“Paradigm Shift for Loneliness”: UWS Seniors Reflect On Lessons Learned From A Year On Zoom


A Zoom screenshot showing 10 seniors, plus reporter Gwynne Hogan


Reporter Gwynne Hogan chats with the seniors from Dorot’s memoir writing class

Gwynne Hogan/WNYC

Final March, I visited a senior heart in Manhattan on its final day of programming earlier than lockdown compelled every part in New York Metropolis to a grinding halt. At that time within the pandemic, we have been flying blind; elbow-bumping as a substitute of handshaking, however not but sporting masks, even in cramped indoor settings.

I rode my bike to the middle, Dorot, on the Higher West Aspect with a lump in my throat, fearing that perhaps I used to be an unknowing vector of the virus. (Upon arrival, a touring faculty class of coughing a cappella singers was performing and my fears abated that I’d be the one to get them sick.) I met a gaggle of girls in a weekly memoir class, proper because the director broke the information the middle was closing. It got here as a blow to the ladies, particularly for Yvonne Rossetti, who was 65-years-old on the time.

I believe melancholy is a killer, and definitely many people right here as a result of perhaps we battle melancholy,” she’d mentioned to the room. “This place is a lifeboat.” 

“Sure it’s a lifeboat,” the ladies agreed.

As a yr glided by, I questioned how these girls have been doing, In the event that they acquired sick, did they make it via. In the event that they have been experiencing that loneliness they’d spoken so fearfully of after I met them that day. I reached again out and so they invited me to their weekly class on Zoom. Whereas many people are affected by “Zoom fatigue,” I discovered these girls have been invigorated by the digital platform, and simply as dedicated as ever to their assembly each week to debate their writing.  

Adellar Greenhill, 78, advised me about her recollection of that day final March.

Earlier than we knew about Zoom and what was gonna occur, it was like a type of emotions within the pit of your abdomen,” she mentioned. “There’s an intimacy to Zoom that we by no means would have anticipated.”

The ladies acquired some teaching on the best way to use Zoom, and after some preliminary hiccups started commonly assembly every week over Zoom. Christine Graf, 75, mentioned they have been already used to sharing private particulars of their writing. Having the ability to see a window into one another’s properties felt like an added stage of closeness.

“It simply appeared like a really pure development,” Graf mentioned. “It felt good.”

Lots of them did get COVID-19 and survived the virus. One member of the memoir group acquired sick with most cancers. She managed to get her memoir revealed proper earlier than her demise, a triumph for the entire group. They celebrated her life collectively over Zoom.

We’re making that connection each single week, which is nice, as a result of a variety of us stay alone, and in any other case we don’t join,” mentioned 74-year-old Marsha Cohen.

We aren’t disconnected by social distance. Fairly, I’ll say, extra related,” Sipra Roy, 79, added. 

I significantly wished to know what Rossetii felt, a yr into this technological experiment. She mentioned she was a convert too.

Zoom created a paradigm shift for loneliness,” Rossetti mentioned. “Life was regular with this. And so deep and so wealthy with this.”

Wendy Handler, who works for the senior heart, mentioned when the memoir group began up three years in the past it was solely presupposed to final for 4 months, however the girls refused to desert it. 

“We’re so thrilled that you simply’re nonetheless right here,” Handler mentioned. “And that this group means as a lot to you right this moment because it did after we met in particular person.”

They’re hoping to convene in the actual world, sometime quickly they mentioned, hopefully in Central Park on a sunny day.