NEWTON, Iowa (WOI) — The wellness director at a senior living community in Newton, Iowa involved residents in a dance challenge to stay connected with family members during COVID-19.
And it started with breaking a promise to herself.
"I told myself when all this started, no matter how bored I get at home, that I won’t ever download the app TikTok," Alyssa McCarl said.
McCarl, who spends her days teaching wellness classes to residents at Park Centre — a WesleyLife Communify for Healthy Living — downloaded the popular app. TikTok is often used to share short dance videos, but McCarl didn't download the app to share her own moves.
Instead, she taught the residents some pretty funky moves and recorded a video to put on TikTok. The video was then shared to the community's Facebook page so the families of residents could see.
"It was a good way to show people, since we can't have visitors, to see what we are doing on the inside to keep our residents happy, healthy and thriving," McCarl said.
In the video, residents Jane, Sandy and Eloise sure are thriving.
But soon, in the comment section, a clear star emerged.
"Dean was a huge hit in our assisted living," McCarl said, who said she loves her job because she "gets to spend all day with grandparents."
Ninety-four-year-old Dean Ward pretty much stole the show, and his daughter, who viewed the video from her home in Minnesota, was blown away.
"My dad is a man of many talents, but I have to say this was a new one for me," Mary Ahrenholz said.
Mary grew up in Newton with her parents Dean and Betty, who both live together at Park Centre.
"He really has some moves for being 94," Mary said.
Dean, who was formerly the director of Inventory Control and Purchasing at Maytag in Newton, impressed more than just his daughter.
The comment section flooded with comments about Dean.
"A lot of our residents actually worked at Maytag back in the day when we were still open here in Newton, and [Dean] was pretty high up at Maytag, and he has a lot of respect from a lot of our residents," McCarl said. "He can be very business-like and professional but at the same time, he has a laid-back side too."
McCarl is now glad she downloaded TikTok because, through something lighthearted, it allowed her to make an important connection.
"There is so much love that is shared with them from the workers, and it's a blessing — especially now in a time when I can't go down and visit them," Mary said.
While Dean and Betty’s kids are away, Dean will continue dancing until he can show off his new skills to his entire extended family in person.
"To see those smiles and get those hugs, that’s what’s gonna make my day and week, and it's gonna be great," Mary said.