Mutual Love and Support During a Hard Time
Dorothy Pietrucha, Senior Lifestyles Director at Chelsea
Chelsea at Bridgewater Senior Assistant Living Center is one of the seven senior living centers in north and south New Jersy that IYC has established long-term friendship and partnership with for more than five years. We have been giving onsite/virtual concerts, doing crafts, helping fundraising, and conducting other volunteer activities throughout these years. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to physically visit them for 9 months. In the most recent episode of the IYC Podcast, Kelvin and Daniel, two young IYC volunteers, chatted with Ms. Dorothy, the Senior Lifestyles Director of the Chelsea at Bridgewater. Chelsea has been in lock-down on and off recently, Dorothy and her staffs are working diligently to keep the residents safe and sound. Their resilience and hard-work also inspired us very much! Please view the below transcript from the IYC Podcast and learn how special the mutual love and impact we have for each other.
Kelvin: Hello everybody! Welcome back to the IYC Podcast, this is going to be our thirteenth episode. I’m one of your hosts, Kelvin.
Daniel: And I’m your other host, Daniel.
Kelvin: And today we’re back with a special guest, would you like to introduce yourself?
Dorothy: Sure! I’m Dorothy Pietrucha, I’m the Senior Lifestyles Director at Chelsea Senior Living which is an assisted living community in Bridgewater.
Kelvin: So, going along with the theme of IMPACT Youth Club, or IYC, as Ms. Dorothy, you know, IYC is known at Chelsea for performing concerts at senior centers like yours with many performers playing different types of instruments highlighting different styles of music. I wanted to know what the seniors, specifically at Chelsea, think of our concerts?
Dorothy: Well, right now we miss you terribly. They love having you come, I think it’s not only the music that you provide for them, but it’s just your friendship and how all of you are just wonderful people. And every time we have you come to our community, the residents--I’ll tell you the truth, the residents normally in the evenings they don’t stay up late. But when you would come on a Sunday they would make sure that they were up at night afterward to have an evening program. They just admire your talent and how well you all perform. All our residents are truly missing you, all of you. Because you’re just--you’re our friends! And you really are, not just your talent but I think it’s more for my residents is your friendship. And you’re just so warm and nice - you don’t just come and play, afterward, you’ll stay and you’ll talk with them and you just make them so happy.
Daniel: Thank you very much! We all miss you a lot too! Speaking of concerts, we’ve been performing some specialty ones at Chelsea, including an Alzheimer awareness one and a Holiday themed concert. I just wanted to ask, which one was your favorite or the senior’s favorite?
Dorothy: I think the Alzheimer's one. They were able to enjoy it on a different level because it was in a different area. We had it in our dining room. So I think they were just so enthralled with the music and having it at a different location. I would say that one. But they love it when you come and you do your Christmas one as well, they just love when you come! No matter when it is, they just love your music!
Kelvin: Thank you! Obviously during the concerts, we can see some immediate effects we have on the seniors and we are extremely grateful for their appreciation for our concerts, but sometimes there are long-term effects that we aren’t necessarily able to see immediately. Do you have any stories of seniors perhaps getting back into music, possibility playing an instrument, or just making music more present in their lives?
Dorothy: There is one resident in particular that comes to my mind. She doesn’t come out too much but she used to play piano at Carnegie Hall. So when you came, it just brought a whole new light to her and it just brought back so many happy memories to her! But it wasn’t just that evening after you all performed a concert, the next day, the rest of the week, I still hear from all the residents and how they enjoyed it. And they’ll tell me, they’ll mention you, and a lot of times they’ll be: “Oh it was this young boy that got up there and he played the piano”, and they’ll just go on and on. You can just see how happy they are, the smiles on their faces. The long term effect of music is just phenomenal! As people age they don’t always remember words, they don’t always remember faces, but as soon as they hear a melody, and they may not know the melody, but you can just see how it transforms them and they start smiling. Maybe those aches and pains that they’ve had during the day they weren’t feeling well, all of a sudden they’re gone! They’re gone for that time that you’re there, and then again when they tell me about the story, they’re gone again! So it’s just amazing what music does to the mind, to the mind of seniors. Anything else we can give to them, but not music, not music at all.
Daniel: That was really nice! The impact that we’re having. As we all know, we are currently socially distancing due to COVID-19 and doing virtual concerts instead of in-person concerts.
Dorothy: I’m so sad about that.
Daniel: Yeah we are too! We wish we could be there in person. Do you think this has changed the concert experience at all? Or how might it have affected the seniors?
