Experiencing the pandemic in community-living facilities
For those in community-living situations – including independent and assisted living facilities – the onset of the pandemic has been worrisome and had more impact on daily lives.
John Muthe, who, until a recent move, lived at Iris Place for two years, found himself in immediate “lockdown” in March. “We were required to stay in our apartments,” he reports. “The dining room was closed and food was delivered to our rooms. Family and visitors couldn’t go beyond the reception desk, though I was still able to see my niece and nephew outside from my balcony.”
Once restrictions eased a bit, residents were permitted to go outside twice a day for a walk and Muthe took full advantage of that. He also drove himself on some errands. “I told the staff I was going out,” he says, “and they didn’t try to stop me.”
But residents were discouraged from congregating. “The sofas and chairs in the hallways were turned backwards so you couldn’t sit on them,” Muthe says. “I understood the reasons why, but people felt isolated.”
Not Muthe, though. Having learned to use Zoom pre-pandemic, he serves as the volunteer host for Zoom meetings of a men’s support group, a book club, and the Athens Chautauqua Society. He’s also continued his long-time involvement with OLLI, serving on the curriculum committee and taking Zoom classes. And he chairs the finance committee for his church, which is continuing to hold services online.
“My mental health is fine,” he says. “If anything, I’m too busy, but I sleep well at night.”
Muthe always has a mask with him when he goes out. Though he’s avoided restaurants, he’s picked up quesadillas brought to his car, made the occasional trip to Publix and visited Costco near the Mall of Georgia. “It took a while to get my first masks, but now I have several,” he says. “I figure I’ll be using them for quite some time, because you can’t control what everybody else is doing. I’m still in control of my life, though. I haven’t given that up.”
Rosemary Woodel has also kept busy at Wesley Woods Assisted Living where she has lived for three years. “I’m practicing ukulele and taking Zoom lessons with my three ukulele buddies and our teacher, Brian Smith,” she says. “I’m doing lots of Zoom classes and meetings, including our OLLI special interest group on photography.”
She also has been making movies about life during the pandemic and posting them to her YouTube channel. To show gratitude to all those helping the residents at her facility, Woodel drew chalk messages on the sidewalk and made thank you signs for the “COVID heroes” that she posted around the driveway entrance. And she organized a late-April outdoor concert where residents – spaced six feet apart – played ukeleles and kazoos and sang “You Are My Sunshine.”
The event was posted on the Wesley Woods Facebook page and drew more than 2,400 views.