When joining a new senior living community, it can take a while before residents feel like they belong. Even older adults, who've spent their lives meeting new people, can have a hard time finding their place. Communities managed by The Goodman Group are thoughtfully designed to welcome and support new residents.
Jordan, life enrichment director at The Residence at Timber Pines in Spring Hill, FL, a senior living community managed by The Goodman Group, says that nobody can make new members feel at home like the ones who've already made it theirs. That's where the idea of resident ambassadors comes from, and why they've become a vital part of the move-in experience at The Residence at Timber Pines.
Why Resident Ambassadors are Indispensable Community Advocates
"Our community is very welcoming," Jordan says. "Our resident ambassadors are always willing to take new residents under their wing and get them acclimated to life here."
The Resident Ambassador program is offered at all communities managed by The Goodman Group. The goal of the program is to put those gregarious people front and center to welcome new residents. But according to June, one of The Residence at Timber Pines's nametag-wearing resident ambassadors, the relationship between resident and ambassador grows naturally. She says she's always been an outgoing person – she's "never met a stranger" – which helps her form bonds and earn trust instantaneously.
"They're glad that somebody's conversing with them," June says of the new members she greets.
The duties of a resident ambassador are straightforward on paper, but can be broader in practice. "A resident ambassador might have one particular strength or they might mold to a variety of roles," Jordan says. "It all depends on the individual."
June, for example, is part of the welcoming committee for countless residents, helping them get acclimated to the community, the people they'll live with, and the pace of life at The Residence at Timber Pines. But she's also interfaced with staff, councils, and even landscaping groups to be a voice for the community beyond the first few weeks of residency.
"I'm an organizer," she says. "'Busybody' is probably what you'd call it: If I see a need, I'm liable to step in and fill that need."
Making Resident Moments "More Meaningful"
While resident ambassadors are making their community brighter every day, Jordan says the initiative shown by residents and resident ambassadors is a sign of their community's independence and vitality – a reminder that sometimes, it's better to find ways to position staff as a dependable support system rather than micromanagers. "When a resident has an issue, depending on the issue, I may not always be the right person to answer it," she says.
Ultimately, the job description doesn't matter as much as the soul behind the name tag. Jordan puts it this way: "It's one thing for marketing to tell you all the great things about this community, but when you get the truth from a resident, it becomes more meaningful."
She adds that resident ambassadors are more than just a kind face. "For residents to look at their peers and hear the things they hear" – that they love where they live and who they live with, for example – "that grows their trust in the community. When they build friendships, that's what keeps them here."
A Keystone of Any Senior Living Community
June and Jordan both say that being a resident ambassador gives members an added sense of purpose in their day-to-day lives, adding a structure and meaning in a way that lets them give back to their community – especially now.
"The resident ambassadors are so compassionate," Jordan says. "They always want to know how they can help. They know they've all been the new person at one time or another. They realize they need each other.”
In fact, June remembers her first day at The Residence at Timber Pines very well: fresh to the community and feeling "a bit out of place," she found support in staff and spiritual care, but knew there was a piece missing. There had to be a better way to make new members like herself part of the family.
"I just went up and started talking to people," June says. True to her word, she saw a need and stepped in to fill that need.
Perhaps now more than ever, senior living communities are defined by the people who call them home as much as the services and care they offer. While senior living communities take significant care to welcome new residents, resident ambassadors are still an essential bridge between residents and their new homes.