Purple leaf sand cherry- Prunus x cistena
Written by: Stephanie Wickens
Finding ways to cope during the pandemic has been a challenge for us all. For older adults living in retirement communities, the pandemic has been particularly difficult as restrictions on visiting and recreational activities have drastically reduced residents’ ability to socialize. This post provides a snapshot of the experience of an individual living in a retirement community and a testament to the power of maintaining hope and resilience during difficult times.
In writing this post, I interviewed L. – a resident of a local retirement residence, and two of her mentees and long-time close friends Y. and T. Throughout our discussions, I learned about some of the challenges they faced over the past year, their mutual coping strategies, and their shared views on hope and resilience.
Please note that interviews have been anonymized and details changed to protect the privacy of the interview participants.
Spring blossoms which symbolize hope are used throughout the blog to inspire!
Scroll down to read the interviews below
Snowdrop- Galanthus nivalis
Interview with L.
Question: How has the experience affected your day-to-day life?
Response from L: One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that it all feels like a mystery. I wonder how long this is all going to go on. My routine has become very regimented – I get up, get dressed, eat, and rest. I spend almost all of my time in my apartment. Many of my friends I haven’t seen since last March. When I go down to the dining room to have my meals, I’m not allowed to choose who I sit with (I used to be able to do so). Now, I have to go down at a set time, there are no more than 2 people allowed at a table, we have to sit 6 feet apart and we’re not supposed to talk to each other. My social time and circle have been greatly reduced. Also, my physical activity has been very limited as I am unable to go out as much. Many activities in the home have been stopped to protect the residents and staff. My family is worried about me and my health.
Question: How do you feel that the staff is managing/coping with the situation?
Response from L: The management and recreation staff have been very open to questions. I think they are doing their best. But information has felt unclear. The rules are constantly changing and this can be stressful because it’s unpredictable. Some of the staff have said that they are worried about their own health and the health of their families. I know that they are all doing their best, but it has been hard.
Question: How do you keep hopeful during this time?
Response from L: I have continued to stay curious and I keep trying new things. I have learned how to use Zoom to keep connected with my friends and family. The recreation staff has helped me a lot with that. I am always looking for new things to do. I have a little garden in my apartment now and am taking care of my plants! I also stay in touch with everybody and keep abreast of what everyone is doing. Now that I and my fellow residents have been vaccinated, I feel more hope for the future. Until everyone else is vaccinated… then… we wait… and we hope.
Interview with Y.
Question: How do you think L. has been coping during the pandemic?
Response from Y: I have been shocked and surprised at how well she’s coped! She is very resourceful. She has daily calls with her sister and nieces and keeps in regular contact with all her many friends. She is very resourceful- she knows what she needs and seeks out support. When she has health issues- she addresses them and pursues care.
Question: How has it been not being able to see each other due to restrictions?
Response from Y: We have kept in touch almost as much (just not as much in person). I have been able to use Facetime to chat with her and been able to help her with outings as an essential visitor.
Question: What has L. taught you about hope and resilience?
Response from Y: L. desires to continue to help others. She is always giving back and finding ways to show she cares. She nurtures her relationships with friends, family and others around her. She has taught me that hope means Helping Each Other Explore Every Opportunity. She genuinely cares about other people and uses interdependence to build strength. By having internal resources and external support, L. is able to maintain hope and resilience and pass this onto others.
Interview with T.
Question: How do you think that L. has been coping during the pandemic?
Response from T: I think she’s done remarkably well! She is better able to connect now using Zoom with help from the staff at her residence. She also stays in touch with others by telephone daily.
Question: What has L. taught you about hope and resilience?
Response from T: L. has been a huge mentor to me for all of my life. When she retired, she told me that she was deliberately cultivating her circle of friends. Having lunch with friends was a really big deal to her. She lost all of that with the pandemic. But- she is a pioneer and was an early adopter in teaching the concept of hope. She taught what barriers to hope look like, what strips hope away, and what feeds it. She taught strategies on how to measure, identify and increase hope for others. She uses deep listening and humour when communicating with others. L. also taught me that struggling was just a part of life and not a reason to be ashamed. L. modelled hopefulness and models restoring hope for others. She has also modelled ways to approach conflict with curiosity. L. is very good at restoring her own hope resources!
Thank you to those who participated in the interviews and shared their insights and honesty. It is truly heartwarming and inspirational to hear the stories of others in the community during this time. I have also been a beneficiary of L.’s mentorship and teachings of hope and resilience- and for this, I am truly grateful.