Dorothy: I think part of it is. It’s harder for them to hear it. Their vision isn’t as great too. So it has definitely had some impact. Also right now we go in and out of lockdown. If we have two people test positive in the community, then we have to lockdown and everyone has to quarantine again which means they can’t come out of their rooms. So we have to rely on when they are out of lockdown to bring them in--we bring them in, in groups of 10 max, we keep them in what we call their pods, who they are used to recreating in the hall and who they are used to eating with. So this way if there is an outbreak we can contain it more. So, when I have shown your concerts - they’re all excited because they know who you are - you’re their grandchildren basically! And it brings a smile to their face. But it has been a little more difficult listening, hearing you on the TV versus having you in person. But we’re still trying, and they’re so grateful. They’re still grateful that they’re getting the concerts that way because it’s still better than nothing. They’re loving it. But they can’t wait to see you, and when they see you, to be able to really hold your hand and talk to you!
Kelvin: It’s great to hear about the social distancing policies that you guys have and also how you’re really making an effort to show off our concerts which is something - we are also, super extremely grateful for that too.
Kelvin: Just jumping on to a different segment, we recently sent several boxes of LED lightbulbs to your center. They were graciously given by Megalight Inc. as a part of their energy-saving initiative for 2020. It’s also really great how we are able to find different ways to support yours during these times.
Dorothy: Your organization is phenomenal! I was just telling my husband as we were having dinner I said, I have never seen a group of young individuals - and truly your name really says it all – who have the impact like you have provided to a community, and on the society! One thing that people will say when you come to our community is: how respectful you are. You’re just so willing to help -- you were all well-raised, so well, that, it is unbelievable! I was telling him how I’ve never worked with a group as unbelievable as you are! As we went around with the lightbulbs we would give them to the residents and we would explain that they were from you. And I also have some of your old concert flyers, and I brought them with me so that they can relate and know “Oh okay, now I know who this is from.” And we would kid them and say: “we want you to be creative and think of some really bright ideas!” I mean, get it? Lightbulb, bright. So they were very grateful! You’d be amazed at how lightbulbs go out so quickly in the community. Dan who is our maintenance director, his eyes lit up when you brought in those lightbulbs. His eyes really did light up and he was just so happy and grateful and so were the residents. So we just can’t thank you enough for thinking of us!
Daniel: Yeah, that was a really great experience for us as well, giving the lightbulbs out. The holidays are coming soon and we are still not able to meet each other in person. If you wanted to share, is there anything special that you’re going to do for the seniors over the holidays?
Dorothy: Right now, we’re in the midst of thinking of a few things. They are going to be on lockdown, so at that point, that means that they are not allowed to come out for any meals, they can’t even come out in their small groups for entertainment, so we did order stockings and we’re going to go around to every room, we’re going to put the stockings on their door. Our food services department manager, he’s dressing up as Santa Claus, so he’s going to come around, we’re going to do hot chocolate and cookies and I’m trying to recruit a group right now, inside our staff, and we’re going to go around and we’re going to do Christmas Caroling too. So we’ll sing, hopefully--we’re not that great, but I think just getting everybody involved is great. We have, every day at 3 o'clock, a social hour. So I have a special cart that we’ve dressed as a tiki bar, we’ve done for Halloween, we dressed it up as a haunted mansion, so we’re also going to decorate that and make it very fancy. We’re going to have music playing every time we bring around their drinks and their snacks throughout the month of December. Also, as holiday cards start rolling in from the different organizations that are writing them (like IYC), we’re going to go around and put the cards in the stockings. So hopefully this is going to give them something to look forward to every day.
Kelvin: With the train-wreck that 2020 has been, it is so great that we’re not letting the positivity in ourselves just die down and be overwhelmed by the negativity. We’re all still trying to stay strong and do with what we have available to make the most out of it, which is the best. I just wanted to ask, are there any suggestions that you might have for concerts we will perform in the future?
Dorothy: I don’t have a suggestion per se, but I would say just keep performing, keep performing. You are just wonderful. And music to me is the best thing that can get to anybody’s soul. That’s what I think everyone’s soul needs. So whatever you present, we love, we are just so grateful that you came into our lives and you’re a part of our community. I don’t have any suggestions in terms of music, you are all so creative. Whatever you provide is just so wonderful.
Daniel: That sounds really great, how we’re able to all help each other during this difficult time. So, before we end this episode, are there any closings or shout-outs you would like to give?
Dorothy: Just to all of you, I want just to tell all of you that we love you, we’re just so grateful that you are a part of the Chelsea community. And you are really all making such a difference and we thank you for it. And I just wish you a happy and safe Holiday season, and just keep at everything that you’re doing, you’re just great people. And it’ll make such a difference in your lives, you’ll feel it. I’m sure you feel it now in everything that you do, to all the different communities--and I’ve seen the list, you helped so many people.
Kelvin: And also from our end as well, we would like to shout out the Chelsea at Bridgewater for being such a welcoming place for us to gather volunteers, put on concerts, to be more engaged with our community, and to do the giving back. So we are really grateful for that.
Dorothy: You’re welcome!
Kelvin: And, I think that’s going to be it for this episode. Thank you all for listening and we’ll see you in the next one, goodbye everybody!
Daniel: Thank you, goodbye!