GOSHEN COUNTY – Throughout high school graduation season, Goshen County residents have been able to “adopt a senior,” meaning they buy personalized gifts for a member of the class of 2020 after their final school year was ravaged by the coronavirus.
Chico Delossantos, director of social services and recreation at Goshen Healthcare Community, was shopping for the high school senior he “adopted,” when his daughter thought he was shopping for his residents, who are senior citizens.
The humorous misunderstanding gave Delossantos an idea.
“I said, you know that’s a really good idea to connect our residents with the community,” Delossantos said. “I brought it to the team and this is how it evolved into the flamingos.”
Starting June 23, which happens to be National Flamingo Day, the community is invited to visit the southwest lawn at the Goshen County Healthcare Community and claim a flamingo. There will be more than 80 flamingos to represent each resident.
“It was a fun, summery idea, so that’s why we figured it’d be a nice, bright pick me up,” said Ashlee Canaday, a recreational service aid at Goshen Healthcare Community.
Each flamingo will wear a tag with a small list of items such as snacks, puzzles or games specific to one resident. Those who adopt a senior are asked to transplant their flamingo into their own yards to remind people of those in the community who are still isolated and vulnerable due to the coronavirus.
People are asked to return their care packages to the Goshen Healthcare Community no later than June 26.
Since the coronavirus limited the nursing home’s ability to allow visitors, this program is one of the ways the center has adapted to keep residents engaged socially, by holding activities like bingo and exercise classes in their doorways rather than group settings, Delossantos said.
Residents are also able to see their families in one of two outside visitation areas. One keeps a distance of six feet between chairs, and another allows them to talk to one another from behind a plexiglass barrier.
“Though we’re under these restrictions, they’re still getting their social needs met,” Delossantos said.
Residents are also staying engaged from their rooms. Canaday said employees of the facility have brought their horses around the outside of the center, stopping at each residents’ window. Next, they plan to bring goats, calves and other animals.
“It’s very important because during this time they feel distance,” Delossantos said. “This is a good way to show them the community is still thinking of everyone that is in this senior care center.”