Breaking the Ice

Welcome programs help newcomers feel at home in new surroundings.

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Portrait of cheerful seniors playing card game at lunch table on outdoor terrace laughing happily

Being new in a senior living community can feel a little like the first day at a new school. Your surroundings are unfamiliar, and you haven’t yet made a new circle of friends. Don’t worry. Senior living communities offer a range of orientation programs to help you get acclimated.

(Illustration by Shaw Nielsen)

At Shenandoah Valley Westminster-Canterbury in Winchester, a welcome committee oversees a program designed to ensure newbies get comfortable. “Each resident is assigned a mentor who keeps in close contact with their new person over the first couple of months,” Kitty Zuckerman, communications and marketing specialist, explains. “They invite them out for meals and introduce them to other residents with whom they think they might have something in common.” A mini bio sheet announcing new folks is distributed campuswide, so longtime residents can be on the lookout for newcomers and offer a warm welcome. Zuckerman notes that “new residents say how friendly everyone is and how welcome they feel.”

At Brandon Oaks in Roanoke, new residents are assigned a floor representative to help set up cable channels and voicemail, says Beth Herndon, resident services director. And “resident ambassadors” guide newcomers through a three-week welcome program. “They meet with the new person, give them a tour, introduce them to residents, have dinner and invite them to participate in activities,” Herndon says.


This article originally appeared in the December 2021 issue.

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