Don’t Be Alone—Be Together!
By Marge Shoemaker
The past several months have been difficult for everyone. Isolation, even when voluntary, is especially difficult for those of us who are the most social of beings. Omaha retirement community Sunridge Village believes that “even though we are alone, we are together,” and works to address the problem of loneliness in isolation. I recently had the privilege of chatting with residents Marj, Marilyn, Lucille, Julia, Louise, and Barb, to discuss how the pandemic has affected them, how they are coping, and how being at Sunridge Village helps.
It’s unanimous! No personal contact with family is the most difficult burden. Marj’s twin great-grandsons just celebrated their first birthday. “They were tiny things when they were born—barely four pounds,” she recalls. Being born after only 30 weeks of gestation compromised their health. The family shares through Zoom, and there are always pictures, but “I haven’t been able to hold them since,” she says sadly. Marilyn has missed grandchildren’s graduations and a wedding. “Even though we talk with FaceTime, it’s still disappointing.” Louise says she’s lucky because she drives over to her family and the kids set up chairs in the driveway. Julia shares a story about how the staff recently helped her prepare for a trip. “The family was concerned about me getting packed. I was thankful the staff helped give suggestions of what I might need.”
Doctor’s visits have been very different lately, as well. Julia had a problem early this spring. “For the first appointment, I went to the office,” she shares. “Since then, I meet with the doctor on Zoom and any meds are delivered to Sunridge.” Barb reports that the teleconferences she’s had with her doctor have gone smoothly, though it’s not the same as being there in person. Marj relates the strangeness of being the only one in the office except staff, recalling how crowded the waiting room used to be. They all appreciate their prescriptions being delivered, but they miss the personal contact of in-person appointments.
“We are one big family at Sunridge Village. Staff and residents are looking after each other, just being there when someone is down or has some fun news to share,” says marketing director Michale Kavan. Residents see each other when they go to get their mail or when passing in the hallways.
The amenities at Sunridge Village are immense. Sunridge Village features an in-house, live TV cable channel that is used to make announcements, show movies, and telecast live events like bingo, short story readings, exercise classes and live musical entertainment. The have resumed church services, as well as beauty and preventative health services, shares Michale. In addition, craft classes, and some outings and entertainment have returned to the social calendar. Even though everyone is in their apartments for the most part, residents are still allowed personal freedom to come and go from Sunridge to run errands, visit family, and go to doctor appointments. Sunridge has not yet opened the dining room because of distancing restrictions, so meals are delivered to the apartments or residents do can their own cooking with their flex dining program. The fun parties that they are known for are still on hold, explains Michale, in order to maintain a low risk status for the protection of everyone.
Residents monitor themselves if they think they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Barb and her daughter had planned to travel to Portugal before the start of COVID-19. Upon their return, the pandemic was underway. “We went through airports in Spain, Portugal, and New York,” she reports. “Many people weren’t wearing masks, so we isolated ourselves for two weeks when we got back.” She also reports that when she goes out, whether for shopping or to get something to eat, “if people aren’t wearing masks, I don’t go in! It’s that simple.”
At Sunridge Village, the general attitude is: If you don’t feel good, stay home—we’ll bring what you need to you. Every effort is made to maintain cleanliness. Public areas are sanitized daily, and apartment cleaning follows strict procedures. Sunridge offers online grocery shopping for those who don’t wish to go out. The staff delivers the grocery and other items to the apartments. Business visitors (like me) are screened and must sign in, have their temperature taken, and use hand sanitizer before they ever leave the reception area. At this time, visitors for residents are allowed only in case of emergency. However, Sunridge has a number of outdoor areas where family and friends can sit and visit.
Sunridge Village Independent Living Retirement Community is for adults aged 55 years or older. The community is located at 13410 Blondo Street, in Omaha. Visit them online at sunridgeomaha.com or call 402-496-0116. “Don’t wait too long,” Louise advises. “Come while you’re still young!”
Michale Kavan (far left),
with residents Barbara M., Lucille F., Julia O., Marj S.,
Louise V., and Marilyn R.