Mary Simons

Oberlin College Library


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00:00:00 - Planning in advance to move to Kendal at Oberlin

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: So, my first question is how did you come – how and why, I guess – did you come to live at Kendal Oberlin?

Resident: Ah well, I turned – I guess I started really thinking about it when I turned 65, which is well over 20 years ago. Uh, I did not have a family, I didn't have siblings or children, and by then, my parents had died, my husband had died. So I really had to do my own thinking about what the future will bring. And so I had heard of this kind of a facility in Michigan, maybe friends of friends or something like that, uh I was dividing my time between Indiana where I had a little cottage in a little town, and Washington D.C. where I had a condo, and I would spend summers mostly in Indiana and the rest of the year mostly in Washington. Um so I looked around Washington at a couple of places. I looked in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and a friend of mine in Indiana who read all sorts of things got a hold of an Ohio publication and saw a little ad for Kendal. And he knew I was looking, and so he clicked it out and I called them and that was it. I did one visit, decided that this was the place for me, um got on to the priority list and then it would have been six or seven years later that I actually came here, ‘cause I was, and I knew it would be that long. I was just somehow able to plan, and I wouldn’t have thought that I could plan but the way it turned out I really think I was a wonderful planner. [laughs]

Segment Synopsis: This resident planned years in advance to move to Kendal. With limited family support, she knew that she wanted to move to a retirement community eventually. After looking in Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Ohio, her friend found her a newspaper ad for Kendal at Oberlin. After touring Kendal one time, she got onto a priority list and moved to Kendal about seven years later.

Keywords: Family; Getting older; Planning; Retirement Community

Subjects: Loss; Moving

00:02:29 - Difficulty comprehending the reality of the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Um so I’m wondering if now you could think back to those first couple days of the pandemic when things are still really uncertain and Kendal’s policies are rapidly changing. What were your first reactions or anticipations for what it would be?

Resident: [sighs] I don’t know about everyone else around here but I just – I sort of knew what was happening, Kendal kept us informed, but it just didn’t sink in. It just didn’t – you know I could never imagine that it would have changed our lives so much for so many months and even into a couple of years now. Yeah, uh, so at first – uh, I guess, a part of it was – that having been at Kendal so long, I really trusted the administration to make good decisions for us. I figured, they understand better than I do what’s going on, alright, and uh, and I trust them to make my life as pleasant as possible for us, while still keeping us safe. So anyway, I don’t know, looking back I don’t think I’ve, I- I don’t think I had any idea, I couldn’t picture the last thing two years plus, yeah.

Segment Synopsis: At the start, this resident had a difficult time absorbing the reality of the pandemic. She could not imagine it would last for so long. On the other hand, she felt comfortable in the hands of Kendal's administration to keep them safe.

Keywords: Change; Informed; No idea; Trust; Unbelievable

Subjects: Administration; First Reactions; Safety

00:04:29 - Getting back to the joy of eating with other people

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Um. So how did, how did your da- to-day life change in those first couple months?

Resident: [pause] Just trying to think.

Caroline: Take your time.

Resident: I think that mealtimes were the most drastic change. Now I had moved here into the Care Center about two or three years before that. Probably two and a half years before that. So, and at that time, just before the shutdown, we were, we – in assisted living – were able to go and have meals with the independent residents down in Fox and Fell and Langston whenever we chose, without telling any–, without having to tell anyone. We didn’t have to have trays in our room if we were able to walk to either Friends’ Corners or down to Fox and Fell. No, I never had a tray served in my room until the close-down, so that wasn’t, that hasn’t been too bad. But now that they’ve opened Friend’s Corner, and I had lunch there today for the first time and geee – [laughs] it is so nice. So I had the chance to talk with Betsy and Tim David, uh, I knew that she would be able to carry on a good conversation and we shared memories of Washington D.C. and what was going on, um, in the 1970s, it was such a pleasure, and eating out in a dining room where there are lots of light, well, it was, it was good.

Caroline: It’s like you forget, you forget how nice that is when it’s been taken away from you for so long.

Resident: That’s right, I’ve just been taking for granted that meals are a tray in a room. Now I’ve gone to Fox and Fell but only maybe average once a week, for a meal with somebody in independent living. But mostly it has been meals in here, you know.

Segment Synopsis: The biggest pandemic-related change for this resident was the dining program. In the care center, residents ate food from trays in their rooms. This resident wasn't bothered by this change. However, she describes a time recently when she rediscovered the joy of sitting in the dining room and eating with other people.

