A community fragmented: The Care Center

Judi Bachrach and Mary Simons live in the Stephens Care Center, Kendal's assisted living facility. Here, residents with higher healthcare needs have 24-hour access to skilled nursing and medical supervision. As with long-term care residents across the U.S., people living in the Stephens Care Center faced increased vulnerability to Covid-19 as well as heightened rules and restrictions. 

Outside impressions of pandemic life in the Care Center:

A sudden increase in non-Covid-related deaths: "We had a lot of deaths and most of them in the Care Center even though it wasn’t Covid. And I can’t imagine that some of that just was not Covid-influenced somehow–just the will to live or whatever you want to call it. But there’s no way of knowing that. It’s just my opinion because we’ve had times before where we’ve had a rash of deaths also, but for a while there, every time you looked at the board there was new face up there." - Former Geriatric Nurse

The effect of isolation on aging: I mean it was just very difficult. And you know what happened to so many, especially in the Care Center, I mean we’re now allowed to go through it again. But the first time I went through it–it was like just seeing how so many people had aged so badly because of isolation I think and not being able to see their loved ones. So I think we’ve gone far afield." - Janet Kelsey Werner

Married couples kept apart: "There were married couples who were–one was in the healthcare center and the other wasn’t. And so they couldn’t see each other anymore. You know they weren’t allowed to visit, which I thought was extraordinarily cruel." - Larry Mirel

Family visits: "No visitors whatsoever. And the people in the Care Center dying, sick--no family, no visitors. And I mean those were state rules too." - Former Oberlin Resident

Covid-19 exacerbated pre-existing stigma surrounding the Care Center:

Independent living residents fear the Care Center: "The pandemic just I think reinforced it, so the independent living often say, "gasp, the Care Center" because that means I'm at the end. I've lost my cottage, I'm at the end of my life, and of course, there's the reality of mortality. It's more likely. Not that people don't also pass in their apartments and cottages but there's a reality in coming here...But it's always there. It's not new. [They say] 'Ohhh the care center.' At the same time, it's a pretty cool place. I like it here. It's my home." - Judi Bachrach

Re-establishing a connection between assisted and independent living: "So with the bigger retreat on both sides, people within the Care cCnter being more confined with one another and being separated from the independent living community I think it will be harder to re-establish a healthy, vital exchange." - Judi Bachrach

Independent Living residents bothered by Care Center restrictions: "The people in independent living have to follow the restrictions from the people in the Care Center. I just–that doesn’t bother me the way it bothers other people." - Elizabeth Hole

Ups and downs when maintaining social connections in the Care Center

Generational differences in the Care Center: "You know I’m much younger than everybody. I just turned 70 and most of my neighbors are in their 90s and some people are in their 100s, some in their 80s, so there’s a generational thing going on here...Anyway, I connected with a couple here who are still cognitively there, can watch a movie with me and not be shocked by what’s on the screen. Well, yeah, different generations, which I respect, it's just different generations. My tolerance for popular culture is different from theirs. Anyways, so I did find some new friends." - Judi Bachrach

Rediscovering the joy of eating with friends: "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, [the care center's dining area] 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." - Mary Simons

Gardens at Kendal

Judi Bachrach discusses that the courtyard gardens at Kendal were the only access to the outdoors for residents of the Stephens Care Center.

Care center residents discuss major Covid-19 restrictions:

Isolated from Independent Living residents: "The Care Center was designed so that cottages just outside the Care Center to the north here, it was designed so they could walk through the Care Center in bad cold weather and go straight down to Heiser and the main area. So to have all the doors shut–that was really a visceral 'oh my goodness' we are really shut down." -  Judi Bachrach

The psychological effect of shuttered doors: "And it was hard, just visually, to see every access door that had been open to go in and out whenever we wanted. It was hard, that was hard to visually have the reinforcement of you are cut off and nobody could come in at that time." - Judi Bachrach

The end of in-person social activities: "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." - Mary Simons

Limited access to the outdoors: "As spring happened it was harder and harder to not be able to go outside the courtyard gardens–the two courtyard gardens accessible to us. There’s no horizon, there’s like little enclosed gardens so the garden is lovely but you can’t see, there’s no expansiveness, you can only see above the roofline sky. It was very hard. It was unfun. I’m a very outdoor, nature kind of person so it was…to be cut off from interacting with my physical environment outside was very unfun. Not pleasant." - Judi Bachrach