Dianne Haley

Oberlin College Library


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00:00:00 - Moving to Kendal

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: All right, thank you so much for doing this interview with me. I’d like to start out by having you tell me about how you came to live at Kendal.

Resident: Right. I came about 8 years ago on April 1st. That’ll be my anniversary. I was living in Boston, and I went to Oberlin I was an Oberlin graduate. And my husband left and my children live in San Francisco. So I was kind of just left high and dry. And 5, in the last 2 years before I came here, 5 of my very good friends died. Women my age of various things you know ovarian cancer, ALS. So I was just, and I had been thinking about Kendal but I moved it up a little bit because of that. So I came because I really love being at Oberlin, and Kendal had a really wonderful reputation for being a nice community. So I came, and it was great! It was very–I got connected with some really good friends. And so here I am.

Segment Synopsis: This resident moved to Kendal after her husband left and several of her friends passed away. She knew Kendal had a good reputation, and she really enjoyed the community when she arrived.

Keywords: Children; Connected; Death; Husband; Oberlin College; Reputation

Subjects: Community; Family; Friendship; Loss; Moving

00:01:34 - Loneliness and bubbles: Single residents had it worse than couples

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Partial Transcript: Resident: What I didn’t anticipate was that there are so many married couples here. Two-thirds of the population is married. And they live with a partner. So ⅓ of us on our own and by ourselves. And just to jump quickly to one of the things that was really hard at the beginning of the pandemic was that they instituted–someone had this idea you know about bubbles. Oh, let’s form bubbles and they set it up so that two couples could form a bubble. But if you were alone you could only form a bubble with one other single person or with a couple. And I was really good friends with three other people. We did–everything together. Celebrated each other’s birthdays, went out for lunch and all of that, ate together. And two of them–this was in June after the lockdown in March. They announced the bubble. Two of these people who were really–I was really connected to–formed a bubble without me. Now they couldn't have formed a bubble with three people or four as a single you could only form a bubble with a couple. And I planned to tell them, I’ve told people already, you know that was a mistake they should’ve allowed four single people to be in a bubble. If they were allowing couples to be in a bubble of four. And they had, you know at that time nobody knew what was what. Nobody knew what was what but we were very protected here you know nobody was going out. Our food was brought in, our groceries we could order and they were brought in. And it wouldn’t have been a horrible thing for them to do that. And that kind of colored the whole experience. Eventually, I did form a bubble–I’m a musician. I play piano and I do a lot of accompanying and other things around here–and a couple who lived near me who went to Oberlin adopted me. So I had a bubble with those two people. But those were the only people you could eat with at the beginning only outside. And it was just you know it was– that was kind of a crisis point for me because I really didn’t know what to do, and I realized then that the–and everyone who lives here who's single would agree with me that it was really hard on us. And I don’t think–I don’t think they still get it. Because we’re still alone. And we go home at night, And there’s no one to talk to. And even with my bubble, you know they were a couple so they had each other. So it’s been very hard for single people. And people who were staff who came in and out and the administration, those people I pointed out to someone, you get to go home every night and see your family and there was no effort made to deal with the fact that people were suffering who were living alone. So that was the hardest thing overall.

Segment Synopsis: As a single resident at Kendal, this resident attests that single people had it worse than couples and that Kendal policies were catered to couples. For instance, couples could form bubbles of 4 people, but single people could only form bubbles of 2 people. As a result, she was unable to form a bubble with her three best friends. This resident reiterates that Kendal couples and the administration underestimated the loneliness of single residents.

Keywords: Alone; Connected; Couples; Crisis; Food; Groceries; Hard; Horrible; Loneliness; Lonely; Married; Mistakes; Music; Single People; Staff; Suffering

Subjects: Administration; Bubbles; Dining; Friendship; Isolation; Mental Health; Resident Disagreement; Rules and Restrictions; Single Residents

00:04:58 - Coping mechanisms during the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Can you talk to me a little bit about your coping mechanisms when you were by yourself?