Keywords: Assisted Living; Care Center; Change; Conversation; Dining Room; Exchange; Light; Mealtimes; Memories; Pleasure; Sharing; Trays

Subjects: Dining; Friendship; New Habits

00:07:14 - Limitations of living in the care center

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: So, beyond the meals, what would you say have been some of the greatest challenges for you throughout this time period?

Resident: [pause] Not being able to travel, because, hardly because it was discouraged at first, of course, it would, yeah. Anyone who traveled away from Kendal, especially overnight or a couple of nights would have to lay low, you heard, you knew about Beth. And I didn’t, I just didn’t want to, and I didn’t feel safe, getting on a greyhound bus or airplane because of the crowding and just, I was just a little scared. Now here I haven’t been, I haven’t been particularly timid about the virus, but I just didn’t want to go get up to uh help with any transportation or airplane. Anyway, so this was a response to a question.

Caroline: So yeah yeah, your challenges. So those, obviously you’re allowed to leave the Care Center now, when it was very locked down, you were, just to clarify, you were not allowed to leave the Care Center area, or like, Kendal’s campus, like what was your parameter, I guess you could say.

Resident: That’s a good question, I’m trying to think. [breathes] If there was a time when we were not allowed to go beyond the care center, I don’t remember yet. It would not have been for very long. But, they were very strict, we were not allowed to go to Fox and Fell or Langston to eat, and eat down here. We couldn’t go to the auditorium for programs, which we can now. We weren’t allowed to, I can’t even remem– oh yes, and when we visited within the independent resident, it was, what you saw, outside or – was it in the education building where they had the plexiglass. Uh huh, wow was that a – talk about taking all the spontaneity out of interactions, I think I did it once and it was just too unnatural, just– just awful. Anyway, so that was early on, and I’ll bet you have a better idea than I do when it was that we were able to go down to the Heiser lounge and visit with somebody from the independent living. Do you remember at all how long ago that was?

Caroline: I don’t – that must have been after vaccines I would think.

Resident: Oh I bet it was.

Caroline: Though not sure.

Resident: Probably maybe even after we all got boosted once, I don’t know. And we are still operating on the second – on the first booster, I’m pretty sure.

Caroline: Yeah.

Segment Synopsis: Another limitation of the pandemic was the resident's inability to travel. This resident was nervous about getting on a plane. Additionally, the resident remembers restrictions as a resident of the care center, such as not being able to eat in the dining room and restrictions imposed on visiting with independent living residents. The resident recalls the unnatural set-up for visitations that removed all of the spontaneity from human interactions.

Keywords: Activities; Airplanes; Awful; Boosters; Care Center; Interactions; Lockdown; Plexiglass; Programs; Scared; Sponteneity; Strict; Timid; Travel; Unnatural; Vaccines; Visitations; Visits

Subjects: Dining; Friendship; Isolation; Rules and Restrictions; Safety

00:11:33 - Keeping up with old hobbies like working the resale shop and reading the news

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Yeah, for sure, so I remember you mentioned that, um, that programming went away a little bit. So I’m wondering what were, like, your coping mechanisms, did you pick up any new hobbies? What were your new pandemic activities?

Resident: Yeah, well for years and years I worked in the resale job, for a lot of years. And even when we were in lockdown, I could go into the resale job on certain days and work in the backroom and process things and it wasn’t long until I was able to work, maybe– I can’t remember– one day a week I think for a few hours so that Care Center residents could go and shop if they wanted to and I’d be the person sort of in charge of the shop on those days and that was fine. And then, other activities– what did I do— probably, for a while there, I was keeping up with the New Yorker better than I ever had before and now that we’re able to do more activities, I’m behind on New Yorker again. That was fun, and I read some novels. Probably a little non-fiction, political stuff, so I did a little more reading than usual. And, what – oh CNN, I tend to be rather addicted to CNN although the last few days have been awful. ‘Cause, I know Ukraine pretty well, I’ve been there several times, to some of the same places in Ukraine that they’re talking about. Anyway, but back to the question that I’m not sure I finished, but I don’t know –

Caroline: No, you answered, no for sure, um I’m wondering because I know– those are all wonderful answers, but I’m wondering ‘cause I know, I was somewhat a part of, the– like they tried to expand a little bit of the program to Zoom and online things. Was that a good experience for you? Did you try some of those? Or?

Resident: I can Zoom now. I’m not particularly crazy about it. But, when we were allowed to gather in committees around a table, then Zoom was the best alternative. Yeah, it was. But, don’t ask me to love it.

