Staying Strong: Independent Living in a time of social isolation

Staying Strong: Independent Living in a time of social isolation

“It’s safe in here. My family knows I’m taken care of.” Bernadette E of Wilkes-Barre

Across the country, seniors’ lives are being upended as communities take aggressive steps to protect the population from the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). While senior independent living communities differ from nursing or personal care homes, the demographic served is usually similar and considered a “high risk” population when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Independent Living typically encompasses a wide range of housing arrangements, from apartment-style communities to housing co-ops. Generally, though, residents live in their own private dwelling spaces and have access to common areas where they can gather with other members of the community.

Choosing to live in a senior community usually includes benefits like having someone to eat dinner with, the ability to come and go as you please, and access to social gatherings and group activities. Seniors can leave the potential isolation and burdens of home ownership behind to live a more care-free lifestyle.

That was a “Pre-COVID” lifestyle. Now, life for seniors in community living settings during this pandemic can actually be quite isolating. New restrictions are plentiful and ever changing, but most often, group activities are being canceled. Visitors aren’t allowed. Dining rooms have closed and meals are being delivered to people in their apartments. Trips to grocery stores have now turned to grocery deliveries and simple walks through town aren’t permitted.  

So how does it feel to be living in a senior community setting during an isolation situation? We had a chance to talk with Bernadette, a tenant at Allied Services Center City Apartments in Wilkes-Barre.

“It’s definitely different, but I’m doing ok.”

Bernadette and her husband chose to move to the senior living community for a more manageable lifestyle.

“We were on the list for an apartment before he (her husband) passed. We needed something easier. The house was just too much.” Sadly, her husband passed away due to complications from diabetes before they could make the move to Center City Apartments together.

Despite the unfortunate passing of her husband, Bernadette moved into the independent living community  and has been a tenant there for a little more than a year.

“My daughter and I talked about it and we knew it would be the best fit for me. Way less to take care of, easier for me to get around and I would never be alone.”

Bernadette speaks of her taking part in the activities offered, dinner with friends and her involvement in the resident chorus.

“I have a wonderful time being with my friends. We get to sing at the holidays and birthday parties and so many things. It’s fun.”

Now, with COVID-19 putting a pinch on everyone’s social time and a stop to her chorus group, Bernadette has found a way to keep herself busy through coloring.

“Oh I just love it. I was always a crafty person and this was just an easy way to pass the time. You can get so involved in a pattern – you just don’t realize how much time goes by.”

Coloring books are no longer just for kids. In fact, adult coloring books are all the rage right now. For years, researchers and art therapists have equated the benefits of coloring to meditation. The famous crayon maker, Crayola, even has a set of markers, colored pencils and a collection of coloring books geared towards adults. Bernadette says her favorite tools to use are Crayola Twistables.


Bernadette misses being able to attend activities with her friends and visits with her family, but she knows it’s all for a good reason.

“It wouldn’t be safe for them (her family) to see me anyway if I lived in my old house. They wouldn’t be allowed to come to my house and I wouldn’t be allowed to go to theirs. I would be alone. It’s safe in here. I see people and my family knows I’m taken care of.”

Bernadette says she has a routine she follows everyday that makes things feel normal.

“I have my breakfast and watch morning mass. I’ll go down and check my mail and go to the courtyard – and of course my coloring keeps me busy. My family calls every evening around 7:30 and then I watch my programs. It’s really not bad, but I am looking forward to seeing my family again.”

Missing family, a common theme among those separated by COVID-19, but Bernadette offered a few words that are helping her get through.

“We might be alone, but we’re all in this together. You keep yourself busy and do what you can to support the people around you. It might last awhile, but it won’t be like this forever.”​

Click here to learn more about Center City Apartments or call Sherry at 570-830-3904.