A particularly cruel aspect of the COVID-19 virus is the threat it poses to seniors, some of society’s most-vulnerable people. Shelter-in-place orders and mandates to maintain social distancing present their own challenges to those who can become isolated in even “normal” times, to say nothing of being in the midst of a global pandemic. It is also the responsibility of everyone in the community to maintain social distancing, as even healthy young people and extended family members can be carriers of the disease while being completely asymptomatic themselves.
Organizations dedicated to senior care in and around Carpinteria are mobilizing best practices not only to keep the elderly safe from infection, but also to provide some level of social interaction as well. The Community Action Commission operates a 2-1-1 help phone line that seniors can call for resources in this time. County residents can also call CAC’s Senior Nutrition program hotline Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to inquire about the senior meal service. For those meal sites that are closed, seniors can arrange for home delivery. In South County, dial (805) 964-8857 ext. #1140. Senior meal center addresses with maps can be found online at cacsb.org/senior.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County also encourages seniors who need food assistance (everyone is eligible, regardless of income level or immigration status) to arrange free home food delivery by calling (805) 967-5741.
At GranVida Senior and Memory Care Center in Carpinteria, Regional Vice President Sonya Buchanan said of recent weeks, “It’s been a whirlwind.” She added that the facility had plans in place for a natural disaster, and that they have been able to pivot their response to meet the challenges of the pandemic for the 62 residents in their care. “We have responded to the CDC recommendations,” Buchanan said. GranVida has had no confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The biggest challenge for residents, Buchanan said, is that “they’re used to gathering every day.” All group activities have been cancelled, but residents are keeping in touch with friends and family electronically. “Residents are responding really well,” Buchanan said, and added that staff have made a great effort to keep a calm atmosphere within the facility.
For Susee Smith-Youngs, a senior (although she’s lively as can be, and does not disclose her age) who lives alone on Foothill Road, the pandemic brings a double challenge. There is the fear of the sickness itself, but also the impact on her custom interior sewing business, Fabric Dimensions, that she runs from a studio in her back yard, and her second stream of income from the co-op she is a member of at Homestead Antiques on Linden Avenue.
“It’s scary,” Smith-Youngs shared, “business has slowed-down, and this is pretty scary for seniors who are still working.” Although her son has checked-in on her and brought her groceries, he is in fire-fighting training in Orange County and Smith-Youngs has had to venture out to the drug store and the supermarket on her own. “The lady there (at the drug store) is really good—she wipes down the counter and credit-card machine,” she said. At the supermarket, Smith-Youngs re-purposed plastic vegetable bags for gloves. And for her cat, dog and chickens, she’s been ordering online. Having to hold-off on her significant volunteer efforts has perhaps been the biggest challenge for Smith-Youngs, who has been in business in Carpinteria for 40-years. She has volunteered at the Sealwatch for nearly 25-years, and at the Carpinteria Arts Center and St. Joseph’s Thrift Store as well. “The other end of being elderly,” she said of herself and others in her age group, “is the children who don’t get to see them.”
Mike and Elise Winneguth are fortunate to have each other, and have been weathering the stay-at-home order by working on the house and playing cards and Scrabble, although Mike says “we miss swimming in our community pool,” which has closed due to the pandemic. Keeping in contact with friends and family via phone and computer, the Winneguths are bearing-up, although like Smith-Youngs, Elise has had to scale back her significant volunteer efforts at both Canalino Elementary, where she worked five-days a week, and at St. Joseph’s Thrift Store.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the worst is yet to come in the pandemic, and Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said the city should “be prepared for a couple months like this.” As of press time Wednesday, March 25, the state of California reported 2,643 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 55 deaths from the disease. In response to President Trump’s estimation that stay-at-home orders will be lifted by Easter, on Sunday, April 12, California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “April for California would be sooner than any of the experts that I talked to believe is possible.”