Segment Synopsis: This resident worked in the resale shop so that members of the Care Center could visit the shop during Covid. She also became a more avid reader and watcher of the news. She participated in the transition to Zoom, although it's not her favorite platform for communication.

Keywords: Activities; Care Center; Committees; Gathering; News; Reading; Resale Shop; Ukraine; Working; Zoom

Subjects: Communication Technology; Coping Mechanisms; Helping others; Hobbies; Politics

00:15:04 - Returning to favorite activities // Total confidence in Kendal's leadership and staff

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: But if you were to describe your pandemic experience in one word, what would that word be?

Resident: I’ll do a phrase and then if we can condense it into one word, we’ll try. And the phrase was: this was –this is a totally new way of living. So, –

Caroline: Novel, new?

Resident: Novel.

Caroline: That’s perfect.

Resident: Novel is good but maybe we should find a word that has slightly more negative connotations.

Caroline: Yeah, life-changing, probably.

Resident: Yeah, yeah. Alright, let’s do two words: life interrupted.

Caroline: I like that, I like that a lot.

Resident: Alright, I’ll stay with that.

Caroline: Do you, do you feel life has, has gone back to how it was before the pandemic, after it was interrupted? No? No.

Resident: No. However, there’s enough freedom, I think add on the Kendal Bus or on the Lorain County Transit Bus, and go downtown, there’s plenty of transportation offered and going downtown Oberlin is… ninety percent of what going to any place else would be. And we’re going to the Cleveland Art Museum in a few weeks, and that’s a day trip with lunch included and oh golly I haven’t been there for… I’ll bet it’s been seven years since I’ve been to Cleveland Museum of Art. So I really look forward to that now.

Caroline: And must be looking forward to having trips like that, going to – I can’t even imagine trying to organize those types of communal things during the pandemic, which is, terrible. In terms of Kendal as an organization, how would you describe Kendal’s pandemic response?

Resident: Oh, brilliant. I, I really don’t know how they did it but it, with Barbara Thomas and Stacey Terell, Michele Tarsitano, and the nursing staff, if ever they had disagreements it was not obvious. They were such a cohesive unit, the administration here, and that certainly built confidence. I was so confident that we were being taken care of better than we would have been any place else. Really, that doesn’t sound possible, but that is really the way I feel.

Segment Synopsis: This resident describes her pandemic experience as "life interrupted." However, she is slowly getting back to the things she loves to do like taking the bus to downtown Oberlin or visiting Cleveland. The resident thought that Kendal's response to the pandemic was brilliant. She was had total confidence in Kendal's the leadership and staff.

Keywords: Barbara Thomas; Brilliant; Cohesive; Confident; Disagreements; Freedom; Interrupted; Museum; New; Novel; Nurses; Stacey Terell; Staff; Transportation; Travel; Unique

Subjects: Administration; Future; Personal Freedoms

00:19:23 - Not all communities of older adults are the same: Ways that Kendal is exceptional during and beyond the pandemic

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: There has been a lot of news about communities of older adults during the pandemic, and as someone who has actually lived at Kendal throughout COVID-19, I’m wondering if you were to explain your experience to someone who has no idea, who’s only heard on the news about like, older, communities of older adults in COVID-19, what would you say to them?
Resident: Well, if part of, if their concern seems to be mainly about safety from the virus, I would say something like what I’ve said to you before about the administration knowing exactly how to keep us safe, how to enforce enough rules to keep us safe but not, not to swelch all of our activities or anything like that, but to give us a chance to participate, like in Zoom, various ways we would have been able– wouldn’t have been able to, if we hadn’t had such good leaderships. That’s one thing. And, if the question seems to be from an older person who thinks of all congregate of living, settings as being nursing homes, then that would be an entirely different discussion about the activities that we have, the travel that we can do, the games that we play, the entertainment that we go to, in or out. Before we’re closed down, we had the chance to go to an opera. They had operas, you know in the movie theaters, live, they were live presentations somehow transmitted into movie theaters, even here at Oberlin, the Apollo. Did you ever go to any of them, by the way?

Caroline: Yeah.

Resident: Yeah! Alright and we went to Crocker Park on a bus, mostly. I think that so that, so that people who wanted to go to the opera could also, do a quick little bit of shopping over Crocker Park at the same time and that was good. So, so if a person is, and I know, I know a lot of people in their–well let’s say, 70 to 85 do not want to be shut up in a nursing home, and so one would try to figure ways to addressing that.

