Tom Lukish was 1,000 miles from his sister and concerned that she was alone.
And then, suddenly, he was right there by her side, smiling and sharing a laugh via a FaceTime chat.
Lukish, a resident of the Village of Virginia Trace, has visited his sister Elizabeth Daniel at an assisted living facility as often as possible over the last few years.
But due to coronavirus and the requirements of social distancing, that has not been possible in recent weeks. Enter the staff at Lehigh Commons, the Macungie, Pennsylvania-based facility where Daniel lives, who organized a FaceTime chat for the siblings to connect face-to-face.
“I’m pretty sure my 95-year-old sister is now high-tech,” said Lukish. “She, for the first time in her life, was using FaceTime and really related to it. She enjoyed it.
“She probably thought she was watching me on television or something, I’m sure.”
Lukish and Daniel represent part of a much larger trend in communication. People in The Villages and around the country are turning to technology to bridge the gaps left by self-quarantine.
“It’s a great substitute for the situation we’re in. Family members can at least talk to their loved ones,” he said. “I would guess she was a little surprised. But we communicated and I asked her a few questions about things that were important and she responded. It was a nice little visit.”
Another Villages resident, Greg Smirniotis, wanted nothing more than to participate in the miracle of life. His daughter, Larissa Haffez, was about to give birth to her first son in the Chicago area, and Smirniotis had booked a flight and a hotel room to be there.
But then came coronavirus, which necessitated the alteration of travel plans
Smirniotis, a resident of the Village of Osceola North, had no way to get to his daughter on her big day. Again, FaceTime played a starring role. Smirniotis could call in and see the newborn Zakariah, and he could tell his daughter Larissa how much he loved her.
“When you FaceTime, you can see the kid in person. I could almost touch him,” he said. “You can’t hold him, but at least you’re able to see. I’m just happy it was a healthy baby.”
The proud grandfather hopes to make it to Chicago to meet his grandson for the first time once travel restrictions clear up. But for now, he’s calling up north on a daily basis and making sure that can see little Zakariah’s growth over the first few weeks of life.
“The new technology is great. You’re able to see without being there,” he said.
Leaders of many resident lifestyle groups are utilizing technology to remain active.
Jean Butler, the conductor of The Villages Swing Band and Concert Bands, has been gathering her many players by Zoom conference call. The conference does not allow for a proper rehearsal due to computer lag, but it does permit them to study music at the same time separately.
“It’s an opportunity for people to play,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to get together and see each other and play music we’ve been working on and just have a little fun.”
Butler said she had 38 players on a concert band conference call over the weekend, and that since they hadn’t seen each other in three weeks, it was nice to be able to catch up. But when it was time to get down to business, Butler said she muted everyone’s microphone at home.
“They sit there and they listen to music that I play through my computer and play along.” she said. “And then, when I’m finished, I turn on everyone’s microphone and see how it went. And they all laugh and have fun. This is the next best thing at this point.”
Sabine Litten, a yoga instructor at Eisenhower Recreation Center, is making sure her students stay flexible even while they’re at home. Litten has been livestreaming her yoga classes, but the way she does it, she is not able to see her students in their poses at home.
Litten said she is using Zoom not just for classes but also happy hours with friends.
Litten said she has had as many as 25 students in one of her online sessions, and she has a mailing list of 68 people who are interested in participating at some point in the future. Surprisingly, she said, she has as many students logging in remotely as she normally does in person.
“I think people have adapted really well,” she said. “I’m incredibly proud. I may have started it, but there are now three other teachers that are livestreaming with me so we have a class every single day for Villagers. That’s kind of the Villages spirit, right? All coming together. The Villagers really need these classes and they’re letting other people know. It’s kind of a growing thing now.”