(Article will also appear in the Observer Newspapers Friday, August 14, 2015)
When I write my column each month, I tend to look for different reflections and interpretations of home, as a concept and a place. I know I’m not the only one out there whose parents have uttered some version of “You’ll never get me into one of those old-folks homes alive!” So when I happened to pick up some info on a new assisted living facility opening just down the road in Farmington, it seemed refreshing. I like to see people turning old ideas and stereotypes on their heads.
I met Hollis Hartman, Community Sales Director; Ann Zak, Executive Director and Pamela Dumont-Filby, Regional Sales Director for New England at the new construction site for The Landing of Farmington. The Landing is an Atria Senior Living Residence, one of eight in Connecticut, 147 in the U.S. and 40 in Canada.
“One of the things we hear all the time is that this is not a big scary place anymore, unless you wait too long and don’t make your own decisions,” Pamela said. “When we educate people, we say look at where our world has come. The scary thoughts that people have are always turned around when they walk into a facility like this and go ‘wow!’ The next generation won’t be afraid of assisted living… It’s never too early to look at assisted living.”
Atria is a very well known company in CT of our buildings the occupancy rate is about 97% full. It’s a desired location already.”
The Landing hopes to begin moving in residents in November of this year. In the meantime, they will have consumer based information and education sessions once a month. Those will be topics related to seniors. In July, there was one on heat stroke and dehydration. This month’s session will be on fraud protection. (Contact The Landing for more details.)
“One big point of difference for Atria is that we have an excellent culinary program,” Pamela said. “We have multiple choices of where to eat in the community. We have a formal dining room as well as a bistro. The dining room is more of a restaurant with anytime dining from 7 to 7. There’s no scheduled seating time. The other thing that’s different is that we’ve been doing farm-fresh food for years. We don’t base our culinary programs on corporate-based big dining plans. No two Atria communities serve the same thing on any day of the week. Fair Haven, Massachusetts right on the water is probably going to be doing something different than we would here in Farmington, CT. We have one town in Hopedale, Mass that’s got meat and potatoes, all the time! We serve to our clientele and all our chefs are very well appointed executive chefs.”
“We do a lot of things to shake it up. Our residents need variety. Imagine if you had to go to the same restaurant 365 days a year. We do recipes of the month, where we’ll take one of our residents’ home recipes and have them help cook it and then have everyone vote on whether the chef did a good job.”
In addition to approaching food differently, Atria communities are based on a mission using the philosophy of The Engaged Life. The programming under this philosophy is based on studies on aging, recognizing that people are living about 20 years longer than in the past.
“We want to know what’s going to keep them healthy and thriving and independent,” Pamela explained. “What’s going to make them tick? The biggest resistance for people to move into assisted living is that they think they don’t need ‘assistance’ yet. We want to keep them independent.”
Atria bases all their work with residents on what they call the eight components of whole person living. These include – socialization, cultural/creative, intergenerational, volunteerism, exercising mind and body, lifelong learning, spirituality and hobbies.
Pamela explained how important the civic and social engagement is to their residents. “We want people to work, to tap into what they did all their lives. One of the biggest things that helps people thrive is letting them know that they’re still important today. There’s one man in Massachusetts who comes down to the front every day and has a little crowd and he tells them jokes. If he were living home alone he wouldn’t be doing that.We have resident counsel. If we recognize someone likes to be bossy, we’ll put them in charge! The executive directors get feedback once a month at a formal meeting. We recognize emotional and mental needs.”
Each community has the autonomy to build their calendar according to the residents who live there. Instead of randomly scheduling activities, The Landing will poll people moving in to see what their hobbies and interests are.
Socialization and engagement are just one part. “We believe people can learn new things their entire life, no matter what their aging process is,” Pamela said. “When someone learns something new, it triggers something up here,” she said, pointing to her brain. “It triggers something. We want constant triggers to have people keep looking forward to tomorrow.”
The facility will accommodate a mix of residents who drive and some who don’t. Whether they just have the car there for familiarity or drive at all, they have an included parking spot. A community bus will travel in a roughly 12-mile radius for anywhere residents need to go.
Hollis explained that there are quite a mix of options in the 86 traditional assisted living apartments and 23 memory care apartments. “We have studio apartments as well as semi-private apartments that offer residents their own space but a shared bathroom at a lower price point. We also have one and two bedroom apartments and those can have one bathroom or two, so residents have a lot of choices. The apartments will have full sized refrigerators and a microwave so if residents want to make meals in their own apartment, they can. We will have a media room, a theater, a library, a physicians’ exam room, and physical therapy space. A sidewalk goes all the way around the property so that residents can walk safely on a level terrain all the way around the building.”
“Another great thing is that we are pet friendly, so no one has to leave their best friend at home.”
The Landing will also have a Memory Care community. This area will be safe for those who might not be so safe on their own. “There’s a lot more cueing, more direction,” Hollis said. “They’ll have the same menu choices and great activities. If it’s appropriate, they can get together with the other residents in our assisted living. The area will be smaller and more comfortable for someone who might become easily overwhelmed.”
“The backyard here is beautiful. It’s nestled into the trees. We will have a huge upper level deck for people to sit outside and dine. The view is amazing.”
As far as safety, The Landing will have 24-hour coverage by certified nurses aides in the building so that if there is a problem in the middle of the night, they can reassure the resident and make sure that they’re safe and comfortable. Every apartment has its own emergency alert system. All utilities will be included and there are separate temperature controls in every apartment, so each resident can be individually comfortable.
“People choose their own apartments and we never ask them to move,” Pamela said. “We also own and manage our own care. Our caregivers are Atria employees. We see them every day, so if there’s a slight change, we know.”
There’s no long-term commitment for residents. A potential resident can try the community for 30 days and can leave any time with 30-day notice. “This is a month-to-month rental so everyone has options, always,” Pamela said. “We want people to be happy each month, so we’re very hospitality-driven. We have to meet those expectations and give them the lifestyle that we promised.”
“It’s wonderful to work for a company that focuses on individual residents,” Hollis said.
In addition to the many amenities for residents, the quality-driven employee program, requirements and rewards keep great people on staff, to lend to a comfortable, familiar atmosphere for residents. I encourage those in the care, culinary and housekeeping fields to check out the website below for more information on that.
“[Our staff] are very involved in the development of our company,” Pamela said. “We have these things in place to attract good people. Some of our buildings have 15-20 year employees. In healthcare? That’s unheard of.”
You can learn more if you Check out The Landing’s website or call (860) 284-0505.