Staying Connected at Riderwood (Online Exclusive)
Updated: Sep 25
Riderwood TV Keeps Residents Engaged and Informed
As the coronavirus pandemic forced people around the country to shelter in place, our daily routines were disrupted, and staying connected with our social networks became challenging. But when your community already has a state-of-the-art television studio up and running and ready to deliver critical information, managing a crisis is a little bit easier.
That’s what occurred at Riderwood, an Erickson Living developed and managed senior living community in Silver Spring, MD, where the in-house TV studio quickly pivoted at the onset of the pandemic to become a central hub for information, communication, and entertainment.
“Shortly after the COVID crisis began, the Riderwood TV team realized that our existing schedule catered to busy residents who spent a lot of time out and about in the community,” says Chris Taydus, manager of the Riderwood TV studio. “We quickly altered the schedule to provide more variety of programming every day to give our residents more Riderwood-centric programming to watch. We also started airing movies every night and later started airing DVD courses for the residents to continue to exercise their brains.”
An important cornerstone of Riderwood TV’s COVID-19 programming was a daily show with executive director Gary Hibbs. At the height of the crisis, he appeared seven days a week to provide updates on infection rates and logistical information about Riderwood’s operations as well as answer questions and provide much-needed reassurance. Family members could also watch from their homes on the internet for real time personal information.
“It has become like Roosevelt’s fireside chats,” Hibbs says. “In this time of fear and anxiety, it’s blown me away the overwhelming nature of residents’ emails. One resident said, ‘If you’re smiling, I know it’s going to be OK.’”
Hibbs has also brought resident and staff guests onto his show to provide updates about different aspects of life on campus. “I’ve had the [Resident Advisory Council] chair on the show. She’s very eloquent, a great communicator, and a tremendous leader,” Hibbs says. “Every initiative we roll out, we’re able to give the rationale. People send emails, and then I can go on the program and clear up any confusion. It has been a good complement to whatever we put out in writing.”
Under normal circumstances, Riderwood’s TV studio is staffed with dozens of resident volunteers who operate cameras, host shows and do everything else needed to produce programs. While social distancing was required, residents were still able to contribute to the studio’s operations by leveraging technology such as Zoom and FaceTime to conduct interviews and appear on shows.
Of course, sheltering in place also meant finding new ways to keep ourselves entertained and connected. Riderwood’s TV station also proved integral in that regard. The fitness staff provided exercise videos to help residents stay fit at home. The TV studio also teamed up with staff from other departments to put on weekly virtual social hours featuring interactive events like charades using video conferencing technology.
Taydus and his team also launched a new show during the COVID-19 crisis called Riderwood TV Live!, a live television program three times a week that focused on connecting and entertaining the residents in fun ways such as trivia where residents could participate from home using their computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
“Another popular program was Riderwood TV Live! Radio. The show was an all-music hour where I took song requests live from residents via phone and e-mail,” Taydus says. “One resident even called in to express that she didn't care what we played, but to ‘keep it up’ as she was ‘dancing along’ in her apartment. It’s been an amazing team effort.”
“The broadcast professionals and virtual resident volunteers at Riderwood deserve great credit for the creative and high-quality programming they have established throughout this unprecedented situation,” says Jeff Watson, Erickson Living’s Director of Operations. “Their innovative and hard work has resulted in a heightened level of communications that has kept those on campus connected, engaged, and healthy.”