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Resident Life

A "welcome table" for newcomers
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Our community is small -- about 200 independent living residents.  We have 2 primary dining venues -- a café with 2 meals/day  plus Sunday brunch and a higher scale "restaurant style" dining room (called Lakeside) that is only open Wed, Thurs, and Fri nights and requires reservations.  The current tight, tight labor market prevents us from having the dining room open for more than those 3 evenings, due to staff shortage ….. but we have hope.

Fortunately 4 years ago a new widow realized that she no longer had a "fall back" dining companion for Lakeside and found a challenge to round up others to join her table, determining the best seating time, availability, etc.   Plus, we all have varying meal plans, meaning people study the menus to figure out what meals they want to eat in the month or, they've "run out" for the month -- so there can be friendly invitation declines.  This widow asked that a "Community Table" be established, so that all anyone has to do is call the reservation line and ask to be seated there -- one never knows who their dining companions will be.  No more phone tag to find one's own companions, no more friendly declines, etc.  It is for everyone, not just newcomers.  It's a great way for newcomers to meet people, offered 3 times per week.  It has been so popular that often there is more than one community table (our largest dining table seats 8).

It also deemed very acceptable to "plop down" and join someone in the more casual café.  No matter if the person(s) already eating at the table is halfway through his/her/their meal.  It's understood that they'll excuse themselves as they need to leave, opening spaces up for new "ploppers."  

Both of the above make for a quite friendly resident environment, something cited by our Marketing Department as being one of the determining factors for moving here. 
I think that is a great idea. We have a Welcome Home program that helps new residents get oriented to the community that is coordinated by staff. We have a Friendly Vistors program with a resident making contact with the new resident as well as a Dining Ambassadors program. The Dining Ambassadors host a dinner with new residents in the dining room closest to their apartment once a month. The new resident can meet other new residents and older residents. This is another opportunity for new residents to meet people. In addition, the dining rooms have 5 and 7 top tables so singles can request "join" when they go to the hostess to get seated. It seems that new residents can get integrated with these programs.
Our CCRC is considering establishing a table in our dining room where single newcomers could join together at meal times. Obviously, some new residents are not comfortable eating alone and, unfortunately, some groups are not receptive to having a stranger join them.
Management is receptive to setting up such a table, and our resident newcomer coordinators are looking for ways to "make it happen." Any comments on what has worked in other CCRCs would be appreciated.

David Bayer
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