Wit and Wisdom Blog for Atria Senior Living

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a new view on growing older

Dancing at 100: Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga


Posted on October 16, 2020 by Mari Evans


“A firecracker.” “The life of the party.” “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.” Estelle Reiff goes by many monikers, which only makes sense for a woman who has played many roles in her long life – an accomplished dancer, teacher and mother. The beloved resident of Atria Forest Hills, a senior living community in Queens, New York, turned 100 in September, and continues to make a difference in the lives of those around her.

“I danced all my life – all I can remember is dancing

Estelle Reiff was born in 1920 in Nashville, Tennessee, and started dancing at age five. By the time she was 10, she and her brother had formed a vaudeville act called “The Peppiest Pair.” Following a brief stint as a fashion deco model in the late 1930s, Estelle performed in local shows before joining the dance troupe of the renowned Mexican comedian and actor Cantinflas, with whom she traveled throughout the U.S. and Mexico in the 1940s.

In 1948, Estelle married Benjamin – also a dancer – and they settled in New York City, where she opened her own studio and worked alongside luminaries such as Gwen Verdon, Peter Gennaro, Bobby Van, Debbie Allen and Debbie Reynolds. Throughout her career, she danced tap, jazz, ballroom and especially Latin dance (hence the Spanish-styled nickname she gave herself: “Señorita Estallita Fulla Suga.”)

Estelle later served on the board of directors for the New York Society of Teachers of Dancing and was part of a local Hadassah group for more than 30 years, performing at fundraisers. She was also the senior dance instructor for the New York City Department of Education’s Adult Education Program for Dancing, working in the evenings with her husband at Flushing High School for more than 25 years.

In her early 70s, Estelle noticed there were not nearly enough dance programs tailored to seniors, so she set out to be part of the solution by teaching dance at a number of senior centers throughout Queens. She was a long-term participant at the Peter Dellamonica Senior Center, part of the Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, where she danced every chance she got. According to her son, even a cane – and then a walker – couldn’t keep her in her seat.

“The furthest thing from a wallflower”

Estelle continued teaching dance for Dellamonica when she scheduled a tour of Atria Forest Hills in the fall of 2018. Since she’s been at Atria, she’s continued to contribute and inspire others in a different way.

“She really is a mother figure to everyone in the building,” said Beth Levi, the community’s Engage Life Director. “She’s the furthest thing from a wallflower. She needs to be social. You miss her presence when she’s not there.”

Before the pandemic, according to Levi, Estelle showed up to every program or party at the community. “If she missed anything, she’d be mad.” She treats everyone with respect and kindness, and even people her age seek out her advice. “I’m the 100-year-old encyclopedia,” Estelle said, laughing.

As her son Alan (pictured above) puts it, “just play music and see what happens. She will grab onto anyone close by to move her legs and wiggle her hips in a swirl of joyful movement recalling a lifetime of dance.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

Gratitude for Team Atria


Posted on October 9, 2020 by Mari Evans


Putting in extra hours. Making trips to the store for essentials. Setting up Zoom calls to help families and friends stay in touch. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Atria employees have gone above and beyond to help residents feel safe, connected and engaged. In turn, residents and families have been inspired to express their gratitude for the kind, caring, dedicated members of Team Atria. We’re honored to share some of their thoughtful words here.

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

Recognizing employees who step up


Posted on October 2, 2020 by Mari Evans


COVID-19 has introduced unprecedented challenges to nearly every aspect of life. We're proud of all the ways Team Atria has gone "Above and Beyond" to serve residents thoughtfully in 2020.

While residents and families sent letters, notes and emails expressing their thanks for staff members, from June to August, Atria employees nominated each other in a peer-to-peer program meant to recognize the team’s contributions. Known as the Above and Beyond awards, these accolades are presented to employees who lifted the spirits of residents and colleagues alike.

 
A team effort

Here’s how the process works: staff members at each Atria community in the United States and Canada fill out nominations on behalf of their coworkers. Some of the workplace contributions that qualify employees for nomination include creating special moments in a resident’s day, maintaining a positive attitude and innovating resident activities.

After that, a volunteer committee of their peers reviews those nominations. In June, the committee received nearly 800; in July, that number rose to 1,400. Let’s meet a few of the winners.

Everyday heroes

There’s Janine at Atria Hertlin Place in New York, who spends her personal time baking sugar-free desserts for diabetic residents.

