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(As the story appears, written by Rick West in the Daily Herald)
The holidays are traditionally a busy time at senior living communities.
Parties. Concerts. Lots of visitors.
But pandemic living is very much at odds with parties, concerts and lots of visitors.
"Christmas is so big here in non-COVID times," said Jill Steco, director of lifestyles at Friendship Village in Schaumburg. "We usually have these really big events with families of the residents and staff, with 600 to 800 people, and it is amazing."
In non-COVID times, it's a rockin' place, Steco said. "The pandemic has put a damper on that, and we're trying to do our best with what we can do," she said.
Restrictions, which include prohibiting visitors inside their facilities and limiting the number of people gathered in one place, have had Friendship Village staff members working extra hard to find ways to keep the holiday spirit alive, Steco said.
First off, the decorating has been ramped up.
"We have so many Christmas trees," she said. Employees from all departments have been getting in on the action. "It's all hands on deck to deck our halls."
Without families being able to visit, Steco said, technology has played a bigger role than ever before.
"We're doing a lot of virtual visits with Zoom, Houseparty and FaceTime," she said. And they have an app that keeps families abreast of what the residents are up to. "Families are able to stay in touch, albeit a little bit differently."
In lieu of gatherings inside the facility, Steco said, Friendship Village is using recorded programs airing on in-house television stations. The recorded offerings include holiday concerts and instructional pieces on craft projects that residents make with supplies delivered to their rooms.
Even Friendship Village's chef has recorded cooking programs featuring family recipes submitted by residents.
"We're just trying to make it as normal as possible," Steco said.
They even found a way to have a visit from Santa -- sort of.
"We can't have a live Santa, but we do have a life-size dancing Santa," she said. Residents can have their picture taken with the animatronic Claus that will be sent to their families.