Life is filled with surprises and I have long believed that one’s ability to adapt is key to survival. That being said, no one could have anticipated the surprise of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it has forced us to face.
This pandemic has been particularly challenging to the residents for many reasons. Their lives and routines have been turned upside down. Visitors from the outside were shut out, including family, friends and those who brought in such great programs. Interactions with other residents are limited at times and wearing a mask outside their residences is required.
One resident made the following poignant observation when she said, “Rabbi, I loved the world before COVID and I fear it will never return. I feel especially sad for the young people who will never experience that wonderful world.”
At first, many of us felt that our older adults were well equipped to deal with the challenge. After all, many lived through the Great Depression, World War II, survived the Holocaust or were refugees from other oppressive societies. It quickly became clear that this pandemic, with its uncertainty, scope, isolation and long duration, is unlike anything they had seen before.
In spite of all that, the residents have not only survived, they have found ways to thrive. Their response has been inspiring to many of us on the staff. The two tools they have used are 1) taking control of the situation as much as possible and 2) using a sense of humor. In the process, they have created a climate that has encouraged people to be more caring and thoughtful toward each other. Taking control has meant finding ways to create their own entertainment, activities and opportunities to be together safely. Their sense of humor has helped soften the blow of so many disappointments this year. It has also allowed them to realize, as one resident said to me, “There is no better place for us to be than here during a pandemic like this.”
The residents’ positive and wise response to the situation has inspired the staff and provided us with the ability to be similarly positive and hopeful. Working together, we have made each other stronger.
Rabbi Steven Adams
Director of Pastoral Care