Just a few months ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was in my 20s. I served on eight committees in my retirement community as well as two boards in the San Diego community. I spent time in our gym, had a personal trainer, my assistant came four days a week, and two couples — good friends — were not allowed to go to a movie without me. I often had business lunches and dinners out, and then there were all the lectures, plays, and concerts that our retirement community bus took us to several times a week. I complained I was too busy, running from one event to another, and had no time in between. I clocked around 10,000 steps on my Apple Watch every day. I felt invulnerable and ageless (as long as I didn’t look at that incongruent image reflected in the mirror).
Then… BOOM! The pandemic struck, and we were confined to our apartments with all public areas closed, no dining room, no gym, no pool, no beach walks, no meeting friends, no going anywhere. So in just a few months I went from my mid-twenties to my mid-nineties.
My current activities have dwindled to picking up my mail and going to the clinic down the hall to get my blood pressure checked. I exercise with a Zoom class, which gives a choice of sitting or standing; I choose sitting. We have weekly Current Events and a plethora of other meetings via Zoom, such as opera talks and UC San Diego panel discussions on topics such as how COVID-19 is impacting mental health. I am becoming an expert in the latter.
I only get to see my friends on Zoom, little heads in rectangular boxes with a vacant stare. If we want to talk, the speaker must unmute us, and we await our turn. When our little box is highlighted, it is our turn to ask a question or make a comment. By then, I have usually forgotten what I wanted to say. When someone actually smiles, the speaker, who can only relate to the camera, must have said something funny—I missed it.
There is a short walk between my apartment and the dining room. I walk back and forth like an animal in a cage moving between steel bars. I try to clock 4,000 steps a day because I read that it is the minimum to avoid a cardio vascular event. Others are also walking back and forth, all of us wearing masks. White roots are growing out slowly, catching up with the brown hairs on people’s heads. Our toe nails are growing so long that soon we would be able to climb trees. I am wearing a smashing outfit: navy blue cotton pants with a white shirt, a gift from British Airways when they were giving out these pajamas to passengers flying to Europe. It goes very well with the pandemic.
Gary, our executive director, had made a request to the powers that be, the Department of Social Services (DSS), to allow some of us independent residents to go to some activities, such as eating outside the dining room or going to the beach or our gym; all were denied as we are in the same building with assisted living, skilled nursing, and memory care. We are a senior care facility and will open last. I wonder if this means by the end of the year? Are we looking at Christmas in isolation? All in all, I do appreciate living in a bubble with three meals a day delivered to my door. Recently, the pool opened to one resident at a time for 45 minutes. Our hairdresser is now allowed to cut hair, and a podiatrist is coming to take care of our toe nails. A staff person has been assigned to do the shopping for us, such as marketing or going to the post office. A maid cleans our rooms every two weeks. There are nurses 24/7 and a doctor down the hall every morning. So far, we have zero infections. It could be a lot worse. I am grateful for the wonderful staff who do all they can to make us comfortable.
My daughter, who lives in Toronto, told me not to get sick because she can’t come. All flights in and out of Canada are canceled, so I need to follow her directives and stay healthy — wearing my mask, washing my hands, and maintaining social distancing.
There is a Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” We certainly are doing that.
Copyright © 2020. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.