Resident: Well, I play the piano. At the very beginning, I went through– at the beginning I was very excited about masks. I made dozens and dozens of masks because I like to sew and I had lots of fabric. And I decided I was going to learn to crochet, and that did not work out. I am not a crocheter. I can knit but I could not crochet, I mean we were all kind of looking around to see what we could do. It was very hard for many people to read even if you were a real reader–reading was not picking up. I played the piano. So I would practice a lot. And I have a big grand piano in my cottage. I walked by myself every day and tried to keep up with the walking. We couldn’t eat with each other so eating was you know they would deliver a bag of food to your door and you would try to deal with it. So it was–once a week I would talk to my older son who’s in San Francisco who’s a really wonderful guy. And he was having his own problems but he has a really good job and he was working from home and he was excited and managing things. And you know, keeping his—he’s a head of a team he’s the head of a QA team he works for PayPal actually. And he really was committed to making sure the people on his team were okay. Because they were younger and had families at home. So we talked about that a lot. So but mostly you know you just try to keep going and the mask thing went away and that was basically what I did.

Segment Synopsis: The resident discusses the hobbies that kept her busy, such as practicing piano. She frequently spoke to her son in San Francisco, who was managing his own pandemic-related problems.

Keywords: Eating; Food Delivery; Knitting; Masks; Piano; Reading; Sewing; Son; Walking

Subjects: Adaptations; Coping Mechanisms; Dining; Family; Hobbies; New Habits

00:07:17 - A community crisis in mental health // No option to leave Kendal permanently

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Partial Transcript: Resident: Yeah, the beginning was really, really depressing. And I’m a depressive anyway. I mean I take medication for depression. So on the one hand I had a lot of mental coping mechanisms, and I had a psychiatrist I could talk to although we couldn’t go see anybody. So I just kind of relied on that. You know I‘ve been here before, my husband walked out. And you know I don’t mind being my myself but on the other hand, there would be times when it was just because of the uncertainty, nobody knew and people were saying oh you know two or three months. oh by Christmas, oh by…so what I noticed in taking, in going through my journal was that there were two or three real crisis points when everything kind of broke down. And one was in October and I felt that in the community in general people had kind of hit the wall. And one of the things that some people started doing was breaking the rules, going off campus. One good friend had her daughter come from the West Coast to visit and stay in their apartment, and that was not allowed. But the daughter wanted to come. And it became more and more clear that some people were just doing what they wanted to do and keeping it really quiet. And then it turned out that the administration would say, well actually if you asked then I guess you can have your…well we would find these things out afterward, oh I didn’t realize I could have my son come. Well, we didn’t want to make a big deal. And it was frustrating. So in the fall I think people thought that things would get better.

Caroline: Was this after the vaccination or the first fall?

Resident: The first fall. That would have been October of 2020. Yeah, it was sort of like, and I notice the difference in my diary. And it was really interesting going back through this because you forget what the crises were. The other thing was that you know at that time a lot of people around the country were saying, well I’m not gonna stay in NY I’m gonna go stay in the woods, but we're completely tied. We have no property rights. We're completely tied to this facility. And to leave would mean a huge financial loss. So in addition to not being able to go to the grocery store, we didn’t have any option to get out. Could I go live with my son in SF? Which I would have loved to do but that was really not an option either. We just didn’t have that kind of freedom.

Segment Synopsis: This resident went through a personal depression during the pandemic, but she notes that the community also suffered from a collective crisis. Everyone felt the toll of the uncertainty about when the pandemic would end. In response, several residents started breaking the rules. This resident considered leaving Kendal permanently, but said she could not face the huge financial loss.

Keywords: Breakdown; Breaking Rules; Crises; Crisis; Crisis Points; Depressed; Depression; Diary; Financial Loss; Frustrating; Hit a Wall; Journal; Property Rights; Psychiatrist; Son; Tied; Uncertainty

Subjects: Administration; Family; Finances; Mental Health; Moving; Personal Freedoms; Rules and Restrictions

00:10:32 - Mistakes on the New Normal Committee

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Partial Transcript: Resident: And then we kept waiting for things to get better here. And they did and they didn’t. They finally said if it was nice weather you could eat with two or three friends outside but you had to wear your mask and stay at a distance. And then they formed a New Normal Committee. And this goes back to...It was about 10 or 11 residents but only one of them was an unmarried single person. And we…and several have said…you know, you don’t know: that committee is not gonna know what it’s like. And some people were very outspoken about it. And eventually, they added a newcomer, a brand new person who hadn’t been here but who was alone, single, to the committee. I mean why would you have that person instead of someone who’s been here? So the way Kendal is, the more I think about it the more I’m angry about it. And I began to get angry that things were...

