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The Yankee Express

Whitinsville Retirement Society strives to maintain a warm family environment throughout pandemic

The historic John C. Whitin Mansion - circa 1840.

By Christine Galeone
Since 1975, the Whitinsville Retirement Society, a nonprofit, has offered quality affordable housing to people 62 and older. But it provides much more than housing. Jeannine Crawford, the nonprofit’s director, reflected, “While we are considered independent living with no medical staff, it’s really that together we’re a warm family home rather than an institution.”   
Maintaining that warm environment during the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy. But the WRS has been striving to do just that.
At the Whitinsville Retirement Home, residents live in private rooms in the 1840 Joh C. Whitin Mansion. Although it’s not an assisted living facility, the people who live there are provided with communal meals, laundry services and housekeeping services. They can also participate in activities such as daily exercise, bingo, group walks, gardening, quilting and working puzzles.  
“This September, we had our annual outdoor picnic for residents, family and guests complete with great food, live music, fun and games,” Scott M. Schneider, a member of the WRS Board, said. “Later this year, we’ll have special activities for Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
To rise above the challenges of the pandemic, Crawford said that the WRS focused on three priorities – adhering to CDC, State and WRS Board regulations/recommendations, ensuring staff members comply with those regulations while maintaining normalcy, and giving consideration to the emotional and mental wellbeing of staff members and residents.  
“Their devotion and commitment to our residents, along with our residents themselves, are what continue to make this low-income elderly housing model such a success,” Crawford said about the staff’s dedication. She later added, “Every effort was made to maintain the status quo during the pandemic. Having companionship and friendships, going through the pandemic, kept loneliness and isolation to a minimum.”
Crawford said that she finds joy in both the simple ways the WRS helps residents and in the complex ways. “Knowing we make a difference in people’s lives every day is extremely gratifying,” she said, adding that listening to people and knowing that she might be in their shoes someday is vital. She later noted, “The joy comes from knowing we took the time and made an effort to know our residents and care about them!”
And the community can also make a difference in the residents’ lives. Crawford said that in addition to making donations, people can help by spreading the word about the Whitinsville Retirement Home, by working there, and by volunteering their skills.
“Music is very much appreciated; we try to have a musical act twice a month so volunteering a performance could be another way,” Crawford said.
“To participate in the simple pleasures of being together, sharing food, listening, laughing, and keeping this beautiful home for all who come to live here is such an honor and a privilege,” Crawford shared. “It’s a gem and an example of how to maintain as much independence as possible as we age. You have to see it to believe it.”
More information about the nonprofit is available on the Whitinsville Retirement Society website,