working as an attorney. Shapiro connected with a flower supplier in Ecuador who sent him samples, and soon Shapiro had customers calling about the beautiful flowers and wanting to place more orders. While on a lunch break at his day job, Mrs. Blooms Direct was born. Once Mrs. Blooms began to take off, Shapiro wanted to find a way to further give back, “it has been at the heart of everything I have done,” he says. And that is how the Petalz Program was born, Shapiro saw an opportunity to fulfill an unmet need within the Senior Living industry, while also giving back at the same time.

The goal of the Petalz Program is to provide fresh flowers on a regular basis to residents in senior living communities, and 10% of the proceeds are given back to the Alzheimer’s Association. The Alzheimer’s Association was thrilled at the idea of this partnership and loved being able to combine doing something to serve older adults while also contributing to all the work they do to fight Alzheimer’s. Shapiro says, “we set up a donation estimator on our website so people see how much will be donated from their order, the goal is to get the donation in the millions.”

Senior Living Communities have multiple options for the frequency of flower deliveries. Fresh flowers can be delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or on a monthly basis. The program is designed so that each resident can enjoy fresh flowers in their room on a regular basis, “it is meant to uplift and boost the residents’ spirits”, says Shapiro. He believes that especially during these challenging times, flowers are a way for residents to feel loved, supported, and engaged. Shapiro continues, “It won’t replace the connection of a family visit, but it is a small way to make a resident smile and give them something to look forward to.”

There are two different sized flower arrangements, the happy and happier bouquets differ in size and cost. Shapiro’s goal is to provide as many communities and residents with fresh flowers as possible in order to raise millions for the Alzheimer’s Association. Shapiro, like many others, has had firsthand experience with Alzheimer’s and being able to contribute to the fight against it is extremely rewarding for him.

Mrs. Blooms Direct’s next mission is creating a 365 fundraiser, so that anyone from anywhere who orders flowers from their site will be able to have the option to have a portion of their order donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. Shapiro hopes that by making the Alzheimer’s Association a permanent fixture on their site that it will raise even more money in combination with the Petalz Program.

Doyle Long, Head Ambassador at Waltonwood Lake Boone

Waltonwood Lake Boone Creates Ambassador Program to Aid New Residents Transition

Allison O’Shea, Executive Director at Waltonwood Lake Boone, and veteran resident Doyle Long are the heart and soul behind the Ambassador Program that welcomes and assists new residents throughout their transition. Long was the third resident to move into Waltonwood back in October 2018 and her love for her community and compassion for others is what landed her head of the program.

Long created a team of nine Ambassadors whose goal is to welcome new residents and assist them in acclimating to life at Waltonwood Lake Boone. Long says, “we welcome newcomers into our community, take them under our wing, and bring them around and introduce them to the other residents. Our goal is to make friends with them and show them that Waltonwood is a very friendly place.”

O’Shea says that every Waltonwood community has am Ambassador Program, but none quite match the efforts that Long and her fellow ambassadors have made at Lake Boone. They take new residents to breakfast, lunch or dinner and answer any questions they might have. During the COVID-19 pandemic, ambassadors have assisted new and current residents in getting mail, watering plants, among other things. Ambassadors also pride themselves in inquiring about a new resident’s background and interests in order to try to connect them with others that have similar interests. Long says, “it is rewarding knowing they are doing something good for others.”

One of the favorite activities amongst the Ambassador Program is the newcomer coffee/tea. While following COVID-19 guidelines, they invite new residents to join them for coffee or tea and some light refreshments and take this time to bond and connect with one another. Long says, “it helps them adjust, there are a lot of questions they have and as ambassadors we have gone through the same experience, we help them move through this transitional journey.”

Moving into a new home, especially during the pandemic, can be extremely hard for seniors. “From a management perspective,” O’Shea says, “it can be hard for residents to make friends, it has helped to know the residents are under an ambassadors wing who has shared the same experience as them. It has been a blessing to have the ambassador program and know the new residents are well-taken care of.”

The ambassador program promotes socialization and friendship, both of which offer many benefits for seniors. Some of the benefits include increased sense of belonging and purpose, reduced stress, and improved self-confidence and self-worth. “Having this program with passionate residents is just another way we are redefining what it’s like in senior living,” O’Shea says. As for the future of the Ambassador Program at Lake Boone, Long and her team are looking forward to new residents moving in and playing a key role in welcoming and acclimating them into the community.