Segment Synopsis: The resident discusses her anger with the decision to include only one single person on Kendal's New Normal Committee. She said that this resident council could not represent the needs of single people.

Keywords: Anger; Angry; Masks; Mistakes; Outspoken; Waiting

Subjects: Administration; Resident Disagreement; Single Residents; The New Normal Committee

00:11:46 - Organizing a new group for single people to socialize

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Partial Transcript: Resident: Okay another coping mechanism I’d forgotten about…Do you keep a journal?

Caroline: I do keep a journal actually, on and off but I try.

Resident: A group of us four of us and this was a real–this was a big deal and I’d kind of forgotten how much time it took. We formed a group to specifically reach out to people who were alone and set up meeting groups of 6 people…was it six? I think it was six. And we set a schedule. I mean in the long run, the way it worked was we actually kept a database of all the single people and we would invite them to come to and this was one of the rooms we met in. We called them “hatching.” The person in charge, there were three other very, very intense people running this, I kind of felt left out but they were so sure about what they were doing and it was very complicated. You know the Excel sheet and the codes for who came and who didn’t. I said why don’t we just put up a sheet and have people sign up? So we got that started and this was in the summer. That summer of 2020. And people like–and married people were not allowed to be a part of it. And I remember the first meeting in this room and people were just stunned that we could sit down and have a conversation with each other because that had just vanished. And that was pretty successful, we kept that going. And the woman in charge had all these questions to start the group discussion, and again, I wouldn’t have done that I would’ve just whatever. These rules about how long someone could speak, but anyway we and the administration “Oh, wonderful this is what Kendal does: the residents take over and they figure things out” so we did that. And after a while and it was very successful for people who wanted to be involved. And after a while, we finished talking to everybody, and then they did what I wanted to do in the beginning, which was set up times and spaces so people could sign up out there. Oh, they didn’t want people to know who the other people in the group were gonna be. There were things like that that just…yeah. But we did that and you know I was happy to be a part of that. After that, let’s see that it was the summer…yeah that was July. Then I don’t know it was very…

Segment Synopsis: During summer 2020, a group of Kendal residents started a group called "hatching" that allowed single people to gather in a room to talk. This resident was one of the group's organizers. She loved the opportunity to socialize, but she says that the other organizers wanted the conversations and interactions to be very prescriptive. For instance, they wanted to impose limits on how long people could speak and prevent residents from choosing the other people in their group.

Keywords: Complicated; Conversations; Gatherings; Groups; Happy; Hatching; Journal; Left Out; Married People; Rules; Single People; Stunned; Summer

Subjects: Adaptations; Community; Friendship; Helping Others

00:14:42 - What could Kendal administration have done differently?

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: It seems it’s very interesting the way you’re talking like your relationships were very formalized. You had to establish a bubble. You had to follow the rules of this group of single people so the nice informality of friendships was totally eliminated.

Resident: What I’ve said several times and it’s true still the community was just fragmented, and they didn’t understand–I would ask them, and I speak up sometimes and they don’t like that so I try not to rock the boat, but if you knew in June of 2020 what you know now, what would you have done differently? And that’s a very difficult exercise because you can say, well we didn’t know. Yeah, but now you know what happened. So like with the bubbles, you could have made the bubbles you could have figured out a way that people could eat together. Because we were at no risk to each other. You know we had no cases in the community for two years, well a year in and half. And all the cases that they did have were in the care center for people who were for workers who went out and came back and brought it back with them. So we were, you know when they did away with the masks, it’s like well yeah duh we’re all triple vaccinated we’ve only seen each other. If you do go away, you have to quarantine, although people abused that I think. So yeah the community really just kind of fragmented I think is the best word.

Segment Synopsis: The resident repeatedly describes the community as fragmented. She would like to ask the administration what they would have done differently if they could go back now. From her perspective, she thinks that many policies were unnecessary and limited limited residents' sense of social connectedness.

