Their hug lasted three minutes. It had been nearly five months since Beth Jacobson’s mother, Elaine, had touched another person.
Because she had been running a temperature, Elaine, who is 79, had been quarantined in her one-bedroom apartment at the Cohen Florence Levine Estates in Chelsea even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March. Then, all residents in the assisted living facility had to shelter in place, restricted to eating alone and staying in their apartments.
“She was so isolated and alone,” said Beth. “We talked three, four, five times a day by phone. I couldn’t not talk to her.”
But this month, the facility began easing restrictions enough to allow Beth to pick up her mother and bring her to her Wayland home. Their long embrace was the beginning of a treasured day.
“She came to my house. She got her hair cut. I made her a sandwich. It was a great day!” said Beth.
Elaine Jacobson talked about the loneliness of being quarantined and how relieved she is that the administration began easing restrictions.
“They’ve recently started allowing relatives and close friends to meet in the courtyard for up to one hour, staying 6 feet apart and wearing masks,” Elaine said.
“But since most of us are hard of hearing,” quipped her friend, Ida Rudolph, “we’re shouting at one another!”
The worst part of the quarantine was not being able to leave the building to go out with relatives. That ended on July 7.
“A week ago, I would have had to be quarantined after going out with my daughter,” said Elaine. Now, it’s up to the discretion of the resident. “Every day they take our temperature, and that’s wonderful,” Elaine said.
“I was truly going mentally crazy. The television is God-awful. It’s either Donald Trump or Covid! I used to watch CNN, but now I rarely do. I have Netflix on my iPad for movies and TV shows. I used to be an avid reader until Covid. Now, I can’t get into a book. I think I need to be with people.”
Looking out her window in Chelsea at the Boston skyline she mused, “This is a strange and dangerous time.”
George and Loraine Freedman, both just shy of their 90th birthdays, recently moved into the Harriett and Ralph Kaplan Estates in Peabody. Loraine was drawn by all the activities the assisted living facility has to offer: dining hall, beauty salon, coffee shop, TV lounge, library, fitness center, and acres of landscaped grounds.
Unfortunately, they entered in the midst of the pandemic and had to stay in their apartment. Now they can visit relatives in person instead of being on opposite sides of a glass door.
“But it isn’t as if you can say, ‘Oh, Bonnie’s here. Let’s go out and see her,’” said Loraine about her daughter and son-in-law, Kurt Westerman, of Danvers.
“You call and get an appointment, at say 3 p.m. Thursday,” said Loraine. “We sit down and wait at a table in the courtyard. When they come, [a staff member] takes that thing that looks like a pistol to their foreheads to take their temperature. They stay for one hour and goodbye. I can’t hug and kiss my daughter. If she buys something for me, a staff member puts it in a room. They spray and cover it and in two days they bring it to our rooms.”
The Freedmans also have seen their son, Glenn Freedman, a few times since restrictions were relaxed.
“Residents have the right to come and go,” said Andrea Hillel, executive director of Kaplan Estates. People moving in or returning must have a negative Covid-19 test and then a second test, which can be done by nurses in the facility.
Soon, residents will be able to eat at least one meal together in the dining hall, with restrictions. Kaplan Estates also is awaiting guidance from the Executive Office of Elder Affairs regarding group activities and exercise classes.
A former public school teacher in Malden and Chelsea, Loraine Freedman also taught Hebrew school at Temple Beth Shalom (now Temple Tiferet Shalom) in Peabody.
She and George met at the Shurtleff School in Chelsea, and both went to Chelsea High. Married in 1952, when George, a pharmacist, went into the Army during the Korean War, he cared for the pharmaceutical needs of U.S. military in Landstuhl, Germany. When Loraine flew out to join him, he was so overcome with emotion he “almost cried,” he said. Their two years there together is one of the couple’s endearing memories.
Asked what he wants most, he said, “to get out.” While residents can go anywhere within the confines of the building and grounds, George seeks broader horizons. But if you have to be confined somewhere, he concedes, Kaplan Estates is a nice spot for it.