Sharon Snow isn’t exactly sure how large the television in the Oasis Room at Elim Park actually is.
She just knows that it’s big — so big in fact that those being “zoomed” in during a meeting appear to be right there in the room with everyone else.
That’s exactly how she wants it, admits Snow, especially as she tries to not only bring a little bit of holiday cheer to Elim Park residents, but also strengthen the bonds between the retirement community and Cheshire as a whole.
“I was just really looking for a way to connect our residents to the town, and the town to our residents,” said Snow, life enrichment coordinator for Elim Park. “I have a background in teaching, so I have a history in bringing people together for community events, and I felt that was as important now as ever before.”
To accomplish her goal, Snow devised a fun holiday-themed concept — a Holiday Movie Trivia challenge that would involve interested Elim Park residents pitting their knowledge of Christmas movies against members of different Cheshire Town departments.
The challenge kicked off last week with special guest contestants from the Cheshire Police Department. Approximately 20 Elim Park residents, all wearing masks, were spread out in the Oasis Room and the officers were “zoomed” into the challenge and shown on the screen.
Snow serves as questioner, providing each side a chance to answer a question about a specific holiday movie agreed to by both sides beforehand.
In the first challenge, contestants answered questions about the holiday favorite, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966 cartoon version).
“It was such a great time,” remarked Snow. “There was so much laughing. I was trying to help out where I could. It was just a time when everyone could laugh, have fun, and have their spirits lifted for a while.”
In the end, the residents and the officers finished the challenge in a tie. But the final result wasn’t what stood out to Snow.
“When we finished, I just thanked the officers for everything they do and how they serve the community,” remembered Snow, “and the residents, they just broke out in applause. It made me choke up a bit, and I saw the officers, they choked up as well.”
“I think now, with everything going on, it’s important for us to show our support for officers and let them know we appreciate all they do,” she continued.
The Holiday Trivia Challenge is just one of the many activities Elim Park has offered to residents since the pandemic occurred. Elim Park President Brian Bedard explained that, while the retirement home facility has made safety its top priority during the COVID-19 crisis, it hasn’t prevented them from focusing on ensuring that their residents’ quality of life remains high.
“We are always trying to protect the vibrancy of our community,” explained Bedard. “We have done a lot on the safety side, and we have been very aggressive in trying to ensure (residents) stay healthy, but we also understand that you can’t allow the virus to crush the human spirit.”
Focus has been placed on ways to help community members stay active and connected to the community and family, he said. Zoom seminars have been scheduled to better help residents use their technology to keep in touch with family members. Nelson Hall, Elim Park’s theater, may not have the usual performances scheduled for the moment, but the space is still being used for everything from unique workout activities to live streaming events shown on a screen.
Residents are attending religious services, and for Christmas Bedard promises that even more emphasis will be placed on “decking the halls” of the facility.
“I’d like if people could see a tree from every window (at Elim Park),” he said, with a laugh.
The Trivia Challenge, Bedard acknowledged, is just one more way for the staff to make this trying time more enjoyable for people.
“We are making lemonade out of lemons,” he said. “We have 500 staff and 500 residents, and this is an awesome opportunity for us to take a bad situation and do something positive for each other.”
Snow has already received positive feedback from the first night of the trivia challenge, and is excited for the upcoming nights that will include competitors from the Cheshire Fire Department, the Library, Peter’s 2 Restaurant, and more.
One thing Snow has already noticed is that the challenge isn’t just rewarding for the Elim Park participants — it’s rewarding for everyone involved.
“We really want this to be about uplifting people, to forget about the restrictions and show that we can still interact, can still have Christmas, even if things look a little different,” she said.