With the advent of social media and open-source publishing tools, more ordinary people than ever before are sharing information about the places where they live and work as “citizen journalists.” But the trend isn’t limited to the normal walks of life—senior living has its own kind of locally sourced journalism, too.
That doesn’t mean senior living providers are sending their residents to report on local board meetings or happenings at city hall. Instead, they’re giving residents the tools to inform and entertain one another in the communities where they live through reporting, creative writing and broadcasting.
Getting the scoop
At Riderwood, an Erickson Living CCRC with about 2,500 residents in Silver Spring, Maryland, residents can report and edit for a monthly newspaper called the “Riderwood Reporter.” The paper, which has 10 resident writers, functions like any local publication would, with pitch meetings, reporting deadlines, fact-checking and rounds of edits, according to Chris Taydus, Riderwood’s community television and audio/visual manager.
Story topics run the gamut from news and events to art, business features and profiles of other residents.
“We strive at Riderwood to keep our residents as informed as possible…and the newspaper is a great source of not only news, but entertainment as well,” Taydus, who also serves as the paper’s editor in chief, told Senior Housing News. “Getting that information from residents as opposed to having staff feed you all of it is a different world.”
Once an issue is finalized and printed, staffers distribute it to all the community’s residents. All told, it takes about $2,000 a month to print the paper—a cost that’s well worth the benefit in resident satisfaction, he added.
Like other Erickson Living communities, Riderwood also has an in-house television station, where a small team of residents produces a daily morning news program that closely mirrors what’s in the paper. And they’re not the only ones: Brookdale Senior Living’s Brookdale Canyon Lakes community in Kennewick, Washington, also has a resident-led TV station.
“With the TV studio that we have here, as well as the newspaper, you can come in and say, I’ve always wanted to be a journalist…and we’re willing to give you that shot.” Taydus said. “Half the fun of this job is seeing the residents see their work in print or see their work on the screen.”
Meanwhile, at Westminster Gardens, a HumanGood continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Duarte, California, residents have a heavy hand in shaping a monthly newsletter called “Gleanings.” Residents who volunteer to help with the newsletter spend a few hours each month writing, interviewing one another or highlighting local events, said Bernadette Chang, Westminster’s director of sales and marketing.
“There’s usually a lot of puns and funny things in the newsletter, which makes it more fun to read,” Chang told Senior Housing News. “The residents who are doing the reporting and creating the articles, they know what’s going on.”
Having residents produce the newsletter also gives them a sense of purpose and keeps them active, she explained.
“It’s important for the residents to be part of this because they can share what information they find important,” Chang said. “You learn more. That’s why they enjoy it.”
On the page, over the wire
Not all communities place such a heavy focus on the news-you-can-use format.
Willow Brook, a faith-based nonprofit with three senior care communities in Delaware and Worthington/Columbus, Ohio, publishes its residents’ short stories, poetry and photography in a quarterly in-house print publication called “Reflections.”
“We forever have our antennae up looking for residents and staffers that have writing talents in fiction or poetry,” Willow Brook CEO Larry Harris told SHN. “We also use a lot of resident-generated photographs and artwork.”
It takes up to about $25,000 per year to print and mail the quarterly, but the benefit of publishing Reflections is well worth it, Harris said. It gives Willow Brook a way to highlight its talented residents and employees, while at the same time giving contributors an important shot of positivity.
“What a wonderful boost it is [for residents] to see one of their photographs or written pieces knowing that it’s going out to thousands of people,” Harris said. “It’s a wonderful way to put a spotlight on people.”
At Holly Creek, a Christian Living Communities (CLC) CCRC in Denver, seniors can volunteer to work on HCRK, a resident-run internal radio station that serves as a communication hub and social conduit. Each day, seniors read announcements, play music and host radio shows meant for the ears of the community’s roughly 320 residents, said Jayne Keller, vice president of operations for Capella Living Solutions, CLC’s sister company.
“They’re covering what they think is important to their friends and neighbors,” Keller told SHN. “It certainly has enhanced resident-to-resident communication. Rather than having morning coffee with the newspaper, they’re having morning coffee with their neighbor telling them what’s going on in the day.”
Written by Tim Regan