As all hunker down during a safer at home mandate in Nashville due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a local retirement community adapts with out-of-the box adjustments to keep their elderly residents safe, secure and not bored.

McKendree Village in Hermitage is one of the area’s largest, deep-rooted retirement communities with more than 400 residents and serves independent, assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation and long-term care. 

Adhering to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state mandates, the center’s stoic community members can no longer see loved family members, and they are quarantined to their rooms. 

However, the community isn’t going to bow down to the virus, but instead stretched the limits and offers a unique in-house, newly expanded cable television station to keep things fresh, informative, interesting and fun.

Marketing director Jane Schnelle has been in the business for years, and these days her role at McKendree has expanded in several ways outside her normal duties, from picking up food orders, delivering packages and going live on the television station with some doable chair exercises residents can watch in their own rooms.

Mostly used to broadcast chapel services, McKendree Village TV, channel 920, was elevated to a new and pertinent role. The cable station expanded its horizons in a big way.

“I think it’s really unique to a retirement community,” Schnelle said. “It starts at 9 a.m. and goes into the early afternoon with a new variety of content.” 

The programming expands each week, as staff and even residents go in front of the camera to share their talents, philosophies and more.

“At first the channel was used primarily for folks who were not as mobile,” she said. “They could see chapel services without attending in person.”

It’s a whole new TV game these days across the campus, and residents tune in while quarantined. 

Last Friday, Schnelle was featured on the station, teaching a chair fitness class residents could replicate in their quarantined rooms. 

“I usually do low-impact classes,” she said. “But things have changed. This ability to broadcast other than chapel has opened our world here.”

The only thing different is when she is in front of a camera, rather than an in-person class, she doesn’t get the verbal feedback.

“Usually, people are talking, asking how many more to do and such,” she said with a laugh. 

Normally, a staff member with musical talent might see some folks in person. Now they broadcast. 

“We have word puzzles on the broadcast with clues,” said Schnelle.

There’s also a coloring contest where staff distributes the color page and colored pencils.

“There will be a virtual art exhibit, voting and a winning prize,” she said. 

McKendree executive director Barbara Morrison conducted her first virtual town hall via the channel recently. 

There are plans for televised readings of short stories. The possibilities are endless.

And, we all get hungry. The community’s café only does takeout, and residents are allowed to order. Schnelle and some of the 300 staffers pick up the orders and deliver them. Their community restaurant does a lot of in-room meal deliveries, too.

“The residents like room service,” she said. “They think they are at a fancy hotel.”

Recently, there were small group trips to the local Kroger and other groceries during the authorized “early morning hours for elderly.” 

“For the most part, they are using on-line delivery now,” Schnelle said. 

Also, who doesn’t like to shop? Stuck in their rooms, residents aren’t afraid of a little online shopping these days. 

“Well, we did some teaching about buying online,” Schnelle said. “It’s grown in popularity. It’s like Christmas here with deliveries from Amazon and UPS. One lady really wanted to learn how to order from Belk.”

And the staff orchestrates a lot of curbside pickup and then delivery to residents. 

The other day, a daughter of a resident was upset because her device wasn’t adaptable to her dad’s. Schnelle fixed it and loaned her own personal phone to make Facetime work. 

Of course, the village takes high-priority, regulated sanitation measures and daily temperature checks of residents and staff.

In other words, the retirement village known as the “Heart of Hermitage” isn’t stuck in a funk because of COVID-19 restrictions, but rather pushes to perform for its most vulnerable citizens caught in the chaos along with everyone else.

Recommended for you