Liza Berger

There is a lot to think about these days. Take your pick. COVID-19? The economy? The upcoming election? Which is why I headed to my dad’s continuing care retirement community Tuesday night to make sense of it all.

That’s right. My dad, Jim Berger, who is an independent living resident of Covenant Living of Northbrook in Illinois, leads a current event discussion group every month for residents. There he talks about everything from the political situation to international affairs to the environment.

Perhaps no surprise, it turns out that Tuesday — exactly one week before the presidential election — there was a waiting list to attend his program, partly due to the limited seating availability because of the social distancing requirements.

I was fortunate to be able to attend. I love to see my dad, a teacher, in action, providing education around contemporary issues. But I also enjoy hearing the comments from the residents. They come informed and full of reasoned and thoughtful opinions about the issues. 

Jim Berger
Jim Berger, leading his popular current events discussion group.

This, in fact, is one reason why my dad began the program. He is one of the younger residents and still works full-time. He believed that there was a lot of programming on lectures and presenters who spoke to the residents, but not enough programming that brought out the residents’ own voices and desires to participate in a discussion. 

Over the years, I have seen several residents come up to my dad after a discussion to compliment him. I recall one who was especially moved. He told my dad how grateful he was to have a place to come and contribute his ideas. 

My dad never wanted the discussions to be on TV, as that might discourage residents from coming and talking. But with COVID-19, and residents not wanting to leave their rooms, the program is now available to view on a special channel. Fortunately, that has not dimmed enthusiasm for the live event.

During the pandemic, my dad, along with a few other residents, also spearheaded a COVID-19 film festival. Three days a week now (down from every night at the beginning of the crisis), residents can see top-quality films. 

The days are dark now, literally and figuratively. But we all need to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Senior care residents, as those who work in the field know all too well, are no exception.

Liza Berger is Senior Editor of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. Follow her @LizaBerger19.