Jean and Dean Geddes: Staying Active and Safe While in Isolation

Older adults who are normally very active and engaged are facing a particularly difficult time over the last couple of weeks as more stringent measures on movement and socializing take effect.

Jean and Dean Geddes, who moved into United’s Fish Creek community about two years ago, like the concept of living independently while enjoying the programming and amenities in the community. Jean, who is a professional artist, would often drive with Dean to the mountains to paint. Today, United’s programming has been put on hold and residents are asked to stay in their suites.  Like everyone these days, they are also not leaving the community, except for essential trips like groceries or necessary medical appointments.

“Not being able to get away, even for a few days, is a disappointment for us,” said Jean. “We would often go to Canmore or Lake Louise in the spring and again in the fall, and spend a week painting and enjoying the scenery. But with the concerns around COVID-19, we are reluctant to expose ourselves to the usually crowded conditions in these popular tourist towns, so we’ve had to change our routine.”

Jean painting Mount Rundle in Banff National Park
Jean painting Mount Rundle in Banff National Park
Jean's finished painting of Mount Rundle
…and the finished product

Jean, who has her paintings for sale in Collector’s Gallery in Inglewood and also in the Banff Springs Hotel, is grateful that she is able to continue to paint at home. They chose their suite based on the north sunlight she needs for her work. “Under normal circumstances, I really like to start my paintings on location by being outside near the mountains and rivers. Then I bring them home and finish them here. Dean is very supportive. When we travelled, he would help carry my materials and act as a buffer when curious tourists came over to where I’m working and inadvertently come too close. But it’s natural for people to be interested in seeing how an artist makes a painting. Dean kept a close eye out for wildlife, especially bears! When summer comes, if we’re still confined to the community, it would be psychologically very difficult. Old habits die hard!”

Jean says that what she misses most are their friends. “We have friends in the community that we can’t easily visit with. We have a social room and a dining room with great food where we used to gather with friends a few times each week for dinner, but which is now closed to dining service. At some point, we will need to be able to find different ways to socialize and get back to a normal life.”

But Jean recognizes the severity of the situation and is making the best of what she has available. “Change can be positive, so it forces us to be creative and find new ways to stay active and, for me, to keep the way I approach my art interesting. I miss my artist friends around the city, but we are finding ways to socialize without getting together. Communication is really important.”

Jean and Dean’s family are very supportive, bringing them groceries and other necessities. They also speak regularly with family and friends using the computer and phone. One of United’s staff members will get them set up on FaceTime soon, which will give them even more access to friends and family. They might even try using free video conferencing programs such as Zoom.

Jean and Dean Geddes share a laugh in their suite
Jean and Dean Geddes share a laugh in their suite

While current restrictions are difficult, Jean and Dean understand why they are needed. “It’s a tradeoff. There are restrictions, but we are also very well protected from anything coming into the building,” said Jean. “It’s a good feeling knowing that there are people doing everything they can to look out for us. I like that.”

Jean noted that because United is a small, Calgary company, it has the flexibility to make decisions quickly. “United is in the best position to protect us. They are Calgarians looking out for Calgarians. They have put several layers of protection in place to keep the virus out, so despite the inconvenience, we’re feeling very safe.”

Photos by Sherana Productions, Jean Geddes. Videos by Sherana Productions.

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