‘Coronavirus: Precautions, separation and a personal perspective on village life’

Apr 07, 2020
John says he can still get into the community's shed to do work, but has warned visitors about social distancing requirements. Source: Getty Images

I live in a gated community of rental units available to people over 55. After the death of my wife and sale of our home, followed by a few months’ travel (just not the same on my own), it seemed to best suit my needs. I lead (for the foreseeable future, led) an active life outside the property and use it in great part as a place to eat and to sleep. Rental is by direct debit and covers everything other than power and telephone, with all maintenance and equipment failures covered by rent.

Part of an inclusive deal for most residents is a meals package. A kitchen with dining room/common room stands at the centre of the complex and is a location for people to come together for the midday meal, for games and for social get-togethers.

In the past week or two, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2, more commonly known as Covid-19), has put an end to almost everything we accepted as the norm, for us as well as the community at large.

The owners of the property, a national company, have taken a positive lead in safeguarding us, issuing a series of bulletins keeping us up to date with current best practice. They initially placed hand sanitisers at each entry point to the dining room (but indoors, and now inaccessible). These have since been supplanted by others mounted external to the building and on pedestrian gates.

Since Thursday, March 19, the whole complex has been locked to help keep interpersonal contact at a minimum. The common room/dining room is closed and meals now delivered to the individual units. We still go out as necessary, but the gates, normally unlocked from 7am to 7=pm, are now opened on command, and to essential visitors only. Residents were initially allowed two visitors a day, with a major exception.

Those in need of professional assistance are able to have as many as five visitors, including doctor, nurse, pharmacist, carer, family, hairdresser (for now). Casual visits are curtailed for the sake of the entire community.

Since low level nursing home care came to an end, around 40 per cent of those living here have a disability, generally through age or health issues. They are made welcome and are very much accepted as an important part of our village. Most of us fortunate enough to remain able bodied do what we can to help out when and where needed — but by invitation.

This can lead to anomalies when we go out to do our shopping and theirs (if not otherwise done by carers). They’re unavoidable, of course. Despite being cautious about crowds and social distancing, there’s always some clunk not paying attention to minimum standards. I was shopping recently for some Packham pears (now in season and utterly delicious). Holding back a little as a person ahead stopped to look them over, I saw that person sneeze into their hand, wipe the hand on their jeans and then handle the fruit. End of desire for a sweet, juicy supper!

Some matters are unfortunate. I work as a nursing home volunteer, mainly doing one-on-ones with people who have no friends or family to visit them, but also as an external handyman. Now excluded from attending, I’m putting extra hours into making bits and pieces they need for day-to-day operation.

My current project (sorry the photo is of a part-done project) is a trolley for residents to have scooped ice cream in a cone. When done, it’s going to be provided a bright coat of paint, plus uprights and overhead rails so it can be finished off with colourful bunting. Plenty of otherwise frail hands available to make that!

The gated community allows me use of a small brick shed to do my work (as well as odd jobs for the village), and this acts as a form of therapy for others. I usually have somewhere between one and six at or near the roll-a-door (all of whom used to be welcome indoors), everyone wanting to see the work in progress and to have a chat. I did tell them a few days ago I might have to put crosses at 1.5 metre centres on the ground if they don’t maintain separation!

Never a dull moment.

Happy? You bet! Contented? Yes! Be safe, everyone. Keep well.

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