An In-House Television Channel Keeps Residents Active

Personalized Exercise Program Director at The Willows at Worcester, Kaitlyn Ekstrom-Doig, and Yoga Instructor, Brenna Miller, have been hard at work the past several months establishing various programs for Residents.

When Residents were encouraged to socially-distance in their own apartments during the height of the pandemic, Ekstrom-Doig and Miller utilized “The Willows TV” channel to keep Residents engaged and active. Staff at The Willows at Worcester typically use the in-house broadcast capacity as an informational channel for events happening on campus. However, when COVID-19 presented changes to daily routines, Ekstrom-Doig began testing the separate video capability and has been using it ever since. She plans to continue using it moving forward.

“I find the programs and videos via YouTube™ and then upload them to our own channel. Brenna and I created fitness classes which run at times we would normally teach in-person,” explains Ekstrom-Doig. Miller elaborates, “We made sure to include different programs that are best suited for all of our Residents and their different levels of fitness and style preferences.”

Miller put together various yoga classes that run in the morning “to energize and wake up the body” and evening yoga classes to help Residents relax. Together, they were also able to include: the Stay Active and Independent for Life program, a strength and balance regiment that is beneficial and evidence-based for seniors 65+, Tai Chi classes, Upper Body Strength classes using weights and bands, Lower Body Strength and Balance classes, Mat Yoga, Chair Yoga, Aquacise and Meditation classes, and Total Body Conditioning classes—Ekstrom-Doig’s favorite. The Total Body classes are “designed for people to use items from around their homes, such as cans, milk jugs, and pillows, to build strength and cardiovascular endurance,” she explains.

In addition to the fitness and exercise programs, Ekstrom-Doig utilized “The Willows TV” channel to show other programs as well. “Director of Dining Services, Silvia Ibanez, and I worked together on our themed weeks. Silvia would choose a type of cuisine, and I would choose a program around the meal,” explains Ekstrom-Doig. So far, foods from the following areas and a variety of programs have been featured:

  • Italy—cooking shows, an Italian opera, “Ancient Rome in 20 minutes” and the movie La Dolce Vita
  • France—cooking shows, the movie Cyrano, and Gypsy Jazz for cocktail hour
  • Hawaii—Hula dancing workout, Hawaii documentary, and Ukulele music
  • New England—Tour of the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, vintage travelogue from 1948, and Live From Lincoln Center’s production of Carousel (set in NE)
  • Hollywood—History of Hollywood Docuseries, “Hooray for Hollywood” Concert
  • Art & Design—Virtual Tour of the Museum of Modern Art and the Louvre, Documentary on Bauhaus, Investigation of “Fake Van Gogh”

In addition to the themed programs, they also broadcast TED™ Talks, nature documentaries, public domain movies, interviews with celebrities, senior savvy tech tutorials, One Day University programs, and more. “I try to curate ‘The Willows TV’ with content that is educational, culturally enriching, and (hopefully) uplifting. I feel a sense of responsibility to give the Residents experiences that they may be missing out on, such as travel and live performances. These are some of my favorite people, and I hope they see the programming as a virtual hug, dialogue, and pat on the back from me!” explains Ekstrom–Doig.

“In total, we run about 7-8 hours of programming per day,” says Ekstrom-Doig. Miller adds, “‘The Willows TV’ channel has been amazing! I am so happy to have had the opportunity to offer our classes utilizing this technology, and a big thank you to Kaitlyn for being the videographer, editor, and tech-savvy work colleague.”

Kathy Reynolds, director of resident services at The Willows at Worcester, says both” “Kaitlyn and Brenna have brought so much to our programming, and unexpectedly, in the last six months. They complement each other very well and have helped our Residents immensely.”

Although a lot of work, Ekstrom-Doig and Miller feel the programming has been very rewarding. “The biggest surprise I’ve received is the number of calls and notes from Residents who weren’t regulars in exercise classes saying that they are now doing the classes every day; that’s such a win!” says Ekstrom-Doig. Miller explains, “I love working with the diverse group of Residents at The Willows; I’m excited to be part of a team that can offer these classes, and I’m looking forward to the future of it.”

Since 1952, SALMON Health and Retirement has been serving Central Massachusetts. SALMON’s Beaumont at Worcester community became the nation’s first COVID-19 recovery center for seniors. To learn more about SALMON’s continuum of care with services on multiple campuses and the way in which the organization is fighting COVID-19 head-on, visit www.SalmonHealth.com or call (508)-755-0088.