COPD and COVID-19: A View from Florida’s Retirement Communities

Posted on April 18, 2020   |   

This article was written by Pam DeNardo, a COPD patient advocate and part of our COPD Foundation team. If you are interested in sharing your stories about living with COPD during the COVID-19 pandemic, please email us at

I am a semi-retired single woman living in a 55 and over retirement community of over one thousand units in a village like setting in Fort Myers, Florida. The social activities here are many and well attended. Golf Course, six pools, tennis courts and gym to name a few. We even have our own restaurant. So, you can imagine it's pretty lively here. Until recently. I look out my windows now and see no one. In the early mornings and just before the sun goes down you will see people walking and keeping safe distances. It's a little comical as everyone wants to talk but they have to holler at each other in order to be heard.

Usually at this time of year the snowbirds leave, and the community slows down. This year however, the northerners don't want to go home. Especially if they come from a "hot spot". Now that Florida's numbers are climbing that may change.

As a COPD patient of 20 years I am pretty resilient and I am used to some isolation. And working with the COPD community I have been pretty much oblivious of how others with different physical problems cope. Since the pandemic I have seen some incredible acts of humanity and kindness and am amazed at how we can make this work socially. On my birthday some of my neighbors put a cake by my front door and sang happy birthday from the street. I will be in the next group for the next birthday.

I have had to adjust how I shop. Drug stores are no problem as I order online (or doc calls it in) they tell me when to pick up and I use drive up. Grocery stores are a little more difficult. At first, I tried to shop in person as usual. Waiting to get in, trying to keep 6 feet of distance, (especially while others were not), wiping things down before I picked them up, checking out and finally going home only to have to wipe everything down again before putting away. I found all this exhausting and needed a nap.

So, I gave in and tried the delivery services that are available around here. There is a fee, of course, and you must order online which is not as interesting as being in the store, (you do spend less this way as you are not tempted). You can put all your items on a credit or debit card including the tip and the delivery person leaves it outside my door and gives me a call to tell me he/she has delivered. Now if I can find someone who will come in and cook on occasion, in a hazmat suit of course, I can become a complete vegetable.

As horrible as COVID-19 is, and it is definitely horrible, here are some tips on how I am coping. Don't watch too much news. If you watch TV try the lighthearted programs or comedies. Keep in touch with your friends and family. They might also feel isolated. Try new recipes, new hobbies and keep a schedule.

I am not Pollyanna, but we are tough COPD patients. We can do this. See you on the other side.


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  • Good on you Pam, what a lovely positive post to read. We have isolation and social distancing in Australia that is largely obeyed by the people. My husband has COPD and as we are both in our 70's and retired, nothing much has changed because we live a very quiet life in our own home and have done so for the past 10 years. We have no children, but many good friends and kind neighbours who have offered help if we need it. We have a home carer who comes once a fortnight to vac and wash the floors, and change the sheets on our bed, and that is all I need at the moment, as I can still do the shopping and drive my husband to medical appointments.
    His GP has instructed him not to leave our house, so all his medical consultations are over the phone now, and the pathology company does home visits for his blood tests.
  • I am a State Captain who lives in Thermopolis, Wyoming. I live in an Assisted living home. Wyoming Pioneer
    Home in the Hot Springs State Park. Which is beautiful. We have been on lockdown for two months now. There
    are alot of elderly people live here and not one have been able to our loved ones. It is really hard on some
    of use. And I have told that will stay under lockdown until they come out with a vaccine for COVID-19. What is
    the deal there. I would like to hear more about this and anyone that knows about this let me know please.
  • Luckymilt, I don't know any more about a vaccine than you do, unfortunately, except that there are a lot of people working on it. I think the thing that is needed before life can get back to more normal is a test that will let us know who has the antibodies for the virus and who doesn't. I know that there are research labs all over the world that are working on both the antibody test and a vaccine.

    Here in my senior community in Iowa, we're pretty much in shelter in place mode. Because we have a skilled nursing unit as part of the community and in the same building, we put a lot of the measures in place well before the rest of the state. With independent living, assisted living memory care and skilled nursing we probably have between 300 and 340 people here and we have no COVID-19 cases. Our gym is still open, but for specific hours and you have to sign up for 30 minute slots and only two people can be in there at the same time. The pool is closed, as are the hair and nail salon, the massage therapy, and our restaurants. We do get choices of take out meals that are ordered in advance and can be picked up or delivered. We can get grocery deliveries and my O2 guy comes to my apartment.

    One of the things they've done is created a quarantine area in one of the skilled nursing wings, that has the negative pressure and an outside entrance. It's completely cut off from the rest of the building. That way if we do get the first case, that's where they'll go, in their own room in the quarantine wing. Also, anyone moving into the community would go through a 14 day quarantine there before coming into the rest of the facility.

    So while everyone is getting a bit stir crazy, we're very lucky and doing well, thanks to a very determined, dedicated and well prepared staff.
  • Week 2: As State Captain for the State of Wyoming, for COPD, living in an Assisted Living Home,
    I am having staying active I get on this site once a day. I also go for walks in the halls everyday.
    Staying busy is playing games like WII bowling , playing my Harmonica in my room. We have do have a
    small of us that play the Harmonica.

    I am also love to color pictures. I am also taking an online college course from the free online courses that were
    discussed in a Webinar from COPD Foundation.
    I am staying active and busy.
    See you on the other side. Stay safe and healthy.