 

Shavonna, an employee at Atria Tinton Falls in New Jersey, received the appreciation of a resident’s family for making sure the resident's fridge was always stocked with her favorite beverage during quarantine.

 

At Atria La Jolla in San Diego, Engage Life Program Instructor Lily set up a distance-learning history class with a resident who survived the Holocaust. The students have remained in contact with the resident since then, first as pen pals and, later, as members of the resident’s 97th birthday party parade, arranged by Lily and also attended by the teacher and the resident’s family.

Lily (pictured right) with her weekly stock market group.

 

The Atria family is thankful for the recipients of the Above and Beyond awards as well as every staff member who works to ensure residents are safe during these times. We couldn’t be prouder of Team Atria.

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

In peak condition


Posted on September 24, 2020 by Mari Evans


Nearly every morning, Lauren Freifeld, Executive Director of Atria Woodlands, a senior living community located in Westchester County, New York, watches one of her residents walk by her window. “He’s a doer,” she laughed. The resident she’s talking about is Jerry Levine, who turns 91 this year and walks miles every day.

That level of activity should come as no surprise for a man who, in August 2012, became the oldest “46er” on record. A 46er is a mountain climber who has scaled all 46 of the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. Here’s how he did it.

Getting there together

Jerry was born in the Bronx, but he and his wife raised two sons in Peekskill, a town in Westchester County about an hour north of New York City. One of their sons, Peter, went to a summer camp in Upstate New York when he was a teenager. There, he discovered his love for rock climbing and hiking, and he encouraged his dad to go with him on climbing trips.

Soon Peter and Jerry were taking on the Adirondacks together, or Jerry hiked with Peter and his friends. “He made a lot of friends at the camp and they used to come along,” Jerry said. “To this day, I know a lot of those people, and it’s still very nice to see them.” When Peter was in high school and college, he and Jerry would hike one or two mountains a year, with long interludes in between. After Peter accepted a job in California, they had less opportunity to hike together. In 2000, Jerry had a heart attack and stopped climbing.

Seven years later, Jerry’s cardiologist told him he could climb again if he monitored his heart rate. So Jerry called Peter. He wanted to climb all 46 peaks.

“Something I never, ever thought I could do”

Jerry was in his 70s when he decided to be a 46er. So far, he had climbed 23 mountains, but it had taken him decades to do it, and he wanted to check off the remaining 23 – which, according to Peter, were also the hardest 23 – in just a few years. “It was something I never, ever thought I could do,” Jerry said.

Nonetheless, they made it work. Between 2009 and 2012, from May through October, Peter would fly in from California to meet Jerry and hike together. Jerry had become close to Peter’s camp friends after decades of hiking with them, and on the day Jerry scaled Whiteface Mountain – the last of the 46 peaks – around 50 people celebrated with them on the summit. Jerry said, “They waited until I reached the peak, and I couldn’t believe who was there. I said, ‘Wow! You’re here! You’re here!’”

Today, Peter lives in California, but he still flies to New York to visit his parents, who have lived at Atria Woodlands since January 2020. They moved to Atria because Jerry’s wife needed more assistance than Jerry could provide. The support Atria gives his wife has allowed Jerry to have peace of mind – and that helps him stay active. He doesn’t climb mountains anymore, but he and Peter cherish the times they scaled new heights together.

“Hiking was just something we both really loved to do,” Peter recalled. “Yes, becoming a 46er at his age was a monumental feat, but spending that much time together has enduring value both for the parent and for the child. Everyone should do something like that with their parents.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Wit & Wisdom

Caring when it matters most


Posted on September 3, 2020 by Mari Evans


At Atria Senior Living, we take pride in hiring employees who show their dedication and work ethic even in the most difficult times. Here, we shine a light on Roxan Mitchell-Powell, a housekeeper at Atria Willow Wood in Fort Lauderdale, FL, who recently received the Employee of the Year award from the Florida Senior Living Association (FSLA).

“I am honored, and a little surprised, to receive this award,” Roxan said. “I enjoy taking care of our residents and it comes natural to me.”

An extremely warm heart

The FSLA is an organization that represents companies operating professionally managed senior living communities. According to their guidelines, a nominee for the Employee of the Year award must "treat residents with dignity and respect, provide outstanding customer service, demonstrate extraordinary dedication, and contribute to the work environment personally and professionally." If you ask Robin Miller, Assistant Executive Director at Atria Willow Wood, all those qualities describe Roxan perfectly.

