Living alone through COVID-19: Gloria’s Story
Photo: Gloria, left, with PNA Village volunteer Marguerite (pre-COVID-19)
by Bill Thorness
Gloria, a PNA Village elder, says the Village has made her a bit spoiled during the pandemic. “I feel like a queen,” she says, “eating all this delicious food!” She gets a meal delivery and lunches from the Greenwood Senior Center every week. Until the stay-at-home order, she was traveling to the Center twice a week (getting rides from a PNA Village volunteer) for lunch, socializing, and meetings. She misses all that and tries to keep up with friends on the phone, but it’s not the same for this self-described “people person and activist.”
The Broadview resident, who’s been in her home for 56 years and counting, knows the value of community—because she’s always been involved. From starting the Bitter Lake P-Patch to leading the Broadview Community Council, working on voting and libraries and local history, Gloria served significant roles in a dozen organizations and met many leaders. “The only mayor I haven’t elbowed with is the current one,” she says, adding her infectious laugh.
When she heard of the PNA Village, she took on another cause and became a “builder” of the Village for her neighborhood. In recent years, PNA Village volunteers have tended her yard, given her countless rides to handle life’s necessities and even found her a new hairdresser.
Through 61 years of marriage, she saw her husband always puttering around their home. “I had no idea how much he did” to keep their old house in shape, she says. More Village volunteers have helped with house maintenance since her husband passed away, installing safety grab bars—and even power-washing the slippery moss off her sidewalk and driveway. All with the goal of keeping Gloria in her home, so she can keep enjoying her flowering landscape and growing vegetables in pots on her deck.
In the last few years of her husband’s life, he had dementia and she became his caregiver. The Greenwood Senior Center staff connected her with the Memory Loss Support Group. After he passed away, they invited her to more essential assistance: the Living Alone Support Group. That’s where she realized something about herself that was tough to overcome.
“The hardest thing about living alone is it’s really hard to ask for help,” she explains. She’s grateful for that lesson, but more so for everything the PNA program offers. “The Village has been great for all these things,” she says. “It’s just made all the difference.”
Now, months after the PNA had to shut its doors, she worries about the future of the organization that has provided so much for her. “I’m hoping the PNA can survive and keep doing all the things they’re doing,” she says. “It’s wonderful for all ages.”