When Clare resident Renee Zellner moved to The Clare from Cleveland about three years ago, she swiftly took advantage of new friendships, various concerts and lectures, and her new neighborhood in Chicago’s Gold Coast.
In recent months, however, the life she carved out for herself doesn’t look quite the same as it once did. In early March, when COVID-19 took a foothold in the United States and prompted The Clare to implement a number of safety restrictions, Renee and her fellow Clare residents had to adjust to a new normal.
“Things changed quite drastically when COVID entered our world,” Renee says. “From the beginning of the lockdown, I have felt safe and well cared for. And the employees sprang to action and quickly created ways to keep us busy and engaged.”
In fact, a day in the life at The Clare during COVID for Renee includes a schedule jam-packed with activities. Between book clubs, wine tastings, coffee hours, cooking demonstrations, and live concerts via Zoom, she hasn’t lacked in terms of social connection, mental stimulation and cultural enrichment. The Clare’s in-house television stations stream exercise classes throughout the day, and movies are shown each evening for nightly entertainment.
For Renee, all of this is in addition to taking an online class through Northwestern University’s Osher Lifelong Learn Institute (OLLI) and regular video chats with her immediate family. She also participated in recording an interfaith service that was televised to residents on The Clare’s in-house channel.
Because of technologies like Zoom and FaceTime, Renee has even had the opportunity to join 15 of her family members for a Passover Seder and several birthday celebrations, all without ever leaving the comfort and safety of her apartment at The Clare.
What’s more, Renee and her fellow Clare residents have access to three meals a day delivered directly to their apartments. The extensive and varied menus change entirely each week, and they always come with daily specials and two homemade soups available every day.
“There is never any need to expose oneself to the virus with the programs in place at The Clare,” she says.
As the city of Chicago has gradually reopened, The Clare has slowly eased some restrictions, as well. This meant providing residents with more freedom to come and go from the building for family visits, small group meetings and outdoor walks. But Renee feels no need to rush from her apartment, as she is content, safe and cared for within her new normal.
“The Clare administration made careful, well thought out decisions with the best interest of the residents in mind every step of the way,” she says. “The result is that at this time in August, not one person in Independent Living has been diagnosed with COVID.”
Overall, there’s no questioning the difficulties associated with the lockdown, especially for seniors. But life at The Clare during COVID involves a number of monumental positives for residents in the community.
“I feel so fortunate that I have been living at The Clare during this challenging time,” Renee says. “I don’t feel as isolated as I would if I were living on my own. And my children and grandchildren are happy to know that I am content and stimulated every day.”