Keywords: Care Center; Covid Cases; Eating; Fragmented; Masks; Mistakes; Quarantine; Risks; Speak Up; Vaccinated

Subjects: Administration; Bubbles; Community; Resident Disagreement; Safety

00:16:20 - Ongoing changes to the dining program limit community gatherings

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Do you feel like that fragmentation has continued even now that the rules have relaxed? Do you feel like there’s been an ongoing effect of the pandemic on the way that relationships were here?

Resident: Because it was set up so that you could only communicate and socialize with certain people, certain little groups got locked in. And if you go to the dining room now, for a few months now we’ve been allowed to sit in there and eat, and gradually they’ve you know expanded the opportunity to do that. But people ate with the people they were bonding with in the earlier times. And it’s very hard. And then there are the wanderers who come in. I usually eat with this other couple because, you know…

Caroline: The same couple that you were bubbled with?

Resident: Yeah. And we try to sit at a big table so people can join us. And very rarely does a couple join us. Mostly it’s single people who come in and they’re wandering around looking for a place to sit. And it’s really, it’s kind of sad because in the small dining room it used to be cafeteria-style and you could just sit where you wanted. For a while, they were assigning us to tables where we had to sit. And that was annoying. It was annoying. And you kind of felt like you were a school child or something you know. Or I don’t know. So now it’s better that we can come and oh but new people are at risk because they don’t know for example who to sit with. But then again people are really good about new people if they know about them, and they will invite them and that will work out. But a lot of new people opted out of the dining program as did a lot of other people. So the whole community doesn’t come together. It used to be if you wanted to eat you had to come over here and eat in one of the dining rooms, so you could see people almost every day. Now we’re aware of the fact that there are some people we never see. Because the dining–the meal program changed so you could opt out you didn’t have to pay for it at all or you could pay for a quarter of it or a half of it or whatever. And that was a huge change that people resisted greatly because it was like what…why do we have to change…any kind of a change was just panic mode. What do you mean we’re changing?

Segment Synopsis: Residents are still "locked in" with the people they bubbled with during the pandemic. Moreover, several changes to the dining program have limited socialization. For instance, Kendal had initially instated assigned seating and now residents can opt out of the dining program.

Keywords: Annoying; Assigned Tables; Cafeteria-style; Change; Communicate; New People; Panic; Sad; Single People; Socialize

Subjects: Community; Dining; New Habits; Single People

00:19:00 - The pandemic rewired our brains

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: I’ve noticed working in the care center, just people–there’s been turnover now, new staff, new residents so that people don’t remember the way it was before. So they’re trying to do like a hybrid of what it was but also incorporating some of the pandemic restrictions and we’re in this weird in-between space.

Resident: It’s hard to remember what’s what.

Caroline: And you’re like, why isn’t this working like it was before? And I think part of it is that it isn’t what it was before and part of it is that people are so ingrained in their pandemic habits.

Resident: And I don’t think anybody here. I don’t think anybody, maybe a couple of you smart people in the care center, realized the cognitive cost of this whole thing. That the chaotic nature of it meant that we were constantly reestablishing things in our brain. And I could feel it happening from the beginning and I was trying very hard to be, to keep a schedule and to keep a routine and to not be upset. But I got angrier and angrier at specific people, and I say now, don’t get angry it’s not their fault. But I think our brains have rewired completely. You know? And you know Kendal is really bad about even admitting that there is such a thing as mental illness. Like the rest of the world, right? They’re not…so I’ve tried to keep in touch with the people that I know have a tendency to be depressed, and who, when I see them and they want to talk, I think, okay let’s sit down and talk. But nobody really listens to me except you.

Caroline: I’m glad I can listen.

Segment Synopsis: Caroline observes that pandemic habits are ingrained at Kendal. The resident responds by saying that the pandemic has rewired our brains. She says that Kendal does not do a good job of recognizing mental illness. Therefore, she tries to check in with people prone to depression.

