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Greater Good

December 24, 2020 By Liz Wildberger

“Quaranteam” Scores for PVE

“What kind of a team is that?” a great-granddaughter asked. When I asked what prompted that question, she said somewhat impatiently, “Is it soccer? Or baseball?  Or field hockey? You know, GeGe, the quaranteam.”

Obviously, I had failed the quiz of a five-year-old. Let me try for the 65-year-old.

The last time Paradise Valley Estates residents gathered was for a full-house concert on March 10. Solano Winds chose a theme that included “blue” in all the titles, and when the soloist approached the piano to begin “Rhapsody in Blue”, the audience went silent, in respect to composer George Gershwin’s edgy style. They were not disappointed and gave the pianist a standing ovation.

Little did they know….” as they used to say on radio dramas, it was the last time they would gather in 2020. The newspapers and news channels had been filled with news out of China that told of a city called Wuhan, where bats had been spreading a disease unknown to both medical and scientific sources. It was named coronavirus because of its spiky resemblance to a crown. The disease was named COVID-19.

The news worsened as the virus spread. Thereafter, my calendar is distinguished by “Xs” — my dentist appointment, dermatology check-up, acupuncture sessions. Something called “Cognitive Based Comparison Training” seems doomed to an eternal question mark. No social engagements, no birthday parties. No Resident of the Year luncheon in March.

I challenged my writers’ group to keep journals about their personal feelings during the pandemic and was rewarded by some of the best writing I have ever had.

Kevin Burke, CEO of our community, reacted instantly, scheduling an “Update” on Tuesday, March 17, instead of a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. He outlined an agenda that served the community well through months of quarantine and guidelines; while health care workers struggled, Kevin announced that the Main Dining Room would be closed and residents’ meals would be delivered by staff workers, who would deposit our lunch and dinner at the front door of our homes. They were like the postman, who always “rings twice.” Residents became Pavlovian, responding to two short rings of the doorbell to signify the arrival of meals; exercise classes were called off, trips were cancelled, and PVE was closed to visitors. In hindsight, Kevin’s decisions were probably the reason PVE has experienced zero cases of COVID-19, but at the time, residents grumbled at the interruption of their personal lives and activities.

In April, a “New Normal” emerged. Residents looked forward to the Tuesday and Thursday updates by Kevin Burke and Sally Gripman, president of the Resident Council. Businesses closed, hair began to grow, and manicures, pedicures, and facials became do-it-yourself operations. Book clubs ceased. Then PVE woke up to the possibilities of technology!

The Pulse, a community communication resource developed by resident Nancy Bartels, working with Director of Communications, Jeff Rausis, and residents  including Judy Mulenburg, Wolf Schaecter, Ken Wright and Stu Loventhal became instrumental. The Pulse brought current information to residents immediately and proved to be a godsend in ordering meals, keeping up with community events, and making requests for anything from housekeeping to maintenance.

On April 9 residents socially distanced outdoors to show thanks to the maintenance, housekeeping and dining teams through a cacophonous roaring of pot lids, car horns, and other noisemakers. As a caravan of carts began to wind through campus,  the team members on parade were greeted by noise, shouts, and cheers — a tribute for their hard work and willing cooperation.

Jan Olsen, Director of Wellness, challenged her team to create novel activities for residents. Following team members from Dining Services, who had delivered “Snack Packs” to all residents, PVE team members delivered ice cream treats on a blisteringly hot day in late May. Nick Marten and Amanda Pereira serenaded residents on their birthdays, and soon Nick and his guitar were appearing at doors when anyone wanted a lift in their spirits. Christina Gables took commemorative pictures of residents — and their pets — in the entryway to their homes.

April’s seemingly blank (mostly) calendar spaces were replaced by May’s days of lengthy daylight. Wellness offered outdoor exercises featuring tai chi, aerobics, and other classes. Activity sign-ups on The Pulse offered wait lists once the original events were full. On Thursdays, the COVID-19 update livestream ended with a parody Broadway musical number, highlighting the coronavirus’ effect on residents.

Friday Flash became a 12-page document to augment The Pulse, and for those residents who hadn’t embraced The Pulse, a concierge was established, and all residents could then be served by a phone call made. Zoom meetings were starting up on campus as well as family meetings; visitors were able to make contact through the gate, and security team members suddenly took on critical health care tasks like taking temperatures.

Get-togethers were scheduled at DeLong Pavilion, with residents practicing social distancing and sporting colorful face masks made by a team of residents headed by Debbie and Bob Lunning. There were 6 p.m. classic films, so residents could share the cocktail/dinner hour with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. An unseasonable, brutal hot spell forced the cancellation of happy hours designed to group friends who were missing social interaction. We found ourselves living out-of-doors, enjoying the natural beauty of a California early summer.

June brought a gradual lifting of restrictions. Residents could leave campus without isolating for two weeks once returning home. There could be four persons in the pool or Power House at the same time.  The Group of 13 (the writers’ group) had permission to meet face-to-face, largely due to the persistence of Nancy Wisner, the secretary for arrangements. I went to lunch at Bistro Don Giovanni and planned to go to the Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena for lunch on the patio. I began to see that the world is a careful place in which people try to use self-management, distancing from others, wearing a face mask and gloves, taking advantage of senior shopping hours at Trader Joe’s, and other safety measures.

We are now into our nine-month struggle with the coronavirus, and the situation is bleak at best. We are facing a winter of isolation. Family Thanksgivings have been altered, and holiday travels have been discouraged. Yet the spirits of residents remain upbeat, and Team PVE still functions with optimism. There is a safe vaccine on the horizon, and our list of residents contracting COVID-19 remains at zero.

When I challenged the writers’ group to keep a journal of their feelings, no one thought it would be so lengthy. I had asked the writers to reflect on lessons learned throughout the pandemic, never realizing it would extend into winter. They provided thoughtful, positive answers to those questions.

What lessons did I learn? Well, it has made me conscious that one’s participation in a troubling time calls for self-discipline, compassion and empathy. What am I grateful for? The knowledge that, as bad as the “troubles” get, someone is there to be helpful, if you just look. The fact that better heads than I have set the limits of safety and protection in this terrible time is a comfortable place to be.

Maybe my great-granddaughter was right. It takes a “quaranteam” of residents and management to defeat a powerful opponent.

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