Written by Scott Miller
It’s 9am on Wednesday, May 27, 2020. Lancaster County’s re-open status is Red. Wherever you may live when you were in the Red Phase, how many people did you greet in the morning? In all fairness I was on the 7am–9am schedule to sanitize high-touch surfaces. Last week we learned that COVID-19 isn’t readily transferred on surfaces; nonetheless, as a precaution, we continue to sanitize high-touch surfaces on a regular schedule.
In those two hours, more than 30 people exchanged greetings with me. It was very safe: we were all wearing masks and all social distancing, and our interactions were brief while in passing. Still, that’s a bunch of people. Some were staff, but many were residents. About five of them were sitting in the apartment suites lobby, all seated at least six feet apart and wearing masks. They are there each morning to socialize and talk.
If you don’t live at Garden Spot Village, you may have the impression that living at a retirement community during the pandemic is more restrictive and socially confining than living where you do now. I can’t speak for other retirement communities, but I can speak about what I’m involved with at Garden Spot Village. There’s a bunch of staff doing everything they can think of to create a safe and healthy environment. At least a half a dozen of the people who greeted me this morning specifically commented how thankful they are to live here.
I think the key word in that last sentence is “live.” Life goes on, even if it looks different. Although there are many safety protocols in place, people can still see and safely interact with others if they choose. This situation has highlighted how much we need social interaction.
When you are looking from the outside in, and given all the negative media attention to nursing homes, it’s very easy to translate “nursing home” to “retirement community.” It’s important to keep in mind that retirement communities, Garden Spot included, have nursing homes. Skilled nursing is only one aspect of service; more than 80% of the people live in residential living, which is like living anywhere else with a lot of extras! Once they experience it, people say it’s better than living anywhere else.
While the campus is currently closed to visitors, people in residential living are free to leave campus to get groceries, run errands and more. Garden Spot is encouraging residents to stay on campus as much as possible—we’re delivering groceries and providing many other services to make that possible—but people are not prohibited from leaving campus if they choose. One of the benefits of living in a community like Garden Spot is that there was an Emergency Response Plan in place before this all started. We’ve been communicating safe practices to everyone, residents and staff from the beginning of March. It’s the advantage of living in community—people look out for each other.
While Garden Spot may appear unappealing with a partial view from the outside in, from the inside out it is extremely appealing. The people living here continually express how grateful they are for a safe, healthy place to live where life goes on.