Marilyn Heins: COVID-19 and moving plans

Marilyn Heins: COVID-19 and moving plans

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Marilyn Heins

Since 1989 when I wrote my first parenting column for the Arizona Daily Star, no topic has generated as much interest as the continuing saga of my move to an independent living senior community. I received more emails, snail mail, phone calls, and people stopping me on the street to comment than ever before.

Dozens of readers told me the column information was helpful. Others, who had already made the move, offered helpful suggestions. Many strangers, as well as friends, wished me good luck in the move. An astonishing number of responses were from children of aging parents telling me the columns were helpful as they nudged or guided their parents who needed to make the transition. Some were deliciously flattering! “Thank you greatly for your columns on transition to an independent living apartment … in the not too distant future I will be making the transition and I hope I can tackle it with the same enthusiasm and cheerfulness and practicality that you are showing.”

Comments from friends and acquaintances have been heartwarming. Several called or emailed me to offer their help with the move. Others congratulated me on making the right decision.

One dear friend I have known since high school told me she could not imagine me living in an institution. That is because I am not moving to an institution. I am relocating to a community of people like me — still active, but without a doubt venerable senior citizens!

An interesting and timely email from a close friend: “A facility like the one you are moving into not only has many residents but also a big staff and you have no idea whether they have been exposed to the virus. Why not postpone moving until the coronavirus passes on?”

I don’t know any more about COVID-19 than anyone else who reads the newspapers and online sources to keep up with this worldwide and very threatening public health crisis.

But let me tell my beloved readers (beloved because you continue to give this old lady a purpose) how my partner and I are going to approach this new wrinkle in our plans.

We are in the coronavirus “vulnerable group” because of our age and preexisting medical conditions. At present we live in a single-family house on a quiet street. We are pretty active for our age (me, 89; him, 96). Three days ago, we decided to ensure our social distancing by not leaving our home for a while.

We still take our morning walk and pat the friendly neighborhood dogs who greet us while keeping a “social distance” from their owners. We have counted our pills, tallied our food, and are hoping for the best.

But, sadly, we have decided to postpone the exciting move to our new apartment. This was not a decision we took lightly or made easily.

I read every bit of the pandemic science I could find. At first, all of the children told us to think about whether it was wise to move now. As news of the virus became more worrisome, they told us to postpone moving because we were safer in our own home than in an apartment building. Doctor friends from Michigan to California, specialists in geriatrics and gerontology as well as many others advised us not to move at this time.

And, last but not least, what if I was incubating the coronavirus caught at the class I went to four days ago and brought the virus into a community of vulnerable people myself? A horrific thought!

Our calendars have been wiped out by cancellations everywhere … concerts, classes, restaurant dates, the MetHD opera. My daughter canceled a trip to visit and help me move. A dear friend from the distant past was going to a wedding in Phoenix and driving here for lunch but the wedding was canceled. The house is super-fragilistic-discombobulated from our downsizing efforts.

But we are together, as healthy as two really old geezers can be, and have a roof over our heads. Everybody’s world in just about the entire world has been changed and none of us know how, when or whether we will get it back. Each of us is now living with fear, indecision, uncertainty, and no clear sense of when the crisis will be over.

From an email I sent yesterday to a dear friend: “The world as we knew it is not there any longer ... we have to hope for both bodily health and soul resilience. Stay in touch. You are part of my soul’s resilience!”

The prompt answer: “Adapting to our new reality takes some effort. You, too, remain a key part of my soul’s resilience.”

My advice to my readers is to find your own soul’s resilience and help others do the same by staying in virtual touch with each other. Be grateful we have telephones, email, video mail, FaceTime and social media through which we can stay in touch, comfort each other, and get through this unbelievable but real crisis together even though we are apart.

Laughter is healthy. I called out to my pool lady when I saw her, “I hope you washed your hands before you touched my pool.” We had a good laugh together and she pointed out her hands were the cleanest hands in town, they were in chlorine all day long!

Hope for the future and a positive outlook is healthy. My grandson’s school was canceled for a month but he was given assignments to do every morning. My stay-at-home son told me he was making lemonade out of lemons. “All morning will be school at home. In the afternoon we are going to have the best father-and-son time in the world!”

I plan to make the move whenever it becomes possible … and I plan to continue writing about the transition. Keep reading the Star and STAY HEALTHY!

Dr. Heins is a retired pediatrician, parent, grandparent, columnist and author. She welcomes your questions about people throughout the life cycle, from birth to great-grandparenthood. Contact her at

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