“She has an extremely warm heart,” said Miller. “She cares about her job. She is a team leader. She works well with her peers. She likes to take the time to get to know the residents’ stories. Nominating Roxan was like applying for a grant you know is worthwhile – the words just easily came out.”

Stepping up

One reason Miller admires Roxan is her performance when Atria communities first implemented COVID-19 protocols. Roxan volunteered to go beyond her housekeeping duties to make sure residents were being properly cared for while quarantined in their apartments. As a certified nursing assistant, she checked their temperatures, delivered meals she knew they would enjoy, and treated them with warmth and sensitivity to keep them from feeling isolated.

The FSLA presented Roxan with the Employee of the Year award on July 30 via their 2020 Senior Living Virtual Conference. About 50 Atria Willow Wood employees – including the honoree herself – gathered in the community’s dining room to watch the ceremony on a large-screen TV – wearing appropriate PPE and social distancing, of course. “It was a great way of bringing the staff together and taking a moment to celebrate Roxan’s success among her peers,” Miller said.

Roxan has worked at Atria Willow Wood for five years. In 2019, she was a recipient of Atria’s Exceptional Service Award, an honor given to just 65 outstanding employees nationwide twice a year. Despite the recognition she has received, Roxan remains self-effacing. “I have great team members. I was surprised when they said I was nominated for the award because there were so many of us working during that time, so I was surprised I was elected,” Roxan said. “I wasn’t working to get an award – I just love my job.”

Learn more about how Atria is helping residents stay safe, connected and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic at AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Community, Our Team, Wit & Wisdom

8-28 Blog

Staying safely connected in a world with COVID-19


Posted on August 28, 2020 by Mari Evans


COVID-19 has forced all of us to rethink how we interact with the world and each other. Still, staying connected remains vital to our well-being.

At Atria Senior Living, we believe people belong together. By making adjustments to Atria’s Engage Life® events program, team members continue to offer residents creative new ways to learn, engage and connect, safely.

Connecting across generations

Through a phone-based “reflecting and sharing” program, residents are sharing their unique wisdom with younger generations. Each week, they reflect on a current topic affecting society then share their collective insights over the phone.

In one recent example, residents who worked as teachers offered advice to parents teaching their children at home and professional teachers instructing students online during the pandemic. Soon, residents will reflect on the importance of voting and why younger generations should be encouraged to exercise their right in the upcoming elections.

A second wisdom-sharing program coming soon is a phone pal partnership with the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), where high-achieving students will be matched with older adults who have professional experience in their fields of interest.

These partnerships present valuable opportunities for diverse generations to connect from a distance over similar interests and benefit from each other’s perspectives.

Innovating to engage

At the onset of the pandemic, Atria communities were equipped with conferencing phone lines. The ability to dial in from the safety of their apartments has enabled residents to join neighbors for group sing-alongs, book clubs, art appreciation programs, word games, lectures and Broadway performances, to name a few. Many communities provide handouts to serve as visual aids.

Since residents aren’t gathering for group classes and events, Atria is bringing those experiences to them. Doorway and mobile cart events have inspired endless creativity. Staff have organized guided “paint and sip” workshops, container gardening and travel adventures via video, food samples and music. The popular Positivi-Tea program encourages residents to explore topics in the field of positive psychology while they sip a nice cup of tea.

Staying strong

With many gyms closed and exercise classes canceled, it’s no secret staying fit has been a challenge for many of us.

While Atria staff offer regular hallway workouts and outdoor walks at communities where local and state regulations permit, many will soon launch a new fitness challenge to further motivate residents. Small clusters of communities will compete against other groups to achieve their exercise goals and earn rewards and recognition.

“Exercise has been the most important, and probably the hardest, program to develop overall,” said Atria’s Vice President of Resident Engagement, Christy Phillips. “We’ve gotten really creative with helping residents maintain their physical strength.”

Celebrating resilience

Speaking of strength, Atria residents have persevered through world wars, economic depressions and personal challenges. They have so much to teach others and their resilience is a tool Catherine Schneider, Atria’s Director of Resident Well-Being Curriculum, hopes residents are willing to share.

