The leaves have started to change, and each passing day brings us closer to the holiday season.

Every year, we eagerly anticipate this time as an opportunity to be physically close to family and friends, to share meals and connect meaningfully with those who are the most important to us. But with COVID-19 in our lives, this year’s celebrations are going to look and feel different, especially for those of us who live and work in senior living communities.

This fact is top of mind for resident engagement leaders: A Linked Senior survey taken in early October found that 83% are unsure or concerned about the upcoming holidays.

This is no surprise as the COVID-19 pandemic has already had a devastating impact on senior living communities including residents, families and staff. Many older adults and staff have lost their lives or they have lost someone close to them. Community operations have been disrupted significantly, and these organizations still have little support to help with a much-needed recovery. Furthermore, existing social isolation and staffing shortages have been exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.

The aforementioned Linked Senior survey also found 75% of respondents believe staffing is preventing them from engaging all of their residents. Activity and life enrichment professionals now perform 89% of their engagement activities one-to-one with every resident, without proper staffing to ensure this is done consistently and optimally for all residents.

Without the help of group activities, outside entertainment, family visits and volunteers, staff are burned out, meaningful engagement is faltering, and, consequently, older adults are experiencing a failure to thrive.

A recent report from Altarum, found that 76% of nursing home residents feel lonelier than usual and almost 80% of residents report having no visitors at all since mid-March of this year. We must remember that pursuit of purpose and meaning is a basic human right that needs to be protected, especially during this global pandemic.

Activity and life enrichment professionals are true heroes. Every day they are trying their best, using what resources they do have to offer purposeful engagement to every resident and do so optimistically in innovative and creative ways. As Christopher Reeve said, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.”

Every time Linked Senior has surveyed activity and life enrichment professionals since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 90% of respondents say that their resident engagement program will be the same or stronger coming out of COVID-19. When we are trying to get in the holiday spirit this year, let’s use their resilience, optimism and determination as a shining example of how to make the most of a difficult situation. 

Let’s agree that this year we will be #HolidayStrong. We have plenty of time to plan for a holiday season that is filled with hope and encouragement. Linked Senior is already using its #ActivitiesStrong initiative to commit to this holiday spirit and has launched several projects to help empower activity and life enrichment professionals in senior living: 

What will you do to be #HolidayStrong this year?

Charles de Vilmorin is the CEO and co-founder of Linked Senior.