Keywords: Anger; Brains; Care Center; Chaos; Cognitive Cost; Depression; Listen; Listening; Mental Illness; Reestablish; Rewired; Routines; Schedules

Subjects: Administration; Mental Health; New Habits

00:21:06 - Staff members checking in on residents: Great ideas without execution

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Partial Transcript: Resident: I wanted to set up–I would still like to do this but there’s no hunger for it–A list of people who would be willing to be called like late in the evening. Last night I couldn’t sleep and I finally called my son. Fortunately, he’s in SF so he was still awake. You know if you just had to talk to somebody you could call. One of the things they tried to do, they did do, was establish someone from administration. I got the billing and financial person who would call and they divided up the community and they would call you once per week. And I just thought that was the greatest thing. And then after about three weeks she just stopped calling. And that happened to other people too. And it was striking because that seemed to me like such a great idea. In fact, I had an idea that they should set up a thing like that with alumni for when students came back. An alumni person who would call you once per week. Wouldn’t that have been wonderful?

Caroline: That would have been really lovely. I do know of informal programs like that in other places being set up. But yeah, especially connecting with students who are also pretty isolated with people here who are also really isolated would have been really nice.

Resident: But those things are so hard to set up. And I get the nurse practitioners to go, “oh that’s a wonderful idea, maybe we could do that” and I try to figure out, well how would I find the people who would want to be listeners. You know and then we get into the whole thing like what kind of questions should you ask. You know, you just listen! I’m sorry but… So anyway they tried–they had some ideas that they just didn’t go through with. I mean that whole thing fell apart.

Segment Synopsis: Kendal started a program in which staff members called and checked in on residents. This resident loved the idea, but her staff member called three times and then stopped calling. She would like to set up a program for Oberlin College alumni to call Kendal residents, but she recognizes that these types of programs are difficult to execute.

Keywords: Calling; Calls; Fall Apart; Great Ideas; Hard; Isolated; Listening; Oberlin College; Talking

Subjects: Administration; Isolation; Mental Health

00:23:10 - Failures in communication between Kendal administration and residents

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: I guess we’ve been talking a lot about Kendal’s response generally but I do have a specific question about it. I’ll ask you the same question that you were going to ask them, if you could go back to June 2020, what would be your major things that you would change, things that you would implement other than what you’ve already told me.

Resident: Yeah, I’ve thought about that and you know given the fact that we didn’t know what was going to happen, I would, I would open up the communication between–you know Barbara Thomas was our head person and in the beginning, she sent out a bulletin every single day and people really looked forward to that she would give us all the information. And then once a week she would have a Zoom thing where she would talk to people. And she had a survey that people would fill out but if you weren’t on the Zoom, your responses were not recorded. And I actually said this from the beginning pretty early on that they should’ve been getting in touch with every single resident every couple of weeks. And a survey should have been sent out to everybody, now everybody might not have responded, but the survey on the Zooms that she did indicated that people were doing pretty well. And I knew for a fact that that wasn’t true because they weren’t asking other people. And then there would be the missteps like the New Normal where they didn’t include single people. They should’ve had a committee of just single people to talk about what they were, what they were wishing they could have or do. The launch of the dining hall was a major disaster. People because it cuts off all of your communication. The food was sad–it was sad (laughs). How was the food at Oberlin?

Caroline: It still is a little sad honestly; it hasn’t gone back to what it was, unfortunately.

Resident: And you know maybe they couldn't have done anything about that but maybe they could have! You know? And they could’ve–when we started these hatching things–they could’ve had a way that people could because again we were not a threat to each other. We may not have known that then but where like someone could come into a room like this to eat and it would be a mix of people so you would see different people. And they could have really you know grabbed onto that and acknowledged the fact that losing the dining was major–just major, and that’s when the fragmentation began because people would then just stay with their little bubble or their neighbor group or their nextdoor neighbor. So the communication among the whole community could have–should have been. So we would really know. And the overall emphasis that she had that she’s still this way–she Barbara person in charge, CEO, is “look how well we’re doing.” It was so positive all the time. But you know we knew that wasn’t really true and her whole concern and I can see why was to make sure that nobody in the Kendal independent living or in the care center got sick. And that’s all she talked about. We have not had anybody get sick. And, okay, is that the only criterion we’re going to look at?

