Waterbury Seniors Greeting Their Way into Second Act

Senior residents greeting

Before her husband fell ill, Alice Eckert was a social person — enjoying her quilting group and bingo at the Stratford Baldwin Senior Center, lunches with her fellow retired school secretaries and other social activities with her many friends.

“I took care of my husband at home alone for four years, so it left little time for anything else,” said Alice.

In January, after her husband passed, Alice moved into The Village at East Farms, a Benchmark assisted living and Mind & Memory Care community in Waterbury, where she “immediately felt at home.”

Now, Alice and several of her neighbors are working to make sure everyone feels at home, as well. They are serving as “Village Greeters,” a program introduced earlier this year that many residents are participating in.

Alice, Ralph D’Angelo, a retired 45-year highway engineer for the state of Connecticut, and Doris Nadeau, a former receptionist at Motorola, started the group, which is growing larger each day.

The volunteers hope to be a supportive presence to new residents and help answer questions of potential residents visiting the community. They accompany new residents to meals, help tour them through the community and overall keep a watchful, protective eye.

The role has given the greeters another sense of purpose and a way to pass on the good feelings they have as a member of the community. For new residents, it’s helped them overcome obstacles and adjust more easily. All have welcomed the opportunity to make new friends with open arms.

Like Alice, Doris loves helping and listening to people, so the role was a natural fit for her. “It’s amazing the difference that sitting with someone, really listening to them and observing them can make,” she said.

Since the program was introduced earlier this year, the Village Greeters have made a huge impact in helping its seniors overcome the challenges that aging can sometimes bring.

One resident came to the community during a difficult adjustment period in her life and needed some good friends by her side.

“One day, she suddenly said to me, ‘you know what, I feel I could love you today,’ and my heart swelled,” said Doris.

Another resident was feeling down because her husband was ill, so Doris accompanied her to programs and meals for additional support. “She is smiling all the time now because of Doris,” said Randi Bellamare, senior director of community relations for East Farms.

For Ralph, being a Village Greeter has tapped into his people skills from having spent his career overseeing large work crews performing roadwork throughout the state.

“I love to socialize and be with others. I love getting to know people and have made many friends here who I go for walks with and attend programs with daily,” said Ralph.

“Moving to a new place where you might not know someone can be challenging,” said Randi. “Although our staff goes to great lengths to make all of our residents feel like family, having immediate friends who can be there every step of the way is priceless.”

Senior living staff speaking with resident

The Village at East Farms