The Springwood Retirement Campus opened in 1987 with independent living apartments, before expanding to assisted living suites, cottages and a memory care center across a 15-acre community. When the locally-owned retirement community started, Arvada didn’t have too many assisted living facilities like it. With 284 units and over 300 residents, the same can still be said today.
We talked to Springwood’s Executive Director, Pat Gallinger, and Marketing Director, Jill Ross, about curating a space to belong, innovating through a pandemic, and some favorite memories in the community’s 33 years.
What sets Springwood apart as a retirement and assisted living community?
Jill: One of the things is how thoughtfully built this campus was. There are a lot of retirement and assisted living communities just being built instead of taking time to actually see if there is a need and if you can meet residents’ needs. Springwood was very thoughtfully built over time to meet a variety of needs for the aging population.
Pat: We have second-generation residents here now. So with this building opening over 30 years ago, we have had some residents that were first time members 30 years ago and now their children are here. Their experience was so fantastic with their parents that they remembered what a compassionate and caring loving experience it was and wanted to come back. I had a former employee that moved in to assisted living. We had another family that came in and her mom was my receptionist for 14 years.
Another thing that sets us apart is the longevity of staff. Chris, the executive chef, has been here 20 years and was mentored by the original executive chef. The housekeeping director, 13 years. I have an RA that’s been here 20 years. I’ve had others that have retired after 20-plus years.
As I’m visiting with new residents, I always ask them what set us apart and they say nine times out of 10, “When we walked in, we knew this was our home.”
How do you maintain that sense of belonging?
We take pride in all of the staff checking in regularly with the residents. Early on in the pandemic, even though we were on code, we had residents that could still come out and do activities with 10 people and six feet apart. But not everyone would come out. So I went down the list along with the staff, helping me to check on them throughout the day. Just to visit with them because they would isolate.
Was the pandemic the biggest challenge for Springwood in its 30-plus year history?
Pat: Yes. Normally I have the answer or I can find the answer and I couldn’t this time. But our staff is amazing. It takes a village to run this place. It was absolutely a team effort and yes it was the most difficult time and it was difficult for the residents too.
Jill: I’m so glad they had us. We’re seeing the results now of our older population that remained at home alone without access to any of this. This generation didn’t grow up with computers and cell phones in their hands. I can’t imagine the toll it took on people who remained at home versus a community setting where they can meet the other residents and have staff around all the time. They were able to walk around the building and sit in front of the fireplace safely because we took chairs away to physically distance.
Pat: We became closer as a family to the residents and got to know the family members really well because I was keeping in contact with them weekly. That was really heartwarming.
What were some of the innovations from the pandemic that you’ll carry on?
Pat: For Veteran’s Day, we always honor our veterans in the dining room, but this year, we were only able to have up to 35 people in our dining room. So we brought all the veterans, about 30, in the dining room and that was really special, rather than having them all there with the other residents. We had music and at the end, they played this marching song and they all marched out. It was just.. it was vibrant. It was so different and special than what it had been before. So I think we’re going to carry on with that tradition just do it for the veterans.
Some of the smaller, more intimate groups allow more opportunity for some rich conversations around all sorts of topics instead of a big group. It takes more effort and staff involvement but again we’re residents-centered. They like some of these smaller, more intimate activities because they get to know each other better.
So many Arvadans grow up here, start their own business or find work in Arvada, and then stay to start a family. Arvada is such a homegrown community. How does it feel to play an integral role for Arvadans who want to stay in this city their whole life?
Jill: We do see that and it’s amazing. That was a tour that I had today. They’ve lived in their home in Arvada since 1978. Their kids graduated from Arvada West. They want to stay right here and they’ve known of Springwood and they knew they wanted to come here.
I’m amazed at how many will move in and say “My friend lives over at the Fountains” or “I go to church with someone who lives in the cottages.” I’ll have people move in and they’ll have a meal with someone and realize they went to the same high school.
What brought you into this industry?
Pat: I’ve always been around seniors. I was the third child of senior parents. My aunts and uncles were the same age as grandparents so I was always around seniors. I originally was working at a school and I would come in as an evening manager for some extra money for my daughter’s wedding. I ended up quitting my other job because I just enjoyed it. I love my residents and their history. I love my job. I live to work, I don’t work to live. That’s why I’ve been here for so long.
Springwood Retirement Campus
6550 Yank Way, Arvada, CO 80004 | (303) 424-6550