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STRESS AWARENESS MONTH: BELMONT VILLAGE ALBANY RESIDENTS AND STAFF HARNESS POWER OF MINDFULNESS TO ALLEVIATE DEPRESSION & STRESS DURING THE PANDEMIC

Located on University of California, Berkeley land, about a mile from campus, Belmont Village Albany credits winning the battle against COVID-19 with zero COVID fatalities with a balance of advanced disaster preparedness and innovative, research-based, engaging, intellectually rich, multigenerational programming that includes mindfulness training, gardening, dedication to fitness, exercise, yoga, tai chi, meditation, and outdoor events.

“As our Bay Area residents age, our enrichment programs help residents live engaging, purposeful lives with help from our collaborative university affiliation. The pandemic taught residents and staff new ways to grow, engage and connect,” says Michelle Moros, Executive Director of Belmont Village Senior Living Albany. “Residents benefit from educational activities taught by current and former professors and participate in mindfulness programs to learn to accept things as they are, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Our interactive projects with University Village and campus students all add to a sense of mental and physical wellness, happiness and contentment.”

Dr. Stuart Eisendrath, M.D. Professor of Clinical Psychiatry Emeritus at UCSF, distinguished fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, founding director of the UCSF Depression Center, and author of When Antidepressants Aren’t Enough: Harnessing the Power of Mindfulness to Alleviate Depression, pointed out in a March webinar hosted by Belmont Village, that with more than 50,000,000 Americans taking psychotropic medications that are mostly antidepressants, only half achieve lasting results. He added that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is useful in treating depression and anxiety to help people change their relationship with their thoughts and feelings.

“A serious complication of COVID-19 has been an increase in isolation and depression for seniors living alone at home,” says Belmont Village Founder and CEO Patricia Will. “They no longer have safe ways to be social or engage regularly with friends and family. Since the pandemic began, we have put rigorous safety measures in place to safeguard our Belmont Village communities, but equally important is the work our teams have done to keep our residents engaged and connected mentally, physically, and socially.”

In addition to the activities described above, here are other ways Belmont Village Albany has responded to the pandemic:

  • Out of 170 residents, 4,200 COVID tests and 99,000 temperature checks performed.
  • 29,000 Amazon packages delivered to residents.
  • 31,000 surgical masks used.
  • 189,000 meals prepared and delivered.
  • Robust activity programs: daily mindfulness, meditation, gardening, book clubs (by the authors), followed by intellectually stimulating conversations with activities ranging from group and individual exercise, yoga, tai chi, and meditation to outdoor concerts and Happy Hour.
  • Never missing a celebration such as birthdays, anniversaries & holiday festivities.
  • Making full use of outdoor spaces with access to nature, providing peace and calm.
  • New technology like Air Assist for immediate connection with family and friends. For example, three sisters were in constant communication from around the world, and a family living in Ireland was able to communicate with mom in memory care instantaneously via big screen TV.
  • Implementing the Circle of Friends® program, which specifically addresses the needs and abilities of residents with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early to moderate stage memory loss. Developed in consultation with Vanderbilt University’s Center for Quality Aging, the program has shown measurable benefits and, in some cases, improved cognitive function for residents.
  • Using Belmont Village’s “Whole-Brain-Fitness approach” to assist with mental stimulation, socialization, and a healthy lifestyle while building cognitive reserve in the brain, allowing seniors to maintain function and higher quality of life.
  • Integrating findings from the Raise Your Resilience (RYR) study, led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in collaboration with Mather Institute which Belmont Village residents recently participated in. Utilizing the RYR intervention program, the study found that seniors experienced an increase in resilience and, surprisingly, wisdom, along with a significant reduction in the level of daily stress by participating in savoring, gratitude, and value-based activities. Findings have already been applied to existing Belmont programs and are providing benefits to residents through the pandemic and beyond.
  • Focusing on individual needs and abilities of individual residents, as a Dedicated Memory Care Neighborhood with uniquely designed plans that prioritize preserving their happiness, health and dignity. Residents continue to follow a whole brain fitness lifestyle while participating in therapeutic activities overseen by a memory program coordinator and led by a dedicated enrichment. Our memory care residents are supported by a licensed nurse on-site 24/7 and a carefully selected staff specially trained to support each person with care, compassion, and respect.

“It’s has been a blessing to continue to come to work every day during this unprecedented year where kindness and love prevailed, as the staff maintained their sense of purpose while we served our residents,” adds Moros. “The residents became our anchor, allowing us the weather the storm and combat the associated stress – today our bond is unbreakable.”

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