Senior living communities reflect on pandemic and life with the vaccine

Posted at 2:16 PM, Apr 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 09:40:36-04

IDAHO — Senior citizens, especially those living in assisted living facilities, were hit hard by the pandemic.

Now, with more of the senior population vaccinated, they are looking forward to a return to somewhat normal.

“Oh, it’s been something you know from March when it started," Eugene Shepard, a Karcher Estates resident, said.

Although Shepard celebrated two birthdays during the pandemic, staff at Karcher Estates still found a way to celebrate his 98 years of life. But still, isolation was challenging for Eugene.

The hardest part? Not being able to hug his children.

"Well, they’re your children so you’d love to give them a hug," he said.

His daughter would still come to see him through his window every single day.

“We would have our telephones, and that’s how we were able to talk back and forth, and then she would leave," Shepard said. "But it’s still a little chilly in March, but that is how we communicated."

Despite all the changes, Sarina Harney, executive director of Prestige Senior Living at Karcher Estates, said the community still found ways to make life feel as normal as possible.

“It is very challenging to see the isolation piece and everything being different, but we found creative ways to make it feel somewhat normal,” Harney said.

Now with over 60 percent of the senior population vaccinated, some are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As some restrictions ease, Shepard said being able to go to the dining hall again is his favorite thing.

"Really that is the big difference right there 'cause, you know, the dining room. It is a nice place and it’s wonderful," he said.

Other social activities like wellness classes have also started up again.

"It makes me feel so hopeful and excites me greatly to see our residents happy and engaging in things that are the closest to normal prior to the pandemic," Harney said.

Although they are much different from how they were prior to the pandemic, any social or physical activity means a lot.

“It is so important, even prior to the pandemic, socialization and interaction is very important," Harney said. "We've tried to make sure they are still having fun and engaging."

For Shepard, being active is just a part of life.

"In your mind really you just got to do it. You just can't sit and let time go by," Shepard said. "I have always been active and it’s just something that I've always had. I can’t stay still I have got to be doing something."

Shepard is looking forward to going back to his cabin in Featherville with his children again, a place he used to go to every weekend before the pandemic.

“If she says no, I'll be gone."