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Rockin’ Out in Senior Living: Antidote to Pandemic-Driven Isolation

  • Feb 21, 2022
  • Cathy Gasiorowicz
  • 4-min Read

When Jeanne, 79, moved into The Legacy of Farmington, a Lifespark Senior Living community, in July 2020, Covid-19 had torn through communities across the country. To contain the spread of infection, all group activities—communal dining, movies, game nights, classes, outings—had to be canceled, in compliance with guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

For Jeanne, moving out of her home was already a big lifestyle change, but adding Covid to the mix made the adjustment that much harder. “I like to socialize, but for the first nine months I was here, we ate alone in our apartments,” she said. “It was hard, but we survived it and it’s getting better.”

Getting creative to stay connected

Determined to prevent social isolation and loneliness among the residents, the Farmington staff found creative ways to keep people engaged and energized, said Niki Dwyer, Lifespark Senior Regional Director of Senior Living Operations. “We shifted to socially distant activities like doorway exercises, Happy Hour carts, bingo on our TV channel, trivia games and crossword puzzles.”

In addition, they introduced a new theme each week, like circus or Hawaiian luau, which would show up in everything costumes to music to the snack cart. “Our staff did a phenomenal job of continually adapting to the new mandates without ever losing sight of our mission to help people age magnificently,” Niki said, adding that the staff’s involvement has been vital to the feeling of community. “It’s our seniors’ home but it’s also our staff’s second home,” she said.

More rockin’, less chair

Aging magnificently is in every frame of “Rockin’ Robin,” an MTV-style jam session/dance party, filmed in November 2021 with 30+ residents, staff members, and one trained facility dog. Masked, vaxxed, and socially distant “band members” and “fans” boogied, lip-synched, played air guitar, rocked, and rolled (some in wheelchairs) like it was, well, 2019.

Joy Jacobson, Director of Marketing for Lifespark Senior Living and the creative force behind the project, had produced several other videos with the residents in the past, but this was their first since the pandemic. “They love being part of these videos,” she said. “The residents work with the staff to plan out shots, locations, and costumes, and they have a blast—it’s like a giant party.”

Shorty, who plays the band leader, was relatively new to Farmington when Joy tapped him for the project. “I’ve performed in a lot of productions, I sing in our church choir, and I also play the piano, so when Joy asked me, I said, ‘of course,’” he said. “I didn’t know what it was, but I’m not a sit-around guy—this is way better than staying in your room and watching TV.”

Jeanne agreed, adding, “It gives you something to look forward to.” Although it took some getting used to, she’s made a home for herself at Farmington. “We have a diverse community, lots of fun activities, and a very accommodating staff,” she said. “I can’t imagine a better place.”

Living their best lives

One of Niki’s favorite responses to “Rockin Robin” came from a family member who watched the video on Facebook and wrote, “Wow, look at Gigi living her best life!” For Niki, that comment captured what Aging Magnificently is about. “Families can see that they don’t have to be worried that they’re not here all the time, because their loved ones truly are living their best lives,” she said. “They’re actually ‘rockin’ it.”

What made the video experience even sweeter for the performers was winning first place in Lifespark’s “More Rockin’, Less Chair” music video contest, which earned them the grand prize—a beer and wine social. But they’re not resting on their laurels. In early February, they filmed a Valentine’s Day video, with their in-house technical wizard, Travis, it’s another video masterpiece capturing all there is to love about senior living.

In the meantime, the residents are delighted to report that their rockin’ video has gone “viral.” In the best sense of the word.

To find out more about Lifespark Senior Living, visit us online or call 952-345-8770.

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