Wellness in our Communities through the Pandemic

Wellness is a term that is used frequently to describe many different things, such as mental health, physical health or disease severity.  At Unidine residents benefit from the comprehensive EmpowerU wellness program.  EmpowerU is a unique health and wellness program that extends beyond just fitness.  The goal of EmpowerU is to create a better quality of life for our residents through consistent engagement programs targeting wellness, exercise and nutrition events and education.  One of the strengths of EmpowerU is in its proactive and customizable approach.  There are no one-size fits-all answer to answer to health and wellness, but this program succeeds in providing solutions that include all the guidance, support, resources and tools necessary to jumpstart resident engagement and create meaningful and lasting lifestyle changes.

In an interview with Paul Scharnott, Senior Director of Wellness for EmpowerU at St Peter’s Health Partners, we discussed the impacts of covid-19 on the EmpowerU program, the mental and physical well-being of the residents he works with, and how they are moving forward together.

Paul says the biggest mental health impacts he has is increased resident anxiety and depression as a result of isolation.  The wellness coordinators have also observed a significant decrease in gait efficiency. As a result of quarantining in small-spaced apartments, residents were only moving short distances, resulting in decreased physical activity and muscle sustainability. Agility metrics dropped significantly. Once residents were comfortable coming back out to (now smaller) group classes and individual personal training, the wellness coordinators used video to tape exercises that they wanted residents to start completing daily and used video for before and after completing the exercises for a period of time, so the residents could visualize their gait improvements.  Paul stated “we had to get creative to deliver wellness solutions during this pandemic, and incorporating technology such as virtual classes and personalized videos for residents have proven to enhance  this valuable program.

In interviews with residents and wellness coordinators, the following observations were noted:


  • Post quarantines: Residents expressed a high level of depression and loneliness. Wellness coordinators also noted an increase in cognitive impairment.
  • Residents felt that during quarantines, the limited socialization opportunities and boredom had a significant impact on a depressed and lonely state.
  • Residents feel Wellness Coordinators have a positive influence on their lifestyles.
  • Meditation, Tai Chi and Yoga classes had a significant positive impact on anxiety control and completing activities of daily living.


  • Residents who engaged in regular exercise, during pandemic, stated less seclusion, boredom and higher quality of life.
  • Socialization is a key wellness ingredient to improve mental and emotional health.
  • Daily call reminders were effective in a higher level of participation. Programming pre or post mealtime, plus integration with other activities produced higher class attendance.
  • Lower Body Strengthening group exercise classes have a direct correlation to resident confidence and reduction in fear of falling.



Bio: By Beth Wasniski, MBA, RD, CDN, CSG Unidine Director of Nutrition and Wellness.  Beth has 15 years experience working as a dietitian with seniors in long term care.  She is passionate about working with seniors and is board certified as a specialist in gerontological nutrition through The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Unidine’s network of on-staff nutrition professionals draw on their certified expertise and clinical specialties to develop innovative nutritional programming. At Unidine partnered facilities, 360+ Registered Dietitians work in collaboration with culinarians and wellness coordinators. to foster a holistic approach to regulatory compliance, improved health outcomes and wellness education.