In early January of 2021, Meridian Health Care accompanied Charter Senior Living to drop off care packages for the Vernon Hills Seniors Organization at the Vernon Hills Village hall. While at the village hall, Meridian, Charter Senior Living and the Victory Centre of Vernon Hills began brainstorming with village staff and the seniors organization about what we can all do together in order to create a new outreach initiative so that events like this are not just “one-offs”, but something that is ongoing. Within two weeks of our first meeting, we had the groundwork laid for our plans and the village published a video regarding it.

 

The initial feedback that we all received on the plan was overwhelmingly positive. Emails and phone calls from area residents that were interested began pouring in and people wanted more details. The Daily Herald, one of Chicagoland’s largest newspapers, even did a story on it.

 

An initiative to engage and reconnect seniors with the community during the COVID-19 era is underway in Vernon Hills.

The village, Charter Senior Living, Victory Centre and Meridian Health Care have partnered to provide support and ease isolation seniors may be feeling during the pandemic.

“We’re focusing on what can be done rather than when can’t be done,” said Steve Rainsford of Meridian, who is serving as a community engagement specialist for the Senior Outreach Initiative.

“Anybody who’s interested can be part of it,” he added.

 

A day later (and the day of our first actual event), WBBM newsradio 780 (Chicago’s largest AM news station) picked up the story as well.

 

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) —Leaders of a group of north suburban seniors say they’ve decided to focus on what they CAN do during a pandemic — not what they CAN’T. Tuesday was their first outing.

Normally, on winter days before the pandemic, seniors in Vernon Hills might be socializing indoors and playing cards or bingo.

These days, close social activity like that is out.

So, Meridian Health Care, Charter Senior Living and the Victory Centre teamed up with Village of Vernon Hills staff and came up with something else. Something many would call better: physical exercise.

“They were ecstatic to be out and about and involved in something,” said Steve Rainsford, Meridian Health Care’s representative, who is assisting the village with the senior outreach initiative.

Our first event was a group exercise walk that took place on 2/9/21. Representatives from the Village of Vernon Hills, Meridian, Charter and the Victory Center, along with the Vernon Hills Senior Organization, met up and went for a stroll at the local indoor mall.

Members of the Vernon Hills Seniors Organization doing the group mall walk

 

Not only did they get in some exercise, everyone had some youthful fun being out and about, all while taking proper safety precautions, such as wearing masks and frequently using hand sanitizer.

 

 

At the mall, the Vernon Hills Seniors Organization was shown the Village of Vernon Hills information booth, which is decorated with donated pots/plants from Charter Senior Living. The pots were painted by Charter Senior Living residents and it will be the job of Seniors Organization members to take care of the plants. This is a way to bridge the gap for seniors in area healthcare facilities and seniors that are independent, making the community bond between them stronger.

 

We finished the mall walk off by having lunch at one of the restaurants inside, to which we want to thank Claim Company for hosting all of us.

 

What all of this shows is that when people from different groups and organizations join together for a common goal, you can have results, even during COVID. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t. From day one (brainstorming) to the rollout of the first event, it was only 3 weeks. That in itself is an accomplishment that everyone should be proud of.  A fantastic collaborative effort between the Vernon Hills Government, the Vernon Hills Seniors Organization, Meridian Health Care, Charter Senior Living and the Victory Center of Vernon Hills. The best part? We are only getting started……