Do You Need Anything?
COVID-19 Through the Eyes of a Retirement Community Resident
by Barb Poston
How are you doing?
Do you need anything?
Probably all the residents here at Christian Village at Mason hear or read these questions once or more daily. Each person living here is considered age vulnerable to the coronavirus. Many, if not most, have other medical issues that compromise our immune systems. We are blessed that families, friends, and others care for us as they do.
The answers to these two questions are as varied as our residents. With rare exceptions, all residents in our apartments and health care units are quarantined to the Village Center where they live. The center is shut down to all of us who live outside the building. All activities within the building are canceled. The dining room, fitness center, hair salon, and chapel are all closed.
Thankfully, our center is a one-story building and all rooms have a window and apartment residents have a garden patio, allowing residents to have visitors at a distance or through a window. As I’ve walked around the building, I’ve seen visitors holding signs and talking through the windows to nursing and memory care residents. They’ve been bringing potted flowers and bird feeders to place outside the residents’ windows. One very large pot says, “Happy Birthday.” Apartment dwellers have spread out their patio furniture to enable social distance visiting. A number of apartment residents as well as garden home residents have had their children come and plant their gardens.
Garden home residents live our normal lives, as much as possible, within coronavirus guidelines. We enjoy walking our beautiful grounds, delighting in the beauty of the flowers of springtime. We maintain social distancing but still enjoy connecting with our neighbors as we pass each other walking. One woman told me that she and her husband have their four lawn chairs set up in their garage at six-foot distances for visiting with friends.
Most of us have not left the village often. For these past two months my husband Tom and I have each left the village once a week, with masks and sanitizer. My “once” is to the grocery store and Tom’s “once” is to pick up carry-out food. To fill the increased downtime we have because of our need to stay home, friends have told me they read, write, do puzzles, sew, garden, cook, bake, clean, and declutter. Many also admit to excess television viewing and time spent on social media.
Now let me tell you about the many ways our wonderful staff is meeting needs. The coronavirus guidelines have changed the day-to-day activities of many staff members. We have a village television station and since the chapel is closed, Chaplain Tom has daily devotionals and Sunday worship service on television. Since the fitness center is closed, our fitness director holds 30-minute exercise classes on weekdays in that station. All group activities have been canceled, but residents can play bingo by way of the TV station. Library books can be checked out and delivered to your home. Need a mask, need a meal? These can be ordered and delivered to you. Many non-nursing staff are grocery shopping and delivering food to residents who don’t drive. On nice weekdays, I’ve seen non-nursing staff out walking with masked residents in wheelchairs just to relieve their stir-crazy confinement a bit.
In communicating with a couple staff members, I’ve found that they are, as you might imagine, tired and stressed. How they carry out their daily duties has changed and continues to change. One non-nursing staff member commented, “I think a lot of people, including me, are feeling much more tired when leaving work even though physically we haven’t worked as hard; the stress is taxing on people.” She says that staff members are encouraging each other and are greatly uplifted by notes and messages from residents. A fringe benefit of the changing duties is that staff members are getting to know each other better.
I’ve asked a number of people how they’ve seen God working through this season and what lessons they might have learned. One friend responded, “This coronavirus is not the worst trauma I have experienced, so I know I will get through this.” Another resident said this Scripture verse has helped her cope: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). One gentleman says that he leans on the 23rd Psalm for his strength.
From a personal perspective, I have sadly learned that I am not as accepting of change as I had previously thought. This unsettling lifestyle has me reacting negatively as other areas of my life change. A recent change here at church didn’t sit well with me. I reacted quickly and poorly. Once again, I’ve been reminded that it is God’s church and he can take care of her much better than I can. These words to an old hymn are running through my mind:
“The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,
She is His new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven He came and sought her to be His holy bride;
With His own blood He bought her, and for her life He died.”
Throughout these confusing times, much good has been seen and lessons learned that hopefully will last past this crisis. It has shown us the creativity of the human mind, from new sidewalk chalk games to drive-by celebrations; from the making of masks to the honoring of hospital staff and first responders. Parents have gained a new appreciation for teachers. Here in our village, some have learned FaceTime and other ways of technology to connect with family. Many have learned a greater degree of compassion for those who are hurting.
Finally, what do we need most? We need face-to-face physical contact! We miss it from our families and friends; we miss it from our churches. Several residents I spoke with said they were watching online church but that it wasn’t meeting the need they have for physically being together in worship. I eagerly await the days when friends will once again stop by for tea and cookies. Even from six feet apart, it will be such a joy.
From now through all eternity, may we all live out these verses: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him’” (Lamentations 3:22-24, ESV).
Barb Poston and husband Tom have been active and happy residents of Christian Village at Mason as well as serving members of Christ’s Church for almost eight years.