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November 30, 2021

 

Hi there, 

 
I am suffering the wages of being a couch potato. In fact, I can’t get up from the couch anymore. Granted, I do have pretty bad arthritis, but I also haven’t been putting much effort into fending off couch potato-itis. For the New Year, I’m determined to get in shape.

My dream was to hire a personal trainer, but that didn’t fit my slim budget (the only slim part of me), so I found the next best thing—a physical therapist paid for by Medicare who comes to the house. She is infinitely patient and hasn’t laughed yet when watching me struggle to get off the couch. I’ve got a series of exercises to do daily to increase strength and balance. The challenge has been actually doing them—stay tuned for updates on my progress.

I’m Erica Manfred, a 70+ Geezer Geek, Snarky Senior, and Florida divorcee who has been writing about aging with attitude since before I signed up for Medicare. I’m writing this newsletter as part of Life Experienced, an event platform for seniors. Each week, I’ll be exploring what matters to us later in life, from making new friends, to learning new things, to helping others. Know someone we should feature? Email us at Info@LifeExperienced.com or join us on Facebook.

Writing her way through the pandemic

Kate Walter, 72, was living her dream in New York City in March 2020. Just retired from teaching, she was single, gay, and part of a lively, creative, supportive community in the famous Westbeth Artists Housing in New York’s Greenwich Village. Westbeth is a NORC (Naturally Occurring Retirement Community) with many over-65 residents who have been there since the 1970s. 

Kate, an extrovert by nature, had it all—an exciting, active life, plus many friends and plenty of alone time to write. Except for not having a romantic partner, she felt her life was good. 

And then the pandemic struck, with New York as an epicenter.

As the city went into lockdown, Kate’s life went into meltdown. A sense of fear pervaded Westbeth. It turned into a ghost town as those who could escaped the city, and everyone else remained behind locked doors. Except for a few words in the hall with neighbors and walks for exercise, Kate was alone for months.

Kate dealt with this in her characteristic way—she wrote about it. Her essays, which appeared in the Village Sun, a local publication, evolved into a fascinating book. Behind the Mask: Living Alone in the Epicenter reflects her resilience during a time many of us would rather forget.

I spoke to her about her experience:

How was your Westbeth community unique when it came to facing disasters?
Westbeth is like living in a little village. Everyone knows each other. Prior to the pandemic, we had gone through tragedy together. From our rooftop, we witnessed 9/11 and saw the towers burning and falling. We also lived through Superstorm Sandy when the Hudson River rushed up our block and flooded the basement and knocked out electricity for weeks. But those two disasters brought us together. By its very nature, the pandemic forced us apart.

Were you frightened? How did your fear manifest itself?
I was pretty scared at the beginning when we did not know exactly how COVID spread. Like many people I wiped down my groceries, which seems silly now. I was afraid to go out at night since the streets were deserted. Then I got really scared when my internet went out. It was my lifeline, so I started to panic. But fortunately, I solved the problem quickly.

I think my fear also manifested in a series of nightmares. I know many people had crazy pandemic dreams. I include a few in my book.  

At what times did the lockdown hit you the most? 
The holidays were the most difficult. Instead of sitting around a table with a crowd of relatives in New Jersey for a sumptuous meal at Christmas and Easter, I was home alone, making food for my solo celebration.

I missed attending church on Christmas and Easter. Watching services at home is not the same. I missed singing carols in the lobby of Westbeth with my singing group, and I especially missed attending the Gay Pride Parade in June 2020. 

What helped the most to get you through the lockdown?
It helped to create daily routines, to have a weekly schedule. I had various classes on Zoom—yoga, qi gong, and writing workshops. I knew the teachers and most of the participants. I watched church services on Sunday. I went to the greenmarket on Saturday. I meditated every morning. I planted my sidewalk garden in the spring, as I did every year.  

I read books and taught myself how to play the harmonica. I thought of my mother who was a very resilient person and tried to draw strength from her. Also, talking to my therapist (on the phone) helped. She was very good at interpreting my scary pandemic dreams. And most helpful, I wrote about what I was going through.

Can you share some of the writing prompts you created and how you think they can help others?
I think we all were traumatized in various ways and writing can help whether you’re a professional writer or not. Here is one prompt: Did you have a point during the pandemic where you lost it or "hit a wall"? Here are two more: Who or what do you appreciate more now? What lessons did you learn from the pandemic? You’ll have to get my book to find out the other prompts.

Featured event

Reduce anxiety and relieve morning stiffness by starting the day with some stretches. Every weekday morning, SeniorPlanet.org offers this 30-minute stretch class from 10 to 10:30 a.m. EST on Zoom. 

Mondays through Fridays, the class will guide you through simple stretches and breathing meditations. The class starts on time, so participants are encouraged to sign on a few minutes early.

RSVP

What to watch

Instead of the usual “clueless old people” jokes, Saturday Night Live turned the tables and made fun of the younger generation on the November 6 show.

If you learned to drive on a stick shift like I did, you’re going to chuckle at this sketch about the attempted theft of a priceless vintage Lamborghini. The cocky young thief brags that he can drive anything, but is foiled by the “advanced driver system” of a car with a shifter that goes in three directions and an extra pedal on the floor requiring two feet to drive. “What am I, Fred Flintstein?” he says, lurching his way forward and crashing into the garage door.

The bit reminded me of learning to drive a stick shift on the original Volkswagen Beetle while lurching my way home through New York City traffic.

Partner spotlight

Meet our partner, Oasis Everywhere! If you've used Life Experienced, you've probably seen Oasis Everywhere's class offerings. Their web-based classes range from physical activities to history lessons—all taught by top instructors across the country. Events are easily accessible via Zoom. Try a free class today.

Become a partner

Does your organization reach a community of older adults? Get in touch with us for information on amplifying your events and activities on the platform and expanding the Life Experienced service to your network. There is no cost to partnering. Get in touch with us here: https://lifeexperienced.com/become-a-partner.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. And if you want to chime in with your two cents on what this newsletter should include, email us at Info@LifeExperienced.com

Until next time, 
Erica  
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