Connecting with seniors around the Bay Area

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Joan Cole and her partner Martin. Joan is 90, and is a founding member of Ashby Village, a non-profit in Berkeley whose goal is to enable people to stay in their homes and stay active as they reach their elder years.

When California Governor Gavin Newsom said that we had to shelter in place, he said seniors need to stay home alone.

So I decided to check in with a variety of seniors across the Bay Area to see how, and what, they’re doing. I created a story for KALW, but I talked to many more people than I could fit into the story that I ended up doing.

So here are some of their voices. It’s how they talk about their lives in their own voices that I find interesting, so I urge you to listen.

They are: Joan Cole of Oakland; Pat Kirkpatrick of Berkeley; Iona Lowhorn of San Francisco; and Marlene Mirassou of Santa Cruz, who spoke about her 91-year-old mother Joyce in an assisted living home in San Jose. Marlene herself is 71.

Joan has been staying in touch with her children both locally and on the East Coast, sheltering in place with Martin (above) and holding virtual cocktail parties with friends via Zoom.

She’s been very involved with a non-profit called Ashby Village in Berkeley that you’ll here more about. The organization’s goal is to build community involvement so that the elderly to stay at home in their elder years.

The next person I spoke with, Pat Kirkpatrick, is also very involved with Ashby Village. She was on the verge of throwing a party for a centenarian when the governor issued his shelter-in-place order. She was also going to hold a tea party at the Claremont for some Ashby Village elders in their Nineties and one centenarian, but events overtook her and she had to cancel. Now she’s sheltering in place with her husband on the Mendocino Coast in idyllic Gualala. She was telling me about her fishing adventures and watching gray whales swimming past the coastline.

Iona was telling me about her life before Newsom ordered everyone to shelter-in-place.

I also talked to a friend who lives in Santa Cruz, Marlene Mirrassou. Her mother is in San Jose in an assisted living facility.

I really enjoyed speaking with them all, learning about their rich lives, appreciating their sense of humor and their perspectives.

We should be talking to seniors much more, and I hope this latest crisis changes the loneliness dynamic in this country.

These particular seniors lead socially rich lives, but there are those who I expect wouldn’t talk to me on the phone who are the ones who need to be checked in on the most.

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