What if your new home and neighborhood had a tour guide?
Companion-matching program helps smooth transition to new communityBy Heather Leah Huddleston
At Wind Crest, an Erickson Living community in Highlands Ranch, Colo., the term “home” extends well beyond the walls that comprise a resident’s apartment. In fact, the entire campus is each and every resident’s home, but many of the nooks and crannies often go unexplored, especially by those new on campus.
The community’s diplomat program, launched in October 2012, pairs new residents with diplomats—or seasoned residents—and allows newcomers the opportunity to get to know the community and take advantage of all it has to offer.
“Some people are reluctant to explore new surroundings or may be nervous about getting lost or asking questions,” says Nan Woods, a diplomat and longtime resident of Wind Crest, “and this takes the pressure off.”
The diplomat program helps create a more seamless transition when people move in, says Wind Crest Social Worker Nikki King. When residents choose to participate, they are matched with a diplomat by interests and apartment location.
Each new resident receives a coupon book featuring goodies offered from all the different departments and services within the community. For example, a free meal at Wind Crest’s Flyin’ B Café, a fitness assessment at the fitness center, 10% off a purchase in the marketplace, and other items and services from the on-site bank, spa, and general services.
The booklet includes coupons for both the diplomat and the new resident, so not only do they get to tour the community together, but they also have a guide to help navigate through their new surroundings.
“The program allows new residents the chance to stay connected with their diplomats long-term, and it allows them to get to know the community in their own time and at their own pace,” says Carol Brown, a resident who moved to Wind Crest in late August and was one of the first new residents to participate in the program.
Carol believes in the benefits of it so much that she joined the welcoming committee, a group of residents who welcome newcomers to the community. After all, she knows how it feels to be the new kid on the block.
When Carol first got on campus, she didn’t want to have to ask people where general services was, what the medical center offered, where the bank was, or what she could do at the fitness center. She felt it was very helpful to have a fellow resident showing her the ropes. “The program makes you feel like you’re at home because you get to know where everything is and you feel like a part of the total community,” Carol says.
“And there’s just something helpful about a resident showing another resident the lay of the land,” King says. They get to see all the “usable” areas—the everyday spaces that might not come up on the official tour, for example, the large washers conveniently located on campus in which residents can wash things like over-sized comforters that are too large for the standard washers and dryers in every apartment home.
Through this program, Carol learned of the woodshop, where she can get her broken rocking chair repaired. “I never would have thought to even ask if this was an option, had I not been involved in the diplomat program,” Carol says.
Nan, who is very active in the community, says the program benefits both the diplomats and new residents. Not only do they get to participate in the coupon-book adventure, but the diplomats get to meet and know their new neighbors better.
“It takes time for people to adjust to new surroundings,” Carol says, and using the coupons is time she looks forward to spending with her buddy, her guide, her neighbor, her friend—someone she may not have met otherwise.