Whiners don’t make it to 90


Alyssa Karner

No one makes it to 90 years old by being a whiner. Living through World War II, defeating cancer, watching their husbands pass away, working through arthritis. The women at Freedom Village have already lived through these events, so it was no surprise that when the pandemic rolled around they adapted. No whining. 

   Since the chaos that started in March, Freedom Village has shut down most of its activities. The pool where many of the independent living residents would participate in swimming classes shut down. Exercise classes shut down. The buses that took residents to concerts, shopping centers, and other activities shut down. Visits from outsiders were shut down. Even the dining room where residents could eat dinner with large groups of friends shut down. 

   Instead, their dinner is brought to their doorstep every night and they are encouraged to eat in their own room alone. 

While it varies among the independent living residents, most residents agreed that socializing has been reduced to some degree since the pandemic. 

   Freedom Village resident Priscilla Arnold said, “Well of course we are limited here in our socializing. You can’t have dinner with other people. We do have wine with other people but we’re not supposed to have more than very small groups.”

   Arnold expressed that the main change since March has been the lack of interaction. “Well you don’t really see anyone other than if you are getting the mail and then it’s harder to recognize them from behind the mask,” Arnold said. 

   Resident Nancy Martin said, “I do miss having a chance to get together with friends before dinner and being able to eat in the dining room with a larger group. There are lots of interesting people here, and it’s always interesting to meet new people.”

   Martin also commented on how she used to be a part of a harmonica group at Freedom Village and has not been able to participate since the pandemic.  

   For most of the independent living residents, their routine outside of Freedom Village changed only slightly. Most were still able to see their families, which they expressed was their most important desire. 

   Resident Joan Karner said, “Normally I would go to my granddaughter’s soccer games or basketball games and that is something I have missed.” 

   While life inside and outside of Freedom Village has changed, the residents do not appear to be letting these changes affect their ability to find happiness. The residents do not even appear to see these changes as negatives. 

   “I don’t feel that it has had a real negative effect on me,” resident Essie Blackburn said. Instead, she talked about how she can still go for a walk every day and visit with small groups of friends while wearing masks. 

   Martin voiced continuously throughout the interview that she did not feel she had been impaired in any way by the pandemic; rather she feels grateful. “I just never would’ve imagined being in this circumstance, but it’s not that I have been impaired by it or by any means. For which I am most grateful and just most grateful I don’t have the virus.” 


   “I can do facetime on the phone with my family so there are lots of options for which I am most grateful,” Martin continued. 


   Arnold also added “Well at my age it hasn’t been particularly challenging…We are in a pretty secure place, they keep us safe and so long as I can get out and see my family, I am fine.”

   And even though exercise classes shut down, “that doesn’t keep me from stretching my muscles in my room; I know that moving is key for people of any age and especially for older ones,” Martin said. 

   The residents appeared to be grateful for just being where they are. 

   Blackburn said, “There’s some really nice people here…I just feel fortunate that I am where I am. I live on the fifth floor and the neighbors are delightful. We wear our masks but we get together in little groups in our apartments every now and then. I don’t feel isolated in any way.”

   “I am very happy to be here, very happy to be here, and I am very impressed with the whole Holland community,” said Martin.

   Blackburn said she would want younger generations to know, “It isn’t always pleasant trying to keep the masks on and I understand that, but I think it’s important that we listen and wear the masks and do what we can to keep the place as safe as we possibly can.”

   Although there is no way to be sure, a smile was definitely hidden beneath the masks of all these ladies. Their positivity is contagious. For most, it is easy to point out everything that has been lost since the pandemic. However, it takes wisdom to remain grateful.