REDWOOD CITY, CA, April 20, 2020 – COVID-19 is keeping families apart. While shelter-in-place orders have had some families struggling with too much time together, others have been sadly missing their loved ones in senior communities and nursing homes.
“It was a heartbreaking decision to close our communities to visitors on March 12, but it was a necessary step,” said Tiffany Tomasso, one of the founders of Kensington Senior Living. The company owns and operates senior living communities in California, Maryland, New York and Virginia. “It’s been hard on our residents and their families to not be able to visit with one another.”
This unique use for Slack started with an “ah-hah” moment for Greig O’Connor, Executive Director in Training for Kensington Place in Redwood City, CA. He saw his roommates using it to work remotely. O’Connor suddenly realized that it could be a great way to reconnect residents of Kensington with their families on a more intimate level.
Although it had never been used like this before, it seemed like a natural fit to O’Connor. It was created to allow business teams to work collaboratively on large documents. The channels provide digital spaces for multiple people to share messages and files.
It was this ability to share large files, like photos and videos, that intrigued O’Connor. He saw it as a way for residents and their families to connect on a deep level. “If my mother was living in a senior community right now and not able to visit, I would want to connect with her – hear about her day, see what she’s wearing, what she’s doing”, O’Connor says. “And for our residents, being able to see their sons and daughters and grandchildren doing simple things that reassure them that everything is okay is invaluable to their peace of mind.”
Here’s how Kensington Place is using the tool: each participating family was given a private channel. Team members have iPads or cell phones with them throughout the day when they check on residents. That’s when they can easily share personal messages, photos and videos from family members on each resident’s personal Slack channel.
After the Kensington Place team sets up a family’s channel, the primary contact can add more loved ones to the conversation. O’Connor recalled one striking moment when a resident received a photo of the sunset from his family’s home in Phoenix. The resident loved the photo so much, the Kensington Place team printed it, so he had a copy in his room.
Karen Kane-Foempe, whose mother lives at Kensington Place, had a similar experience. “In the crazy times in which we are currently living, this has been a wonderful tool to reassure our family that we are all doing OK,” Kane-Foempe says. “We have my husband in Germany, grandkids in various parts of the state, as well as my sister and I in the area. That’s three generations of family members all connected and able to see my mom happily and actively engaged at The Kensington Place community.”
Rolling out the new communication tool to the other communities in the Kensington Senior Living network ended up being a family affair. Lindsay Faeder is the co- founder of WayWiser.Life, a startup with a mission to protect the independence and dignity of people as they enjoy the later years of their life. Her father, David Faeder, is one of the founding partners of Kensington Senior Living.
“My dad taught me that caring for the older adults living in senior communities is all about honoring what made their lives unique. And a huge part of that is about maintaining connections to those they love.”
It was the thought of those seniors being isolated from their families that energized Lindsay to get her team at WayWiser.Life involved in finding a way to connect more families and get all the Kensington Communities up and running quickly.
“My background is in change management, so my first thought was, ‘How do we scale this? How can we get this to all the senior communities in the Kensington network quickly?’” Faeder says.“We looked at how we could make the training simple for the front-line staff that will be sharing content with residents and posting to families,” Faeder says. “In less than one week, we have the communities up and running with over 200 families already communicating and engaging with each other.”
Lindsay and her team are opening their services to other senior communities and caregiving facilities through a ready-to-go family communication and engagement program. The idea is to help families connect with their loved ones. “At a time when finding a smile can be tough, reconnecting families is one small victory for those who care for the seniors in Kensington Senior Living communities,” says David Faeder. “Bringing families back together through technology is one small step back towards normalcy. Hearing stories about family members sharing photos and videos with those they love brings a smile to all our faces and reminds us of what’s important during these tough times.”
About The Kensington Senior Living Network
Kensington Senior Living develops and operates assisted living communities in California, Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company was founded in 2010 by a leadership team with over 25 years of experience developing and operating premier senior living residences in the U.S. and abroad. Their mission is to “…love and care for your family as we do our own.” For more information go to: kensingtonseniorliving.com.
WayWiser is a startup with a mission to protect the independence and dignity of people as they experience the later years of life. Founded in 2019, it provides a comprehensive platform focused on bringing families together and empowering older adults by helping them maintain their independence and freedom. To learn more visit waywiser.life.