Christine Ferguson, executive director at The Inn at Garden Plaza in Colorado Springs, Colorado recently received the Accolade Award by the Southern Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. This organization recognizes successful and high-profile businesswomen in the area.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, the way retirement communities marketed and hosted events changed abruptly. But Christine Ferguson and her staff developed a successful strategy to make residents happy and safe during the peak of the pandemic and to build trust for new residents to move in.
Before COVID-19 swept the nation, The Inn at Garden Plaza had six activities happening a day for their residents, but that all came to a halt and plans changed. Events were moved to outdoors so residents and staff could safely distance themselves. Any activities that could not be held outside were done virtually or at a six feet distance while everyone wore a mask.
“One of the biggest concerns was if anyone would want to move into our community [ during a pandemic],” remarked Christine. “In the beginning, it was hitting the senior industry more than anything else.”
However, The Inn at Garden Plaza has had move-ins in recent weeks. Christine said this was a relief because a lot of seniors are stuck at home and don’t have access to the resources like The Inn offers them. For the staff members, the biggest blessing from having new residents move in has been that they were able to provide services to the new residents that the residents didn’t have access to before their move.
“The best piece of advice for businesses would be to pivot,” Christine says. “We are a people industry, and it is important for us to show off our building. It’s up to you how you run your industry, and how you need to pivot.”
For example, when the pandemic first hit, tours, visits and open houses were shut down for retirement communities across the nation. In response, The Inn went completely virtual for its tours and open houses. Instead of having face-to-face meetings, staff and residents learned how to do Zoom conferences to protect themselves.
“One of the things I have learned through this is just how strong my team is,” said Christine. “I knew that before, but now I really rely on their strength. And they are fabulous. I couldn’t do it without them.”