Caroline: Yeah, the misconception about, I think, most people don’t understand the nuance that there are different types of nursing homes.

Resident: Yeah, and maybe 40 years ago, there weren’t any like this, now there are, any type of congregate living communities for older people. Yeah,

Segment Synopsis: This resident emphasizes that not all communities of older adults are the same, even though that's what many people think. This resident says that Kendal is unique in many ways. During the pandemic, Kendal's leadership was exceptional in enforcing rules and keeping residents safe. Beyond the pandemic, Kendal offers residents extensive opportunities for engagement in the community and activities for enrichment.

Keywords: Activities; Enforce; Entertainment; Games; Leadership; Nursing Homes; Participate; Safe; Safety; Shopping; Travel; Zoom

Subjects: Administration; Community; Safety

00:23:56 - Difficulty with masks

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: Thank you. I don’t know if you saw, I have a series of object-related questions. Um, some people haven’t liked these questions so if you want me to skip them that’s totally fine. But I was wondering if there was an object that has gained particular importance throughout COVID.

Resident: Oh sure.

Caroline: And if you could show it to me, if it’s around, and why.

Resident: The mask. I’m surprised that you didn’t hear that from everyone.

Caroline: Honestly yeah, you’re the first one.

Resident: This symbolizes something that I have never experienced before and hope never to again after this is over.

Caroline: I know for a lot of people, a lot of people have different feelings about like, some people are like: Oh, wearing a mask has not affected my ability to talk, or converse with someone. But you feel like, it does.

Resident: Yeah, it’s a little harder to hear and be heard through the mask. Two or three times a day I walk out of this room forgetting to take the mask down off the hook there on the door, so yeah, so I’m not fond of this.

Segment Synopsis: The resident chooses her mask as her pandemic-related object. For her, it's difficult to hear and be heard with the mask on and she often forgets the mask as she's walking out the door of her room.

Keywords: Hearing; Never Again; Not Fond

Subjects: Masks; Physical Health; Rules and Restrictions

00:25:52 - Optimism about the future of the pandemic and traveling to New York City

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Partial Transcript: Caroline: So my final question, unless you have anything else you want to add, is I guess, added with the variants and the shutting down and opening up again, things like that like– The pandemic and our attitudes and our attitude towards it has constantly fluctuated between hope and pessimism, and I’m wondering right now about how you are feeling about your future in the pandemic and your own future at Kendal.

Resident: Yeah that’s a good question. No I’m optimistic about the pandemic, I mean it may be around like, like the flu that some people will get sick every year, but there will be vaccines, it will be manageable, especially for people who live in places like Kendal. So I’m optimistic about that, and then what was the other part of the question?

Caroline: How you’re feeling about the pandemic and how you’re feeling about your own future, are you optimistic about your next couple months or so?

Resident: Yes, yes I am. And I would hope, I really, I’m still optimistic about my chance to go to New York and, well it’s been too long, and yeah, I am getting weaker, I mean physically, not as able to travel but I still have a place to go. And when you’re going somewhere by plane, there’s always wheelchairs that you can hire. So that doesn’t worry me, but when I go to New York, I like to walk, and I can still, I can still do subway for sure, and I know how to get around on a New York subway. Crossing a busy street, ayayay, a little bit concerning. And yet I like to travel alone. I really like to, I have gone all sorts of places alone. Anyway, there’s a little, as you can see l– a little bit of worry. But I’m not so risk-averse as to what is forgettable, I wanna try.

Caroline: Yeah and I guess, the last two years have really created a – it’s too bad because it’s time lost, but it’s like, oh my goodness, it’s time, like when I have a chance, I will do it if I can.

Resident: Right, right, and in another five years I probably won’t be able to travel even with a hired wheelchair, and all that kind of thing, I might not be able to, so– let’s hope that in five or six months time, four or five months time, I’ll be able to get on a flight at Cleveland and go to New York.

Caroline: I’m looking forward to traveling more too. Well, thank you so much for doing this interview, anything else you’d like to add?

Resident: Well, I think you have covered your subject really really well.

Segment Synopsis: This resident is optimistic about the future of the pandemic. With the vaccines, she think it will become a regular sickness, and people living in places like Kendal will be especially safe. Looking ahead, this resident is looking forward to traveling to New York, although she recognizes that her physical issues will make it harder for her to walk around the city.

Keywords: Flu; Manageable; New York; Optimistic; Risk; Vaccines; Weaker

Subjects: Future; Physical Health; Travel