The coronavirus has taken its toll on many, including the elderly residents living in affordable housing facilities like the El Campo Retirement complex and Prairie Village. Visits from family members have declined for fear of exposing their loved ones to the virus. Activities at both facilities have ceased at the same time due to rules put into place since the pandemic began in the spring.
“We have been shut down since March. We’re not mingling now ... this is an elderly complex,” Debbie Sczech, manager of the El Campo Retirement facility on the West Loop, said. “Families do come, but not as often.”
Residents once mingled together in the facility’s activity room to play bingo, hear an educational program from local experts, or celebrate special occasions like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas. They have missed that time together.
“We have a lot of fun,” she said. “We love Christmas ... carolers come ... we have hot chocolate.”
Residents do visit each other from afar, keeping their social distance, and some take advantage of sitting on the porch when temperatures aren’t so hot to catch up on the latest news.
There are 35 residents living in the 32-home complex.
“They are just like my family. We see one another all the time,” Sczech said.
Residents still reach out to help one another when there is a need.
“The community comes together when one is sick or not able to water their flower beds,” she said. “They love their yards and help each other out.”
Their spirits have been lifted some by the just completed renovation of the homes, making them newer looking and more accommodating.
On limited incomes, Sczech says they welcome donations of necessary items for the residents. To offer encouragement, something as simple as a card, letter or even a picture colored by a child can lift their spirits.
“They get excited just for a little bit of attention,” Sczech said.
Angela Covarrubio is service coordinator at Prairie Village, an independent affordable living facility with 38 units. Residents at that facility, who are on a limited income, welcome donations of certain goods as well as written mementos.
At Prairie Village, the activity center is closed to residents and outside visitors.
“Last time we had activities was in March,” Covarrubio said. “We are on lock-down.”
The activity center was the social hub of the facility. It’s where residents once gathered on a regular basis for bingo, educational programs and more.
“They used to come here for morning coffee, watch TV, play games .... to gossip and visit,” Covarrubio said. “Even non-residents would come by to visit.”
Lack of activities and isolation has affected some residents mentally and emotionally. Add in health complications like COPD, heart problems and dementia, “it is frustrating down here,” she said.
Some are fortunate to have family nearby who check on their loved ones. But for those who have no one, life can be lonely and depressing.
“They miss social interaction,” she said. “They have nothing to look forward to. They are bored staying inside and watching TV.”
However, she said, some have adapted well.
When activities do resume will be determined by upper management at each facility.
“They are missing the activities we usually do,” Sczech said. “When we go back to a regular routine, we will be so busy.”
Sczech says they could also use “prayers and love. They appreciate anything. Something so simple means a lot to them.”
How Can You Help The Elderly?
The community is invited to donate items to be distributed to residents in each of these facilities by dropping them by the El Campo Leader-News office, 203 E. Jackson, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Please note, food items that are hard to chew should not be donated.
Suggested items are books, crossword puzzles, word search books, puzzles, socks for men and women, caps for men, adult pull ups in all sizes, quarters (for the laundry room), laundry and dish detergent, cleaning supplies, toiletries, paper goods, tissues, batteries for personal grooming items, cross stitch kits, stationary, cards, notepads, writing pens and postage stamps.
Cards of encouragement and children’s artwork can also be dropped off at the newspaper office.