LI’s 55-plus communities find ways to tackle pandemic, stay upbeat

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Lorraine Pizzo, left, and Linda Balfour talk from a distance at Country Pointe Meadows senior complex in Yaphank on May 14. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Lorraine Pizzo lived in a single-family home in Westbury for more than 40 years before moving to Country Pointe Meadows, a community for older adults in Yaphank.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic closing the complex’s clubhouse until further notice, the 72-year-old said her social life remains active, and she still believes that moving to the community, which surrounds a pond, was the best decision she’s made.

“Within reason, we try to do things together,” says Pizzo of her socially distanced interaction with neighbors and friends, including pond-front neighbors hosting outdoor BYOB gatherings. “We don’t get together at anyone’s homes, but we do gather outside when it’s a nice sunny day.”

Lorraine Pizzo, stands in front of the villa she plans to move to this summer at Country Pointe Meadows in Yaphank, Thursday, May 14, 2020. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Many Long Island seniors have downsized and moved to 55-and-over communities so they can avoid the social isolation that comes with staying in their homes. But with seniors at a higher risk of severe complications from COVID-19, residents have had to find creative ways to keep spirits up during the pandemic and resulting social distancing.

Anita Gorman, 72, a resident of Country Pointe Plainview, has organized a salute to health care workers every night at 8 that neighbors refer to as Solidarity at 8. Gorman, a retired elementary school teacher, brings a whistle, while other residents bang on cowbells and drums.

“The sound is incredible,” Gorman says. “We do it because it just makes us feel good and it gives us a sense of community. In eight weeks, we have not missed one night.”

A Zumba instructor who had led classes at Lift, the community’s now-shuttered gym, uploaded videos to YouTube for Gorman and her classmates to follow at home.

Anita and Steve Gorman at their 55 and over community, County Pointe Plainview, Thursday , May 14, 2020. The common facilities, usually the social hub of of the community are closed during the pandemic. Credit: Danielle Silverman

On nice days, Gorman and her neighbors set up Adirondack and camp chairs around the complex’s parking lot, using the painted spot as 6-foot markers.

After someone posted on the community’s Facebook page suggesting residents put items in their windows to lift spirits as people walk around the Country Point complex, residents have placed stuffed animals and pretty pictures in their windows.

“Also, we have some secret artists who have painted rocks with inspirational words and pictures and placed them around the community for us to find,” Gorman says. “It certainly brings smiles and cheers as we walk and find them.”

Property managers have been vigilant about restricting access to common spaces and sanitizing high-touch areas frequently.

Steven Dubb, a principal of The Beechwood Organization, which operates the age-restricted Country Pointe developments, comprising villas and townhomes, said the company has its construction team do the regular cleaning.

Property managers are also providing much-needed supplies and virtual amenities.

At The Vanderbilt in Westbury, Beechwood partnered with New York City and Hamptons restaurateur James Mallios, who runs Calissa in Water Mill, to launch a pop-up called the Vanderbilt Market. The market, which occupies a space that normally leads to the building’s gym, offers prepared food, wine and pantry items, including paper goods, cleaning supplies and pet food, with no-touch credit card payments. Three customers are allowed in at a time and lunch, brunch and dinner meals are available for contactless delivery to Vanderbilt residents, with plans to expand it to other Beechwood communities.

“That’s been really well received,” said Dubb, who estimates the market delivers roughly 50 meals per day.

Mike Stone, a 72-year-old who moved to The Vanderbilt in February, said he hasn’t gone to a supermarket in several weeks, and the market provides incredible convenience.

“They cater to food allergies and I order fresh fish to cook myself,” says Stone, a retired lawyer.

Beechwood is also organizing a virtual wine tasting for Vanderbilt residents, delivering packages of cheese and crackers to participants.

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