“We’ve developed a program to collect the wisdom behind the ways residents have learned to cope during difficult times,” said Schneider. “After all, we’re going through this together. It’s an opportunity to share stories and learn from each other.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Active Aging, Community, COVID-19, Seniors and Technology, Wit & Wisdom

Connecting Safely through Culinary Experiences


Posted on August 7, 2020 by Mari Evans


As we have been carefully reopening our senior living communities over the past few months, Atria’s Culinary and Engage Life events teams have delivered thoughtful, hospitality-driven experiences for residents, adapted to the times in which we’re all living.

 Safety first, then fun

Chad Welch, Atria’s Executive Chef of Culinary Operations, used to recommend ways for community culinary staff to display a buffet, cheese board or fruit platter for residents to enjoy together as a group. These days, however, he provides recommendations for rethinking some of the basic concepts of resident dining options.

“We’ve been really creative with how we’re delivering food,” he said. One of the ways Atria has offered a safe and enjoyable experience is by visiting residents door to door with themed, decorated culinary carts with individual portions for safety. A farmer’s market cart, complete with terracotta planters filled with hummus, might arrive at their doorstep one day. Another day, they might be treated to a summer barbecue-themed spread of smoked ribs and slaw. Staff have even delivered pizza in boxes personalized with good-natured jokes like “You’re so cheesy!” and other special hellos.

During these cautionary times, staff also take residents’ temperatures, wheel hydration carts door to door, and bring residents mobile happy hours like Margarita Monday or Wimbledon Wednesday with cocktails and strawberries.

“We have carts for just about everything – one of my favorites is a ‘Positivi-Tea’ cart that shares tea and uplifting thoughts on meditation and wellness with our residents,” said Shannon Wilson, Atria’s Manager of Engage Life Operations. “They’re a way to make mealtime more of an event, a surprise to look forward to.”

People belong together

One of Atria’s core values is that people belong together – and food can help cultivate that sense of belonging.

The challenge these days is to help residents feel connected at a time when they must socially distance and can’t go out and enjoy their favorite local places. That’s why we vary community menus regionally and seasonally. We may serve stuffed quahogs in Falmouth, Massachusetts, at the same time we’re serving Crab Louie in San Mateo, California, or green chili in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Having your meals delivered to you, while a bit of a luxury, can be monotonous at times, so this is a way to offer programs to residents throughout the day that makes the delivery a community-wide event,” Wilson said. “We value our residents so much and we want them to stay engaged and connected through their culinary experiences.”

 

To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.

 


Category: Community, COVID-19, The Atria Kitchen, Wit & Wisdom

Atria families are finding reassurance in an uncertain world


Posted on July 24, 2020 by Mari Evans


During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to rethink the way we live, work and keep our families safe.

At Atria Senior Living, we are committed to protecting residents’ health and safety while maintaining the connection and engagement so vital to their well-being. Our 14,000-plus employees are extensively trained on how to respond in any circumstance, whether it’s a hurricane, flood, wildfire or a pandemic.

Through every challenge over the years, we’ve emerged smarter and better situated to continue serving residents safely while offering them meaningful opportunities to lead vibrant, connected lives.

We continue to be grateful for the families who have put their trust in us. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

___________________________________

 

Atria Daly City

Daly City, California

 

“I was recommended two years ago by a friend to bring my brother to Atria Daly City. This was the best decision I made on his behalf for myself and my family. What a beautiful community. The Executive Director, Cecilia, and Chef Walter really form a dynamic duo along with their ever-caring staff who are  tender, polite and very alert.

The real proof came when COVID-19 hit California and subsequently all care facilities. What a crew! All of them, with no one exempted, went above and beyond their abilities to help the vulnerable residents during this difficult time.

All of them, with no one exempted, went above and beyond their abilities to help the vulnerable residents during this difficult time.

Their dedicated service continues today and will for years to come. I was amazed to learn the number of hours each and every one of them worked at the community, sacrificing their personal lives, their families, their own time. Also, before the pandemic hit, the community was thriving socially with all the activities and field trips that made them feel good and like members of a big family.

I recommend Atria to anyone who wants their older loved ones to live in a safe, caring and loving environment. The economics of it are also great. The price is right, as they say, and Chef Walter will never disappoint you! You will be in a very good place!”

