Seniors Talk About Their New Life On Zoom When their memoir writing class transitioned to Zoom, these seniors found a closer connection than ever. "There's an intimacy to Zoom that we never would have anticipated," says Adellar Greenhill.
NPR logo

'So Deep And So Rich': Seniors Stay Connected Via Their New Life On Zoom

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/983895036/986221169" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
'So Deep And So Rich': Seniors Stay Connected Via Their New Life On Zoom

'So Deep And So Rich': Seniors Stay Connected Via Their New Life On Zoom

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/983895036/986221169" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

At this point in the pandemic, many of us are suffering - and how - from Zoom fatigue - many, not all. WNYC's Gwynne Hogan checked in with a group of senior citizens who switch their weekly gathering to Zoom at the start of the pandemic, and now they say they're closer than ever.

GWYNNE HOGAN, BYLINE: Last March, I visited a senior center in Manhattan. At that point in a pandemic, we were flying blind. We were elbow-bumping instead of shaking hands but not wearing masks. I rode my bike to the DOROT Center with a lump in my throat, fearing maybe I was an unknowing vector of the virus.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Singing) To reach.

Guys, we're going to sing...

HOGAN: But I got there, and there was a crowd of coughing college kids on tour with their a cappella group, performing to the small crowd of seniors.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: (Singing) To reach the unreachable star.

HOGAN: I popped in to a memoir writing class.

(SOUNDBITE OF KNOCKING)

HOGAN: It was a group of about a dozen women. They'd been meeting weekly for a couple of years at that point. I arrived right as the director of the center, Mark Meridy, broke the news. The center was closing. It was March 11, 2020.

MARK MERIDY: We need to suspend our on-site programming here at DOROT for a period of time.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Starting when?

MERIDY: Starting today.

HOGAN: The news was a blow for the group, especially for Yvonne Rossetti.

YVONNE ROSSETTI: I think depression is a killer.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes.

ROSSETTI: And certainly, many of us are here because maybe we battle depression, or this place is a lifeboat.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: It is a lifeboat.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yes.

HOGAN: Over the course of the pandemic, I wondered how these women were doing - if they got sick, if they got better, if they were experiencing that loneliness they'd spoken so fearfully of when I met them that day. I reached back out, and they invited me to their weekly class on Zoom.

Hello, everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Hi.

HOGAN: Adellar Greenhill told me about her recollection of that day.

ADELLAR GREENHILL: Before we knew about Zoom and what was going to happen, it was like one of those feelings in the pit of your stomach.

HOGAN: The women got some coaching on how to log in to Zoom, and the group started reconvening regularly online.

GREENHILL: There's an intimacy to Zoom that we never would have anticipated, I don't think.

HOGAN: Christine Graf says they were already used to sharing personal details in their writing.

CHRISTINE GRAF: And then to meet again in our own homes, it felt good.

HOGAN: Many of them did get COVID, and they all survived. But Marsha Cohen says one member of the memoir group got sick with cancer.

MARSHA COHEN: She said, I need help finishing my memoir. I'm getting this memoir published.

HOGAN: She did get it published right before her death. The group was able to celebrate her life over Zoom.

COHEN: We're making that connection every single week, which is great because a lot of us live alone. And, you know, otherwise, we don't connect.

SIPRA ROY: We are not disconnected by social distance - rather, I will say, more connected.

HOGAN: That was Sipra Roy. I particularly wanted to know what Yvonne Rossetti felt a year into this technological experiment. She says she's on board, too.

ROSSETTI: Zoom created a paradigm shift for loneliness. It was like life is normal with this and so deep and so rich with this.

HOGAN: Before I left the session, Wendy Handler, who works for the senior center, wanted to add something too.

WENDY HANDLER: This group was supposed to end many times along the way.

(LAUGHTER)

HANDLER: We're so thrilled that you're still here and that this group means as much to you today, if not more, than it did when we met in person.

HOGAN: They say they're hoping to convene in the real world someday soon, hopefully in Central Park on a sunny day. For NPR News, I'm Gwynne Hogan in New York.

Copyright © 2021 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.