Gorlitz Kensington Club@Home Wins LeadingAge Maryland Excellence in Innovation Award

Execllence in Innovation Award

The JCA Gorlitz Kensington Club team, led by Colleen Kemp, received the LeadingAge Excellence in Innovation Award on November 16, 2021. Kensington Club@Home program was conceived and implemented by highly creative and dedicated activity leaders, contractors, partners, and the most incredibly caring volunteers. The result was some of the best virtual adult day services for older adults with memory loss during the height of a global pandemic. 

Kensington Clubs were forced to change the day that Governor Hogan closed the older adult programs in March of 2020. Public health guidelines recommended that older adults limit in-person social interactions – and while this was effective in decreasing their exposure to disease, it was clear that it would quickly contribute to social isolation and loneliness for both the person living with early stage dementia and their caregivers. Colleen and her team were charged with creating a new engaging dementia-friendly virtual community when the digital divide was suddenly very real. Kensington Club@Home was launched on March 26th. Programming was needed 6 days a week. Colleen and the team knew that 10 quality minutes could make a huge difference in the life of an older adult living alone and the person who was caring for them: 10 minute phone calls. 10 minute segments for team-created YouTube videos that could elicit joy, remembrance, movement, purpose, and connection. 

In March, Kensington Clubs implemented Phone Pals, Caregiver Coping virtual Support Group and newsletter. April kicked off KC On-Screen, a weekly YouTube video. Each family received a monthly activity packet. By June, caregivers and members were ready to try a live group on Zoom. Members had not seen each other for over 8 weeks but when everyone appeared on the screen for the first time, it was as if the program had never closed. They were calling each other by name and waving at each other. The social connection had not been lost as feared. That summer, 6 new members joined the virtual program. 

Since then, 2633 friendly calls have been made. 42 videos have been created and nearly 500 Zoom groups have been offered. In July 2021, Kensington Club reopened two days a week. But the virtual program keeps running to continue serving individuals with memory loss along with their caregivers.