Another Group Of Seniors Coping With Covid-19
For several weeks a great deal of media attention was devoted to graduating seniors and how their final months of school were disrupted by Covid-19. Quietly, and without fanfare, a different group of seniors continues to ride out the pandemic in its own way. Those at the Westerly Senior Apartments, which also houses the Barton Senior Center (BSC), have had their lives altered as well.
Residents routinely enjoyed music in the Atrium, Bingo and Saturday Night Karaoke. There were also writing and performing groups, card games and crafts. Now, due to the Governor's shut down order, few gatherings of any kind are permitted. The in house library where some also went to use computers is off limits. On site shops including Hodge Podge, the Corner Store and Book Nook are closed. All have been part of an effort to promote social distancing and to keep everyone safe.
The restrictions have made an impact. Westerly resident Ron Walden stated he now has "an appreciation for things I took for granted like playing pool with friends." He added, "Some people's only friends are the ones they have here; they don't see them now because of being self quarantined." Fellow resident Susan Lucas participated in Barton's offerings and made several acquaintances. "Every time I stepped out of my door I had a chat with someone. Now I worry because I do not see those people. I walk around and it's like a desert. I don't see a soul."
Many residents relied on activities for social interaction and creative outlets. They find themselves increasingly isolated and having to be resourceful to keep busy and sane. Gary Rose was a Special Ed teacher in Cleveland for 20 years and recently ordered several books about baseball history. He jokingly confesses to now "having a relationship with Amazon." He often rode horses but stopped because their owners, his friends, are quite elderly and he fears possibly infecting them. Rather than ordering takeout from local favorites, he has been preparing more meals at home. Another resident misses going to movies or out to dinner with her daughter who lives in Lakewood. She feels lucky because many do not have family nearby. She has also been reading to help pass time. With summer upon us, some have ventured outside to the benches throughout the grounds. No matter what the season, many miss watching sports either in their apartments or as a group in the dining room.
Warm weather has made it easier for those who are able to walk to Giant Eagle or Marc's. But, not everyone is particularly mobile or owns a car so another challenge has been that the BSC Transportation Service is not operating at this time, also as part of the shut down order. The BSC has benefited from donations of food via the Lakewood Community Services Center. Aladdin's Eatery and the Root Cafe have also delivered reasonably priced boxed lunches. Other local restaurants may participate as well.
To help fill voids, Channel 167 was established by the BSC as an addition to the in-house senior cable system. It provides information, entertainment (some of it from residents) and even exercise options such as chair yoga. A hot-line has been established during the crisis, and the Westerly administrative staff includes service coordinators to assist the needs of those in the complex.
More resident feedback was offered by Ann Gillett who had a career as a medical social worker. She shared her respect for health care workers, ER staff and first responders. Having also worked in the mental health field, she understands the importance of socialization. Joe Higgins, a deacon, misses attending services at Jonas Temple in Cleveland. "It messes with your head," is how he summed up being away from others while receiving spiritual nourishment. He has compensated by watching ministries on tv and began visiting New Life Church in Lakewood. Concerning the virus itself, resident Dennis wonders, "Could it ever happen to me?" He also does not want to catch it and pass it on to someone else.
As a preventative measure, masks have been distributed by Westerly management and the BSC (including those made by a former associate). Others have been created by residents for themselves or to offer to neighbors. Resident "Chatty Kathy" demonstrated a great deal of humor by ordering a black mask with an image of a large zipper across her mouth! Joe Higgins revealed he has stressed the importance of wearing a mask to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Many Americans have had their lives turned upside down, and this group of seniors is no exception. They too have experienced depression, anxiety and frustration. They carry on just the same. They know life can, and will, throw you a curve ball now and then, and may bring their own perspective to today's students. While LHS grads may have eagerly awaited the arrival of a college acceptance letter, those at the Westerly remember the days when young men may have dreaded a trip to the mailbox. Inside may have been a draft notice which could have landed them in Vietnam. Today's senior citizens have already witnessed civil unrest, protests and political turmoil and know that needed changes were often the result of challenging times. So, while high school seniors may mourn missing out on the prom, their lives have yet to unfold. Those at the Westerly and BSC have put in several years of living and have endured disappointments and heartache too. But, they are not ready to throw in the towel and many continue to be active and engaged.
Bill Knittel, Poet Laureate of Lakewood, has also authored a Christian children's book, "One of His Flock," and sings in the Fairview Park chorus. Denise Rochelle, who trained as a nurse, spent years living in the American Southwest which included working at a facility in Arizona that serviced patients from Hopi and Navajo communities. She has coordinated the in house library as one of several Westerly residents who have volunteered throughout the BSC while it was fully operational.
Westerly and Barton seniors know how quickly the years WILL fly by. One example (which references another individual still going strong) is this: many residents, as kids themselves, vividly remember seeing The Beatles for the first time on tv. Their drummer, Ringo Starr, just celebrated his 80th birthday (with a little help from his friends)! So, from senior to senior, perhaps an old saying may apply right now: "This too shall pass." One can only hope it will. Meanwhile, we should not take lightly the loss of life and livelihood that has occurred. Therefore, a reminder to all should be: be smart, stay safe and be grateful for what you do have.
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!