In a time when self-isolation and stay-at-home directives are the norm, residents of one Denver retirement community are using innovative technology to stay connected and informed.
The in-house radio station HCRK, staffed and operated by residents of Holly Creek Life Plan Community in Centennial, typically plays music for and programs starring its residents. Since anyone in the community can tune in, the station has long been a popular source of enjoyment. Now, resident DJs and community staff members are also using it to relay COVID-19 updates and share community activities currently suspended to comply with Colorado’s stay-at-home order.
The community’s Masterpiece Living Coordinator Patrick Shelton is helping orchestrate the expanded broadcast schedule. The goal, he said, “is to be transparent as possible.” The radio is one key way to keep everyone in the loop.
“We’ve revised our programs for the day,” resident DJ Dan Parker explained. “At 10am every day, our executive director gives a short update on anything important related to coronavirus. Then the phones are open for fifteen minutes so anyone can call in with questions for him to answer.”
This initial information session is typically followed by an interview with each of the community’s department administrators. Shelton has helped arrange for department heads from all key areas of community life to share their team’s approach to the current situation. “We’ve had team members speak on how they are handling repairs in apartments, to how dining services has adjusted so residents can order food delivered to their apartments.”
In addition to announcements and updates, Holly Creek is also using technology to further engage residents while they are socially distancing. “We’re not on lockdown,” Shelton assured. “Our residents move about and can walk outside provided they follow social distancing protocols.”
One way to make social distancing easier is through new entertainment—including movies and Ted Talks. Another is broadcastings of the community’s many regular activities via radio or its inter-community TV Channel 22.
“All the programs possible that you would go down to the Fellowship Hall for are now on the radio or TV,” shared radio DJ Ken Stenman. “Three times a week they have an exercise program. The thirty-minute exercise is amazing for how many muscles you stretch! They also have a yoga program on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today, they are also going to do something similar to what they’re doing in Italy by turning the radio up really loud and putting it outside so everyone can sing along on their apartment balconies.”
Along with music and exercise programs, the station is broadcasting Shelton’s typical “Brain Booster” and other learning forums, including a new “Modern Music” session. The community’s Chaplain, Jim Kok, is also sharing music, encouraging sing-a-longs and conducting Bible studies on the radio.
Resident DJs are still operating the station and opening each day’s radio program with key community announcements like birthdays and the daily lineup of radio and TV programs.
“We’re just being extremely diligent with the disinfectant,” Shelton explained. The radio room is wiped, sprayed and sterilized between each DJ shift.
The response to the radio and TV communication efforts has been, in Shelton’s words, “overwhelmingly positive.” He estimates that around 90 percent of the community’s independent living residents are being engaged with key information as well as entertainment.
Ken Stenman would certainly agree. He has not only been pleased with the programming but sees it providing residents with even more positive insights and encouragement. For instance, he shared that the opportunity to hear from department heads has “helped us learn even more about the qualifications of those who serve us.”
He acknowledges that “It’s a different life,” but Stenman is grateful for the ways he can still enrich his life and connect with others, including his role as a DJ—one that is perhaps more important now than ever before.
Located in at 5500 E. Peakview Avenue in Centennial, Colorado, Holly Creek is owned and operated by Denver-based not-for-profit Christian Living Communities. CLC has been providing quality senior care in the south Denver metropolitan area since 1972. For more information, visit www.hollycreekcommunity.com.