Senior residence adjusts in time of COVID-19

Eric Berger, Associate Editor

Max Oppenheimer, marketing director of the Brentmoor Retirement Community, typically spends much of his time networking and providing tours of the University City residence, which has a significant Jewish population.

These days, though, the Brentmoor, like other assisted living facilities, isn’t allowing visitors. 

So Oppenheimer has spent more time with residents, including leading exercise and trivia activities. 

“It’s really easy at a time like this to just bundle up and cry and just give up, but our residents have not done that at all,” said Oppenheimer, 32, a member of Young Israel of St. Louis. “Our residents have really accepted this challenge and are making the best of it.”

Oppenheimer has been working with seniors since interning at a nursing home as a teenager. He realized that he could “connect with these people, and I really do enjoy and love being around seniors.”

Normally, 60 to 70 residents eat together in the dining room each night, but now the Brentmoor staff is delivering meals to the apartments. 

“I just missing seeing the residents gather because that’s what makes me happy,” Oppenheimer said.

Rather than concerts and bingo, the staff has been holding group activities limited to residents of individual floors, each of which features eight apartments. 

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“We have been doing some very socially distant, friendly activities,” Oppenheimer said.

He also has helped facilitate communication between residents and their loved ones outside the facility. Staff has helped residents use the Zoom and FaceTime online meeting platforms. In one case, staff helped organize a resident’s 95th birthday celebration over Zoom and a birthday parade in the parking lot. 

“They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but over the last couple months, I have seen that disproven,” Oppenheimer said.