Senior Living During a Pandemic

It goes without saying that we all hope to stay healthy and maintain an active lifestyle as we grow older. Fortunately, studies confirm that overall in Marin, this is the case. In 2019 — for the ninth time in 10 years — the county was ranked as the healthiest and scored the highest in life expectancy statewide by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “One of the healthiest habits in Marin is a strong history of policies designed to protect health. The recent decisions to prevent the sales of flavored tobacco and vaping products is a clear example,” says Dr. Kim Newell-Green, President of the San Francisco Marin Medical Society.

Research also shows that seniors are happier than previous generations, according to findings from the University of Pittsburgh. More than 3,000 volunteers older than 65 were surveyed from 1987 to 2019, and the ones born more recently were less likely to report symptoms of depression. “Particularly when it comes to their mood, their energy, and their feelings of hopelessness,” said university epidemiologist Kevin Sullivan, the study’s lead author.

And in spite of worries and concern surrounding seniors in the age of the new coronavirus, accounts of life at Drake Terrace Senior Living in San Rafael tell a happier story. “During COVID-19 our practices have changed significantly as they have in all senior living communities, but our associates have gone above and beyond to ensure our residents are staying active, socially engaged and connecting with their families through ‘virtual’ visits,” says Laura Griffth, business director at the facility.

Prior to the stay-at-home mandate, Drake Terrace residents enjoyed a nightly wine hour before dinner that allowed time for socializing, as well as frequent trips to the Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium for theater, symphony, and dance performances. “We also hosted special events both within our community or up in wine country that have included wine tastings, chocolate tastings and cooking classes where the residents worked together to create a special dish or meal,” says Griffith.

With shelter-in-place and the community dining rooms being closed, servers now deliver three hot meals a day in addition to snacks, drinks, puzzles and games to residents. Hallway wellness classes — socially distanced with everyone wearing masks — are also offered, as is happy hour, with drinks being delivered to each door.

“Throughout this pandemic, we have stayed aligned with the changes in federal, state and local guidance, and our goal is to ease back into some carefully designed activities that will be limited to groups of ten or less (distanced and masked),” says Griffith. “We also are planning on resuming scenic drives with a limited number of masked residents in the coach. Our priority is our residents’ safety as we ease into the ‘new normal’ and ensure our residents stay socially engaged.”

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Kasia PowlowskaKasia Pawlowska loves words. A native of Poland, Kasia moved to the States when she was seven. The San Francisco State University creative writing graduate went on to write for publications like the San Francisco Bay Guardian and KQED Arts among others prior to joining the Marin Magazine staff. Topics Kasia has covered include traveltrendsmushroom hunting, an award-winning series on social media addiction, and loads of other random things. When she’s not busy blogging or researching and writing articles, she’s either at home writing postcards and reading or going to shows. Recently, Kasia has been trying to branch out and diversify, ie: use different emojis. Her quest for the perfect chip is a never-ending endeavor.

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