Caroline: Yeah, it’s very hard to have people be telling you what we’re doing when you personally don’t feel like you’re doing well.

Resident: Yeah, there’s an attitude now you probably don’t watch TV there’s this little guy who says “I’m depressed” and then all these people are telling him things like, well chin up, a lot of people have it worse than you, or you know if you just smiled more and this guy is saying “not helpful.” It’s a very good ad.

Segment Synopsis: The residents discusses things that she would changed about Kendal's response. She would have increased communication between the administration and the residents so that Kendal's administration would have a full picture of the community. For instance, she proposed sending out a survey to every resident. She also feels that the new dining program ruptured socialization and fragmented the community. Finally, she wishes that the administration had evaluated Kendal's response by measures beyond the number of Covid cases on campus.

Keywords: Barbara Thomas; Bulletins; Committees; Communication; Covid Cases; Dining Hall; Disaster; Food; Fragmentation; Information; Missteps; New Normal Committee; Resident Surveys; Sad; Single People; Surveys; Zoom

Subjects: Administration; Dining; Resident Disagreement; Rules and Restrictions; The New Normal Committee

00:27:41 - Isolation is one of the biggest issues in communities of older adults

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: What would you say, and part of the reason why I’m doing this is like, there has been a lot of news about elderly care communities but not a lot of actual voices from people living in communities of older adults, so if you had to tell someone like myself or someone who’s had no experience in an older living community, what would you want them to know about maybe the difference between the way it was portrayed in the news and what your actual experience was?

Resident: Pre-pandemic or…?

Caroline: Either one.

Resident: It was a pretty nice pre-pandemic. It was–this is a very special community, and they worked very hard–because a lot of people here went to Oberlin, like at least a third were connected, we have a lot of former professors. There are six people from my class who are here. And one of them was my college roommate. But she’s married now and she doesn’t have an interest in talking to me…that was one of the great disappointments. I think the biggest problem, the biggest problem during the pandemic and sort of to some extent before is how isolated you are. At the end of the day, you go home to your little cottage and I love my cottage. It's beautiful and I have everything I need and want but um you know you really are all on your own and you spend your whole life with other people. And there are some people here who have relatives nearby so they’ve been able to navigate much better in going out to visit, whether they were allowed to or not. Or having people come here. And that gradually opened up some more and more. You know they could have people come. And a lot of people have traveled. But a lot of us. I think the majority of people here do not want to get on an airplane. And you know people are far, far away–My son used to come visit once a year from San Francisco. So that stopped and you couldn’t do that. And then there were the people (laughs) who had summer homes. More people than you might–in fact, my own couple have a house in Michigan–and they were going there as soon as it was possible to do, that even though the strictures for when you came back were very strict for quarantining. But some people went away for the whole summer. Oh, that would be nice, when do I get my summer house? So you know it sort of exacerbated the social distinctions that were there but we hadn’t really noticed them. So this is a pretty much ideal place and maybe that’s why when they started to put so many restrictions we just–we were like Oberlin kids–what are you talking about? What do you mean I can’t?

Caroline: Question the system, yeah.

Resident: We were not pleased. But then again, people who had a spouse or family nearby were much better off. And this is true I’m sure in all you’re reading about the pandemic that was the major thing. People lost their social bearings and that’s where the cognitive thing comes in–what do I do now? I told my son every day that I was going to get a robotic cat. Do you know about that? They had one in the care center.

Caroline: Oh yes! I do know them. They are cute. Every time I walk by one I want to pet it.

Segment Synopsis: The resident says that Kendal was the ideal home before the pandemic. However, she identifies isolation as the biggest problem in communities like Kendal, even before Covid-19. Other residents cope with the isolation by having family nearby. Additionally, several people at Kendal could leave campus to go to their summer homes, revealing the differences in wealth at Kendal.

Keywords: Airplanes; Alone; Connected; Cottages; Isolated; Oberlin College; Quarantine; Relatives; Social Distinctions; Socialization; Son; Special; Travel; Visits

Subjects: Family; Finances; Isolation; Mental Health; Rules and Restrictions

00:32:03 - Candles were a source of comfort throughout the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Would you like to tell me about why you chose your candle as your object?

