Sonja and her adult daughter, Jenny, live down the street from me. In recent years, Sonja has suffered from serious vision problems, so Jenny moved back home to help her. Before Jenny returned to Ann Arbor, Sonja had lived alone for many years. First I talked to Sonja, then I talked to Jenny and Sonja together.
This is part of a series of interviews with Ann Arbor residents, talking about personal experiences adjusting to (and adapting during) the COVID-19 crisis. Interviewed Mar 29, 2020
So, I’m talking today to my friend, Sonja, who lives down the street from me. Sonja, do you mind sharing how old you are?
I am 83, I’ll turn 84 in in August.
Alright, Sonja, so this is what I’m asking people: how has your lifestyle changed since this COVID-19 virus that we’re dealing with?
Well, not a whole lot, because I am a hermit! (laughs) And so this lifestyle suits me, you know, to a T, in a sense. What I miss is not being able to get to the store, but I can’t drive anymore because of my eyes so I have to depend on my daughter or other people to help me with things. But, I’m also somebody who wants to be busy all the time so I look for things to do. I cook more. I sort books and records. I clean up the yard. I can. You know, things like that. I listen to talking books.
So, Sonja, if you still able to go out and drive, get out and about, it doesn’t sound like that was something you were really doing a lot of anyway. But what advice would you have for people who feel like this is really making them cooped up and they still want to go out?
Walk around the block. Accept that you can’t be with lots of people. It just won’t work right now. I don’t know. There are certain things in life we just have to allow to take over us and “stay indoors” is one of those things right now.
How are you restricting your contact with other people? I know that I’ve ridden my bike up the street a few times and chatted with you while you’re gardening. What kind of things are you being more careful of now?
Just going out. I haven’t been out anywhere. My daughter’s been to the store. We worry a little about what that is… and it would be nice if there was better ways to get food. I don’t know what they are yet. I don’t miss going anywhere except maybe OLLI lectures. I don’t know. It’s hard to say.
So, now I’m talking to Sonja and her daughter, Jenny. Jenny, I’m curious… I have some questions for you. Your mom was telling us that she’s not driving anymore, you’re going shopping for her. Do you think this is the best strategy for most older people, to have somebody else shop for them?
Jenny: Yeah, I would advise older people to stay away from any sort of public space. When I go shopping, which… I bulk up, I mean I really do stock up when I go, and I wear gloves. I go as early in the morning as I can. I bought enough now that I don’t think we have to go shopping again for another two to three weeks. We might run out of fresh vegetables but we started planting. (laughs) So we started seeds the other day.
Yeah, I would just advise older people to stay away. I’m actually worried sometimes that I’ll bring it home to her and so that’s a fear. But I try to scrub everything down. I scrub my door handles of the car, we try to unpack (carefully) the groceries and then wash hands completely, and then anything I might have touched in the store I try not to bring back to the house.
So how would you say that your lifestyle has changed personally since this whole COVID 19 thing?
Jenny: It’s changed dramatically and I think there’s no one in the world that it hasn’t affected. I’m not working currently, though we are trying to strategize ways of getting back to work. I’m a teacher, so trying to get ways to reach out to kids that don’t have technology. Just being really conscious about not interacting with other people.
Well, you’re lucky that you and your mom are in a house together. Do you have any suggestions for people who are living alone and maybe feeling really cooped up? I’ve heard stories of people who are feeling really cooped up and the way that they are wanting to break up the day is to go out in public and go shopping.
(Jenny and Sonja both shake their heads)
That’s what people do in an ordinary time. I know people who go out every day but I tend to be one who likes to stay home.
We’re both introverted so the lack of social interaction isn’t really damaging us mentally. Although, needing variety of companionship is definitely creeping in, so there are a lot of internet-based programs that you can access to reach out to other people: Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom. Zoom is awesome, I didn’t realize how great it was… this is going to be an ad for Zoom! (laughs) I’ve also reached out to friends, asked them if they wanted to go for a social distance hike. You know, six feet away from each other, hiking in the woods with my dogs (which you can hear). We walk around the block. I’ve seen the people on the next block over, they all got together on their porches, separately, and had a little talk the other day. That was fun. You know, people in Italy are communicating with each other on their balconies.
I would say do any of those things but stay away from people and stay away from public places.
I think that’s good advice. Well, I thank you for talking to me!
You’re welcome, thank you! Bye!