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TV & Movies‘It’s four walls and a TV’ | #television | #elderly | #movies

‘It’s four walls and a TV’ | #television | #elderly | #movies

Shirley Drexler died two months into the coronavirus pandemic, but not from COVID-19. She died of despair.

Drexler was 102 years old. She was the “queen of Rhoda Goldman Plaza,” an assisted living facility in the Western Addition where she joined in almost every activity, where she flitted from table to table during the long lunch hours, where she always had a bawdy joke to share.

When San Francisco shut down on March 17, Drexler, along with every other resident, was shut into her room, her world abruptly gone still. Staff visited frequently but it wasn’t the same. She stopped eating. She didn’t want to get out of bed.

“It was like she lost the will to keep going,” said Adrienne Fair, assistant executive director of Rhoda Goldman Plaza.

In the months since her death on May 20, Rhoda Goldman and facilities like it have lifted some restrictions for residents to help reduce isolation and loneliness. And in other places — from community centers and libraries to doctor and dentist offices — those who work with older adults are trying to combat the isolation and associated mental health issues that many are struggling with as the pandemic drags on.

The concern is that the measures put in place to protect the generations of adults age 60 and over may be killing some of them, or profoundly disrupting their quality of life.

Even as much of San Francisco and the rest of the Bay Area starts to reopen, many seniors still feel trapped and unable to go back to anything like normal life. It may be a year or longer before vaccines are widespread and the pandemic is truly over, which means it’s critical for older adults’ mental and physical health that more efforts be made to help them connect with the world outside their homes, advocates say.

“We don’t think about things like how many old people have died of misery in this pandemic,” said Dr. Louise Aronson, a UCSF geriatrician. “We don’t think about the numbers of people just sitting at home weeping, or sitting there doing nothing.

“When it comes to older people we’re not protecting them. We’re barely talking about them,” she said.

Pobed Lavrentjev, 75, demonstrates how he’s normally practicing piano while at his home in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco, Calif. Thursday, October 22, 2020. Lavrentjev is spending almost all of his time in his Tenderloin apartment during the pandemic. He’s usually a very social, active man, attending music classes at City College, Sunday church services, and lunches at the Curry Senior Center, and even teaching a martial arts class. He says he doesn’t mind the inactivity though as it’s giving him time to practice his music on his own and watch a lot of education material on YouTube. He currently spends hours every day learning Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 on his keyboard. He hopes to have it mastered by the time the pandemic is over.Jessica Christian / The Chronicle

Effects of isolation

The needs of older adults in the pandemic are varied, as are their appetite for risk.

People who are otherwise healthy may prefer to keep physically distant from everyone as they look for better means to communicate with video and other technology. Others, who feel like their time is limited, may want to figure out how to balance their safety with the very powerful desire to hug a grandchild or share what could be one of their last Thanksgiving dinners with friends.

And not everyone is suffering right now. Some older adults say they are enjoying the solitude. Others who live in multigenerational households say they’ve never had so much quality time with children and grandchildren.

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