'Felt safer when I was in Vietnam:' Seniors struggle to cope with self-isolation during coronavirus pandemic

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- With senior citizens having the highest death rate from COVID-19, it's understandable that anxiety is high at senior living facilities across the Triangle.

Durham Center for Senior Life decided it needed to do something to lift the spirits of its seniors and keep them engaged despite safety precautions that have physically isolated them from loved ones.

James Harris, 73, and Gloria Rentrope, 74, are fitness instructors at the center. They recently moved their workouts to Facebook Live

"We just have fun doing it," said James Harris.

The workouts help their normally 60-member class appears to be growing since going online. The last class had 1,000 viewers.

"This is our second week. As we're getting into it kind of thinking they may not be here physically but they are out there watching," Rentrope said.

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Local churches, businesses and organizations have dropped off food and supplies on the curbside at the facility--another effort to keep the seniors safe.
"If I go to the store, I'm so conscious of people around me--conscious of where I have been," Rentrope said.

Harris agrees.

"I kind of felt safer when I was in Vietnam than I do right now."

The facility's executive director, Seanya Raines, said she knew they had to do something when one member said self-isolation was becoming too difficult.

"The depression kicked in on the day he realized he couldn't go to church," Raines said.

Durham Center for Senior Life has a support line available for seniors who may want to talk or learn about resources: 919-688-8247 Ext. 100.

Social distancing is also playing out at the Cardinal Senior Living Center in Raleigh's North Hills neighborhood.

Seniors lined their balconies as the US flag was raised up the flag pole. Many of the seniors then covered their hearts and began singing the national anthem.

"I think this was a very easy way to get everyone involved and excited. It's been a big hit," said Madison Roberts a spokeswoman for Cardinal.

Staff at Cardinal created an outdoor space where residents can sit and call their loved ones and physically see them through a window.
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