WATERTOWN — The Ivy at Watertown, 655 Straits Tpke., recently opened and is accepting new residents, which has been an unexpected boon during the pandemic, because the population has remained small enough to give the assisted living residential community flexibility in accommodating social distancing guidelines.
Jason Rieger, executive director, told Town Times, “The fact that we’re new and not yet at full capacity has been beneficial. We can still offer communal and activities with small groups in big spaces, which has been a godsend because isolation is extremely detrimental from a health point of view.”
Amie Hanrahan, co-owner, explained that the focus on residents has long been a tradition with her family and its business. “Our communities — eight in Massachusetts and two in Connecticut — are all family-owned and operated. My grandparents started the business in 1966 and my mother took over from them in 1988.”
She and her cousins have been leading the organization as of 2016 and she has made herself available almost 24/7 during the startup phase.
“Families appreciate that they can call me directly on nights and weekends rather than having to climb through a corporate hierarchy to get the answers they need,” Ms. Hanrahan said. “Since we are a family business, we’re able to offer flexibility and put more of what we want to see into the community.”
She said her goal is to ensure a smooth transition so that, when the community is settled, the staff can easily assume the responsibilities associated with assisting residents as The Ivy at Watertown offers independent and assisted living as well as a memory care community.
Ms. Hanrahan said, “Residents can come here very independent and age in place, perhaps becoming part of our assisted community or transferring to memory care. Or, they can enter memory care directly.”
Mr. Rieger pointed out that assisted living is a description that can vary from place to place. “Some facilities are more like nursing homes, but we’re more of that original social model, offering seniors various levels of lifestyle to meet them where they need us to be so they can thrive.”
He clarified, “A social model is less institutional in appearance when compared to a medical model. Here, we are really more of a hotel or you can think of this as a hospitality setting with components such as nursing to provide a safety net that supports people to live as independently as they can.”
For example, the main dining room serves three meals per day, restaurant-style with a wait staff to take orders.
Ms. Hanrahan said that the communal dining experience ensures residents eat better. “Essentially, they’re eating in the same restaurant three times a day, so it’s important that the food is not only cooked well, but that we offer variety. And residents have been over-the-top happy with how this environment encourages socialization, which is as important as nutrition.
“The apartments have kitchenettes with full-sized refrigerators; residents don’t often cook. but they like knowing that they can prepare something when they want,” Ms. Hanrahan commented. “We also offer all-day dining, which allows flexibility, and weekly housekeeping with light dusting, vacuuming and laundry services.”
Residents decided that gardening would be a good way to address the limitations of the coronavirus and their herbs and cucumbers have been flourishing, in spite of the recent tropical storm.
“Our emergency generator means that, even in situations that are not ideal, our residents can enjoy safety, electricity and companionship,” Mr. Rieger said.
Mr. Rieger said he chose his career path when he was still in high school and advised that caring for others can be demanding work. “I wouldn’t recommend this work to anyone who didn’t enjoy it as a passion. I think it’s a privilege to serve a population that needs us at this point in their lives.”
He added, “It’s amazing to see the difference that a small, family-run organization can make. I’m realizing how refreshing it is to be in in an environment that is focused on residents and employees. There’s more heart here.”
Ms. Hanrahan agreed; “We work hard but we have fun, too.”
The residence features all new construction and Ms. Hanrahan noted that a good deal of thought went into selecting the location, based on the perception that there was a need for this kind of housing in Watertown.
“We’ve found Watertown to be such a tight-knit and warm community. A lot of folks have expressed interest in living here because they are loyal to the town. They grew up here or lived here as adults and want to stay here. We can help them do that with independence.”
Connections to the town currently are limited due to Covid-19, but plans are in place to provide transportation to shops and outings to keep residents connected to their hometown.
“We’re also building relationships with businesses and organizations, relationships that will benefit our residents.”
Mr. Rieger invited, “We would like people to take a tour and learn more about what we have to offer and our community, which is a safe, secure place to live.”
More information is available at arborsassistedliving.com/locations/watertown.