Resident: Oh, well, when I realized I had it that first Christmas, it was just so comforting to come into a room and to see that there. And also that Christmas I had a string of lights out that I put on. Actually, it may have happened before that. But the time of–you know what illumination is–they wanted us all to decorate lights around our cottages. And I put up these twinkly lights all around my front bay window. And I just loved it. It was so, you know, visually it was just so nice to go in the kitchen and there were these lights. And it was just a feeling of “oh, that’s nice!” I don’t know. I can’t explain what it is so I just kept it out. And I turn it on every night, every day. I also have a single, you know those little Christmas candles people put in their windows, I have one of those in one window, and on certain days I turn that on. But no one’s ever said, “oh I like your candle” it just–as I said my father was a minister so we were always lighting candles in church. And the candles were cool. They really are. This was just a clever what they have invented. I sent these to all of my siblings for Christmas this year, so they could have the same thing. You know, light, warmth, something that continues.

Caroline: The little things you come to appreciate during a pandemic for sure.

Segment Synopsis: This resident chose a candle as her pandemic-related object. Candles and light were a source of comfort throughout the pandemic. Her father was a minister, so lighting candles was a part of her childhood.

Keywords: Candles; Christmas; Decorations; Father; Illumination; Lights; Warmth; Windows

Subjects: Coping Mechansims; Family; Mental Health

00:33:57 - Parallels between Kendal residents and Oberlin College students

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Partial Transcript: Resident: What object would you have chosen?

Caroline: Oh, a lot of people have asked me this (long pause). I might have picked my journals. They’ve been really important to me during the pandemic and I did something similar a few weeks ago where I went through and it’s amazing how much growth I’ve been through throughout the pandemic. I was having a hard time personally in college right before it happened and so actually for me going home and spending time with my family and regrouping was a good thing. And then it just went on for too long. You know, I had done journaling, I had picked a lot of good coping skills, and I was back in college and I was ready for things to be normal again.

Resident: What year are you?

Caroline: I’m a third-year now, so my first year was when we got sent home.

Resident: Oh god, we sympathize with you so much.

Caroline: It was apocalyptic, yeah.

Resident: Something you never would have dreamed.

Caroline: Yeah, and just having all our classes online, which is still a thing–even this week. Because I think a part of it is that it’s a little bit for safety and part of it’s what students have become comfortable with–like residents of the care center staying in their rooms all the time. It’s like we all have our new routines now, and places where students used to hang out together, those places, are empty now. You know, the people who remember that are junior and seniors now, so it’s hard to reinstate a culture that had to be necessarily completely abandoned.

Resident: Completely abandoned. Every single thing changed.

Caroline: Every single thing changed. And like traditions–because those all involved the gathering of people. But it’s something that has also uniquely brought us together as a class, so…yeah. It’s interesting.

Resident: One thing that’s really important I forgot to mention. I was just thinking about you. You picked up this project.

Caroline: I did. And Kendal has been consistently a positive force in my time at Oberlin. I love the community here and the community in the Care Center. So that’s why–and I’ve had the chance to have informal conversations with a lot of you about your experiences with the pandemic, so I wanted to formalize it a little bit and meet new people.

Keywords: Apocalyptic; Culture; Journals; Normal; Regroup; Routines; Traditions

Subjects: Community; New Habits

00:36:46 - Coping mechanism: Volunteering for other Kendal residents

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Partial Transcript: Resident: Oh, I had a neighbor and she was frustrated because these byzantine rules about which doctors appointments Kendal will take you to. And it’s out of the county, then you’re on your own. So my next-door neighbor had to go to Strongsville, which is like three hours out of the county. And they were going to charge her 200 dollars. And I said, I’ll take you, that’s not a big deal. And then I realized–and we had a ride-share program where residents, I’m on this now, where residents are on a list, and if you have to go some place, you call a ride-share person and they put the notice out and we wonderful people will drive people an hour away, whatever all on our own time on our own dime and do it. And I thought, I have a car, I can do this, that’s wonderful. So I took the triple-A driving course and I started to do that. And that was a really–you know people are always saying you know volunteering is a way to get out of yourself and just knowing I was doing that was a big help. And then I started doing shopping for the Care Center once every couple months and we sign up, you know–they put up their sheets. And again I thought, I can shop! I know where things are at IGA. So I started to do that and that’s been really helpful. But that depends on us being allowed to go out and do this stuff. And drive. And I haven’t done a lot of it yet but you know–you look around to see like today we can’t do much about Ukraine. But in our own community you know there are things we can do I mean that’s…

