In the month of thankfulness, we want to share a story of Legacy. It is about our residents, staff, and partners, but it’s also a journey of love and resilience in 2020. — The Leo Wertman Residence
When our bus brought residents on outings last year and in the spring of 2020, nobody knew the series of unfortunate events and situations that would spiral into unprecedented changes to every aspect of living for communities big and small.
Just a few months ago, yoga and Zumba classes were busy and lively with many regulars, while the library down the hall provided a serene space for immersion into a good book, a game of chess, or quiet conversations. Sometimes the loveliest of sights was seen in the most ordinary afternoon lull, when light filled the room and painted warmth over the comfy chairs and shiny chess pieces. The dining room was a cheerful and vibrant hub all in its own, where conversations flowed as much as drinks during meals, and anticipation for morning chats during breakfast meant sleeping early to get into the habit of waking up at 7:30 AM every day.
Then, concern and awareness of the volatile COVID-19 situation began to develop in March as a developing pandemic became a global focus, and independent and assisted living residences, as well as long term care communities turned to follow increasingly strict provincial guidelines and measures to safeguard the health of residents and staff.
At the height of tragedies and anxiety over the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, tightly structured provincial protocols dictated that retirement and care home residences enter a month-long lockdown mode, initiated with the stoppage of all outside visitations and restricted activities for residents. Meals were delivered to resident suites as the dining space closed, and some regular exercise programs were forced to be held on pause as instructors were not allowed entry, along with the gym still considered unsafe even with distancing measures in place. Despite all these restrictions and difficulties however, the Legacy team found ways to cheer up residents nonetheless.
If residents could not gather together for a concert or dance class, then we brought the experience to them. The Mariachi Tabasko band struck up a lively tune and played on all four sides of the building so that all residents could enjoy the music. Our fitness instructors led supremely distanced classes as residents danced on their patios and balconies, an experience never seen before. Moreover, who said TikTok is only entertainment for the younger generation? We had our own TikTok week where residents showed off their dance and magical transformation skills to transform into their best selves.
Thankfully, lockdown measures were relaxed in the recent months, and as fitness classes resumed to physically distant arrangements, residents Donna and Joy sat down before and after a FIT session for a chat with us about their experiences and thoughts on the past months.
Chatting with Donna and Joy
Q: Do you come to this program often?
Donna: Oh yes, I come to the fitness programs seven days a week, sometimes twice a day. I like yoga with Annette, stretch with Lisette, and especially Zumba with Antonya. I love Zumba! You know, I prefer to walk. I used to walk seven days a week, when the lockdown happened and there wasn’t much to do, and now I walk less with the fitness programs running again. I walk on Saturdays with Joy. Walking is very good for old legs. *Donna laughs and winks mischievously.
Q: How do you spend your time these days?
Donna: I read a lot, and every week I create a quiz for a newspaper. My favourite book lately ….oof, has been a book on Astrophysics, by Brian Greene. It’s a really good book, with great explanations. You understand each page, but then forget what it’s all about when you go on to the next one. * chuckles. I read everything, biographies, newspapers, magazines, fiction, everything!
Q: How have you been lately?
Joy: I didn’t find it too difficult, I’ve adjusted to the changes already
Q: How often do you come to fitness classes?
Joy: I go about 4 or 5 times a week, for yoga, stretching, FIT, and twice for Zumba. Actually, I go for the dance class because I really like the music for Zumba * laughs.
Q: Favourite exercise?
Joy: I love taking walks, I was walking everyday back during lockdown, and we were having guided walks instead of fitness programs. Now I still walk on Saturday and Sunday.
Q: What do you do outside of participating in fitness programs?
Joy: I read a lot, and watch TV, and watch some of my favourite shows. I also like the weekly PERK activities, where you’re using your imagination and your brain and talking with other people.
Q: Have you been on the scenic drives to various locations around Greater Vancouver?
Joy: I’ve been to the last one. I really enjoyed the trip (one on Monday); it’s a special place for me. The Capilano Fish Hatchery reminded me of something I read about Japanese wood bathing [eco-therapy]…and we had a really nice walk near the fish hatchery, in the woods.
Q: What do you think about the weekly bus drop-offs?
Joy: I go to the Loblaws and London Drugs drop-offs about twice a month…but I really miss the dollar store * laughs. We’d have to get up a little early in the morning for the dollar store, but it would be good! I’ve had a routine of getting up at 7:30 in the morning, for breakfast. Now, with social distancing in the dining room and less chance to have meals with friends, I don’t go down to breakfast very often, and I sleep in an extra hour. It just means I read an hour later at night * laughs. Yes, I really miss talking with friends at meal time, and it’s different when everyone is sitting apart. It’s better now with the changes to the dining room layout, and we can talk more while still maintaining distance.
Joy: Nobody anticipated COVID-19 happening, and how different everything would be. I’ve had a call from a doctor friend, and I asked how long it’s gonna be. He said, well dear, it’s at least gonna be another year. We need to all get used to it, and be prepared for another lockdown in the fall. The staff here and young people are so delightful. Back during lockdown, they used to bring our meals to us, and they would tell jokes and they kept us going. I’m quite satisfied here.
Despite strictly following provincial guidelines to safeguard the health and wellness of our residents and staff, these past months at Legacy have been more vibrant and positive than ever before. From regular scenic outings, picnics, and outdoors activities all performed with mask and distancing measures in place for our bus and walks, to monthly science experiments, music performances, and Paint and Sip afternoons, we create smiles as residents remain socially connected though physically distanced. One initiative that has been taken up this year is the Knit and Chat project, where residents gather every week to knit. Having received a grant for wool from the Vancouver Foundation, Legacy residents have come together to connect and knit for the local Indigenous homeless shelter, New Beginnings. We are proud to say that nearly 100 pieces of knitted garments have been delivered and received by New Beginnings this October. Next up, Legacy residents look forward to a new project knitting toques and blankets to be donated.
COVID-19 is not yet behind us, and although we must keep up our combined efforts and vigilance in practicing mask wearing, social distancing, and the frequent use of hand sanitizers, every day is filled with hope and positivity. We’ve long been proud of Legacy as more than a place to live: it is an intimate community of friends, neighbours, and family, all within a supportive network of caring staff members providing premium services. Thus, we know there is always room to improve our approach to providing a comfortable, safe, yet also exciting and social environment for our residents. Our programs coordinator and management team have worked hard to conjure up creative activities and thoughtful designs for common area layouts and event schedules to bring delight to residents every day. And, this is the direction that we’ll continue to work and strive for.
There is no right time to start living a Legacy lifestyle; yet, the resilience and positivity of our staff and residents, as well as the continued efforts of everyone in upholding a vibrant community, makes us think now is a great time to get to know more of what Legacy has to offer.