–Philip

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Atria Briarcliff Manor                                                                  

Briarcliff Manor, New York

 

"Atria Briarcliff Manor is exactly the community where I would want my parent(s) to live, especially during this challenging time. The sincerity, camaraderie and professionalism of the entire staff, the warmth and cleanliness of the campus and residence is incredible and outstanding! The measures taken to ensure all of the residents and staff are safe and well cared for is impressive and reassuring. Anyone who visits or has a loved one residing at Atria Briarcliff Manor can attest to the warmth and family the staff has created in this wonderful senior living community. Hats off to the Atria Briarcliff Manor team for its tireless efforts to generate creative programs and ways to keep the community members feeling connected to their loved ones and each other while respecting and abiding by social distancing protocols. #awesome!!! Well done Atria!”

–Deborah

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Atria Willow Park

Tyler, Texas

 

"I have been a resident of Atria for 12 years in May. When people ask me how I like it, I tell them it’s the best place to be.

The personnel since I have been here have been superb. But what I want to talk about is the way they have been in this present crisis. They are the best. There are just no adequate adjectives to tell you how excellently they have managed their sharing of duties during this time and are always pleasant. They have all pitched in and are always accommodating and kind and pleasant.   

There are just no adequate adjectives to tell you how excellently they have managed their sharing of duties during this time and are always pleasant.

I want to apologize for my writing. I’m 98 years old, and I think I’m doing pretty good to be able to write at all even if it does slant up the page. That shouldn’t detract from my message. Atria personnel are special. They are just extra special. Thank you for providing the type of management that encourages this type of service and employees.”

Sincerely,

Mary 

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Atria Tarzana

Tarzana, California

 

“Finding an assisted living community for a parent can be such a challenging and difficult decision, especially these days. Today, I was able to take a virtual tour of Atria Tarzana with Rafi and I was just blown away. He was not only informative, but his personal attention made my mom and me feel very comfortable.

He was not only informative, but his personal attention made my mom and me feel very comfortable.

Staff members also joined the tour to say hello. We felt extremely welcomed. All of our main concerns were answered in detail, from safety and health matters to everyday living. Thank you, Rafi! My mother is definitely looking forward to making Atria her new home.”

–Maggie

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Atria Crossroads Place

Waterford, Connecticut

 

“My father has been at Atria Crossroads Place for a little over two years now. We have been very happy with the service and accommodations. The building is very clean, the food is very good, and the staff is very kind and helpful. In the past few months amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Atria Crossroads Place has been outstanding in their approach to keeping residents safe and healthy. I highly recommend Atria. You will be hard-pressed to find a finer community in the state.”

–D.S.

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To learn more about how Atria Senior Living is helping residents and their families stay connected, visit AtriaSafeTogether.com.


Category: Community, COVID-19, Wit & Wisdom

Anthony | Engineer


Posted on September 28, 2018 by Atria Senior Living


Anthony was born in Peiping, China, and came to the United States on a student visa in 1950. When he learned communists had taken over his home country, he decided to stay in the U.S.

Building bridges is Anthony’s specialty. As a civil engineer, he designed long-span structures in countries like India and China where builders possessed the technology, but not the design expertise.

He met his wife Lillian at her family’s Chinese restaurant. His advice for a long, happy marriage is simple: respect. His secret to longevity? “Take life as it is – not as you wish it to be.”

See why discerning older adults like Anthony choose to age well together at Atria. Schedule a tour of a community near you.

Photo by noted portrait photographer Mark Seliger 


Category: Wit & Wisdom Tags: ,

Caterina | Co-Creator


Posted on August 31, 2018 by Atria Senior Living


Born in Palermo, Italy, Caterina worked for many years as an assistant seamstress to legendary legendary fashion designer Geoffrey Beene.

In 1967, she co-created a haute couture wedding dress for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter, Lynda. To prepare for the final fitting, Caterina, Mr. Beene and three other assistants traveled to Washington, D.C., where they labored inside the White House for three days. Caterina finished the wedding gown on a sewing machine set up in the Lincoln Bedroom.

Caterina’s favorite Italian expression is “hai mangiato?,” which means “Did you eat?” She loves making pasta con sardi, pasta with sardines, for family and friends. Her secret to longevity is “working for many years and enjoying my work.”

See why discerning older adults like Caterina choose to age well together at Atria. Schedule a tour of a community near you.

Photo by noted portrait photographer Mark Seliger 


Category: Wit & Wisdom Tags: , , , ,

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