For seniors contemplating the “big move,” it can feel like they’re on a precipice, knowing they can’t continue the way things are, but uncertain and overwhelmed about what might lie ahead.
Recently, we sat down with Shirley, who moved into Mulberry PARC at the beginning of last October, after living at another retirement residence where the residents were in lockdown due to COVID-19. The first move was a real disappointment for Shirley, especially after making the difficult decision to leave her long-time home. There she was, lonely, sedentary and unable to socialize – defeating the purpose of moving to a community in the first place!
Like many seniors, Shirley had begun her search for a retirement residence close to her home in Vancouver, prioritizing proximity over other factors. And unfortunately, like many seniors before her, she found out the hard way: not all retirement communities are created equal.
That’s why we’re so thankful that Shirley eventually found her way to Mulberry PARC! She fit right into our lively, vibrant community, and quickly learned that despite our extensive COVID-19 protective measures, PARC residents still enjoy all the activities and lifestyle amenities they’ve come to enjoy.
Q&A with PARC Resident Shirley and her son Brian
Q: Shirley, what made you decide to move to PARC from your previous residence?
Shirley: My son worked at Mulberry PARC for four years as a driver. He was always going back and forth, having to bring me things that I needed. He was very happy working at Mulberry, and he would say, “Mother, the people are so nice and lovely, wonderful programming and activities [despite COVID-19]. I’m sure you’d be very happy here.” And I’d say, I know, but it’s so far away,” because we lived in Vancouver for 50 years, and Mulberry is in Burnaby. But I thought it sounded wonderful, so I came out to look at it with Brian. He had set aside a beautiful suite in case I wanted to come. The minute I walked in, I thought to myself, “Oh, yes, this is the one.”
Q: How did you know so quickly?
Shirley: It was lovely. The outside was beautiful. The surroundings and neighbourhood were wonderful, and the people were so friendly. The first person I met was the lady showing me around. I told her I was Brian’s mother and she said, “Oh, Brian’s mother! I’m so happy to meet you. We love Brian.” Wherever I went, people would say, “Oh, we love your son.” I knew right away, “Yes, I’m coming here.
Brian: She moved into her previous community around the beginning of February 2020. She was only there for a month before COVID-19 hit, and they had a complete lockdown. Everyone had to stay in their rooms. Because she was new, locked down and there were no activities, she didn’t really get a chance to build a rapport with many of the people there. My mother is very sociable, so this made her very unhappy. Eventually, the residents were able to come out of their rooms, but they still had to eat their meals one per table and wear masks whenever leaving their suite. They weren’t allowed outside the building unless they were supervised by staff. And, it’s still like that to this day.
Q: Shirley, now that you’re at Mulberry, how are things different? With our COVID safety measures, do you ever feel lonely, or like you’re missing out on anything?
Shirley: No, I don’t feel that way at all. I have a couple of friends here, and we go for walks together, down around the block or the nearby path, and it’s beautiful. It’s like a park. We come and go as we please, Right across the street from the building is the Highgate Shopping Centre with a drug store and grocery store. Also, I’m on the 15th floor, and have a beautiful view of the world.
Brian: Her previous retirement residence was located in a residential area, so the only places to walk were residential streets. The residents had to be supervised by a staff member, so usually they would just walk around one of the nearby blocks. And her room was on the second floor with no view, so there was nothing for her to look at.
Q: How did you make the original decision to move into a senior living community?
Shirley: My husband passed away, and at first, I thought I was too young to go, but then I changed my mind. I was getting very lonely and I couldn’t handle myself at home. It was my choice. I talked over my options with Brian and we made a deposit on a suite.
Brian: I had often told her, “When you’re ready, there is a retirement residence nearby you if you want to stay in the community. It’s like living in a house, but you won’t be alone.” But then, when she made the move, she would quite regularly tell me she wasn’t happy. Part of that was because of the COVID restrictions at her previous residence. That’s when I started talking to her about moving to Mulberry PARC. I live in Burnaby and knew at Mulberry she wouldn’t be locked down. She would have friends and access to activities, of course, with COVID-19 safety protocols in place.
Q: Are you still driving Mulberry residents to appointments and on bus outings?
Brian: Yes, I do that two days a week. With the COVID-19 restrictions, it’s been only scenic bus trips, rather than our regular outings. But it still gives them a chance to get outside, get in some exercise, see friends and socialize.
Q: Shirley, being a new resident at Mulberry, did you find it easy to make new friends?
Shirley: Oh, yes, people waved hello all the time and asked, “How are you?” And I’ve met a couple of good friends now. One has been here for five years, and one for close to 10 years. I usually sit with one of them at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Q: That’s great! What are some of the activities you take part in at Mulberry?
Shirley: I do yoga balance classes and I go walking with friends. I play bingo with the girls. We have a lot of fun. I’ve even gone on a scenic drive with Brian as the driver a couple of times. I’m very happy here!