Caroline: Definitely gives you a sense of agency that you don’t necessarily have over your own life but you certainly–

Resident: Yes! Maybe someday I’ll be in the care center and I’ll have a craving for chocolate and I’ll need someone to pick up some chocolate. So that’s been good. And people are…it’s a very caring community. You know a lot of residents go down and help in the care center now that they’re allowed to.

Segment Synopsis: Volunteer work became a major coping mechanism. This resident started giving other residents rides to doctor's appointments and shopping for the people in the Care Center. She says that volunteering is a way to "get out of yourself."

Keywords: Agency; Care Center; Doctor's Appointments; Frustrated; Helpful; Neighbors; Ride Shares; Shopping; Ukraine; Volunteering

Subjects: Adaptations; Community; Coping Mechanisms; Helping Others

00:39:03 - A sense of helplessness and pessimism about the future

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Partial Transcript: Caroline My last question–throughout this pandemic as we’ve discussed things have constantly fluctuated between hope with the vaccines and cases going down to pessimism with Omicron and lockdowns again, so how are you feeling about your future now and your future at Kendal? Are you more on the hopeful side at this point or are you still tentative about the future?

Resident: I feel very pessimistic. Especially with the world situation right now. We’re very involved in the community and in the world group of people and so this has been really devastating. The war. We all grew up in the anti-war and the anti-Vietnam era and we can remember fighting and marching for all of that. I feel very pessimistic, sometimes I, and I write this in my diary every so often I would say, I don’t know if I can go on, I wish my life were over. I just can’t see what point there is. And there’s been a lot of positive out there. Except for individual people who are trying to do what they're doing. And the world seems to be coming together about this war and saying this is ridiculous. But I read something recently–I don’t know the exact quote. It was saying hope is a really good thing. You know we can all have hope. But unless it goes along with a plan. It’s kind of ridiculous. You know you’re hoping for what? Well, you’re hoping we can get back to the dining room. Well, what would be the plan for that? And you realize they have exhausted their efforts for the plan. I mean I don’t know what…you feel kind of just helpless. At the mercy of what other people who have more power than you or more money–what they’re going to decide to do. So I feel pretty pessimistic. I’m glad I’m old so all of this will be over for me so…

Caroline: Yeah, it’s hard. Do you feel like you have that feeling more because you live in a community where you are at the mercy of the decisions that the community leaders make or do you think you would feel that way simply because of the world situation?

Resident: Hmm…I don’t know. The effect of having your life closed, continually being closed in on you, that we had here, that you know even if you had a hopeful idea, where would it go? I don’t know, I think–my son is very angry with me because I keep watching the news. He said you just can’t do that. He stopped. He said–I heard there was a war somewhere. Umm I think I think I feel kind–it’s a lost cause to try to think of anything that made you feel better. You know I would love to–I would love to leave and go live in California with my kids. But there’s no–I don’t even want to go there because that’s impossible financially and everything else. And another thing many of us can do–there are a lot of really rich people here. We do contribute our money to things–you know I give to Oberlin every year because Oberlin was so good to me. But this year I was doing my taxes and I didn’t give as much this year to anybody–you know every so often Save the Children, International Rescue, if a plea came through I would do it but I’ve just decided that it’s not worth it either–I may as well save my money, I might need it. I think being here has made it harder for people to maintain a sense of there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Yeah, for sure. I hate to say that to a young person.

Segment Synopsis: This resident is very pessimistic about the future. The pandemic at Kendal has made her feel helpless in her own life, and the current political situation has made her feel helpless about the world. She remembers wishing that her life would end. She doesn't donate as much money anymore because she feels that it's not worth it. She wishes she could move to California to be with her children, but that is not an option financially.

Keywords: Children; Helpless; Hope; News; Pessimism; War

Subjects: Future; Grief; Politics