Two elderly women playing a game of ping pong while friends watch
Vista del Monte residents play a spirited game of table tennis (Vista del Monte photo)

While many aspects of life affected by the COVID-19 pandemic have normalized, some people, including older adults, are still adjusting to a return to face-to-face interactions.

Senior living communities like Vista del Monte in Santa Barbara instituted social restrictions early in the pandemic to keep its residents safe while still staying connected through virtual visits and physically distant outdoor activities. Today, with many people more comfortable with face-to-face socializing, the creative minds at Vista del Monte are working to help residents reconnect and thrive in person.

Helping people reconnect

Laura Mancuso, spiritual life director at Vista del Monte, provides spiritual and emotional care for the community’s residents. Mancuso’s most recent project is a four-part seminar, “From Surviving to Thriving.” It aims to address the psychological, social, and physical effects of COVID-19 and discuss how people can get their lives back on track.

“We are seeking a renewal of the social bonding that residents once enjoyed, with the goal of coming out of the pandemic better than before,” Mancuso said. “We acknowledge that we’re never going back to what was once considered normal, but rather, we want to move purposefully toward a new normal with hope in our hearts.”

Each of the four one-hour sessions will feature a speaker and give time for audience participation. The first seminar in the series was in July, “Post-traumatic Growth,” featured Mancuso and Vista del Monte Executive Director Douglas Tucker. They explained how research has shown that, most often, positive psychological change results from living through challenging circumstances.

Vista del Monte residents enjoy the community’s outdoor patio adjacent to the new resident lounge and dining room (Vista del Monte photo)

Session two of the series, “Active Listening and the Fine Art of Conversation,” is scheduled for October. The seminar will be led by Gary Linker, a licensed marriage and family therapist.

“We selected this topic to help people feel more confident with socializing in person again,” Mancuso said.

Session three is scheduled for January, when Catherine Weissenberg, a communications professor at Santa Barbara City College, will present on “The Art and Science of Non-verbal Communication.”

Session four, the concluding session, is slated for March, when Mancuso and select Vista del Monte residents will cooperatively address “Cultivating Kindness in Community.”

“Kindness is a human need that transcends any single religion or spiritual path,” Mancuso said. “It is universal. We treasure the kindness shown by our residents to each other, and in our staff-resident relationships.”

Anyone interested in attending one or more of the engagement series sessions may contact Vista del Monte Director of Sales and Marketing Andrea Voogd at 805-879-7635 or

Offering enrichment and variety to residents

In addition to the engagement series, Vista del Monte director of life enrichment Linnea Haskett creates programming for residents.

“We schedule activities for each level of care throughout the day so that the residents are stimulated, social, and engaged,” Haskett said. “These activities, of course, vary depending on the level of care.”

For example, memory care residents have programming that focuses on routine, engagement, and stimulation. Independent living and assisted living residents, on the other hand, have more social programming, such as happy hours, lectures, cultural activities, exercise, music, and art.

“Vista’s indoor, heated pool is very popular for exercise, rehabilitation, and social engagement like water volleyball,” Haskett said. “In the coming months, we’re planning to add more music classes, lectures, excursions, and multigenerational activities.”

For more information about Vista del Monte, including upcoming event information, visit or call 805-687-0793.