No doubt about it: COVID-19 has taken a lot from us.
Among those losses, count our routines: those daily or weekly rituals that signify all is right with our world. Whether it’s the time we get up, when we hit the gym, or how we spend our Friday evenings, routines help us exert control over the chaos of our daily lives. In the process, experts tell us, they reduce stress, provide emotional stability, and improve our mental and physical well-being.
The challenge, then, comes in determining what will replace the routines we have lost.
For Judson Manor residents Peter and Donna Marie Pesch, finding ways to remain physically and mentally active and socially engaged has been key. The couple, both 85, have established a host of new routines and pastimes that have kept them connected, committed, and content, even in the face of stay-at-home orders and related restrictions.
“We’ve been very, very happy during the restrictions,” Peter confirms. “We’ve had absolutely no complaints.”
For the Peschs, that has meant a deep dive into jigsaw puzzles and Scrabble, and an opportunity to indulge in opera and old movies. But even more importantly, it has meant discovering new ways to forge meaningful bonds with their Judson neighbors.
For instance, when his daily stroll around the University Circle neighborhood was restricted to a single block, Peter, a former professor of astronomy at Case Western Reserve University, uncovered a way both to fight the boredom and to contribute to the greater good. “I got myself a pick stick and a plastic bag, and started picking up all the trash along the way,” he says.
“Eventually, Donna Marie suggested I invite a neighbor to accompany me; he became my ‘bag man’ and we fill a bag every day! Not only has it given us something to do, it also provides a real sense of accomplishment.”
Likewise, when the Manor dining rooms closed as a safety precaution, the couple responded by launching an informal cooking cooperative with their 11th-floor neighbors. “Every evening a small group of us gets together for dinner,” Peter explains. “We cook, we bake, and we eat together. We also got together to write letters to every single resident of the building, asking them how they are doing.”
In fact, Peter even snagged a much-needed haircut from a neighbor across the hall! “It’s communal living here, in the very best sense of the word,” he laughs. “We absolutely have not had any of the sense of social isolation that so many complain of. We are not suffering at all!”
Both Peter and Donna Marie are quick to point out that such activities are only possible because of their membership in the Judson Manor community, where they and all their neighbors have been isolated together – making interactions of this sort an ongoing pleasure.
Looking ahead, Peter and Donna Marie see a new normal emerging, as restrictions are eased and businesses reopen. Some of their recently established routines will persist, they say, including the cooperative cooking and the neighborhood trash patrol. Others, like the jigsaw puzzles, may recede.
“We may start to go out a little bit, too,” Peter concedes. “But when it comes to that, we will be very conservative. We are not at all enthusiastic about all the openings coming up at once: The virus is still out there and we could have another surge. So we will always wear masks and avoid crowded and confined places.”
Still, the couple recognizes their good fortune. “We have each other and we love living at Judson,” says Peter.
“We couldn’t think of a better place to be during the pandemic,” adds Donna. “Judson has been the answer to everything we could need.”