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COVID-19: Woman visits her 90-year-old mother through glass in Parksville

Isolation from family and the outside world a reality for many seniors
Erika Zessel and Angela Robillard during a lunch out before the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Angela Robillard has been visiting her mother through the glass at her retirement community in Parksville since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s what current life looks like for many seniors in an area with numerous retirement homes and communities — isolation from friends and family and the outside world.

“I have been through many outbreaks… there have been more than a few times when longterm care facilities have been shut down and quarantined,” said Robillard, who worked at the residence where her mother lives for 10 years before retiring. “This particular situation has been really extraordinary and [is] lasting quite a long time, and I’m not seeing a really quick ending to this.”

Her mother, 90-year-old Erika Zessel, has been living at Stanford Seniors Village for less than a year. Zessel said although she misses going for lunches and drives with her daughter, she’s managing to stay busy.

“The girls here are wonderful, they laugh and they giggle and they tell jokes and it’s not a gloom and doom atmosphere,” she said, about the staff at Stanford. “I hope for the best, that’s all, and we miss our programs that we have — people don’t know what to do with themselves.”

Robillard worked in retirement homes and communities for 40 years and said she worries about the high number of seniors in the Parksville Qualicum Beach Area. Her mother can use her iPad to keep connected and can watch TV, but not all seniors have access to technology or are able to use it.

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Zessel said 90 years of living gives her perspective during isolation.

“I have been through so many things in my life… curfews, it’s nothing new for us really, it’s just that this time it’s dangerous,” she said. “It can’t go on forever.”

For now, Robillard will keep visiting Zessel through the glass and continue to bring care packages full of German goodies. Through Facetime, Robillard shows Zessel the flowers in her garden.

“We phone every day, so that’s important, and I had a little granddaughter at Easter, so I get to see pictures with my iPad,” Zessel said. “We make do.”

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