“I moved into a retirement home during quarantine and I recommend it"

Dr. Donald Smith, 92, wouldn’t change a thing

“We’d been thinking about this for a long time,” says Dr. Donald Smith, “we just weren’t expecting to move under these circumstances.” The unexpected circumstances that arose this year changed everything it seems, perhaps nothing more so than a prospective move into a retirement home. But Dr. Smith, a lifelong medical professional, is one of numerous people who went ahead and moved into a retirement home despite reasons to procrastinate. 

Extra challenges

In fact, Dr. Smith, now 92 years old, may have had more reasons than most, to put off the move until later. He was moving all the way from Missouri City, Texas, his home of the last four decades, to be nearer his daughter, grandkids and great-grandchildren in Ottawa. “We had looked around at retirement homes in Texas and they were all very nice, but we knew we wanted to come home to Canada after 42 years away.” 

For he and wife Dorothy, the move to Ottawa during the height of the pandemic was something of an adventure in itself, crossing a border ostensibly closed to international travel. “I found out later that my daughter, Janet, had done a lot of work to get us across.”

Janet Chartrand had to make numerous calls to Canadian Border Services, then meet her parents at the border, to help ensure their passage. “We had planned to fly down and help them,” she says, “but those plans obviously weren’t going to work with all the travel restrictions” that arose during the first months of COVID-19’s worldwide outbreak. Fortunately, her parents did have accompaniment as they traveled north, their son also moving simultaneously as part of a transfer to a new job in New York City.

Donald and Dorthy Smith with daughter Janet Chartrand

Despite the difficulties of navigating those rapidly changing regulations, Janet still says the hardest time came when she dropped off her parents at the door of the Redwoods. “I couldn’t even go in with them,” she says, emotion welling as she recalls the moment. “Watching them walk in there, it broke my heart that we couldn’t help them get settled.”

I’ve never once doubted our decision. They monitor things daily, here, they’re very careful.

The job of helping them get settled fell to staff at the Redwoods, led by Leasing Manager April Johnstone. The Redwoods is an exemplar of client service for people moving into independent living. Like many other similar communities across the country, their focus on anticipating the needs of their older residents has been only sharpened by the crisis. “Staff here has been extremely pleasant,” says Dr. Smith. Since moving in, “I’ve never once doubted our decision. They monitor things daily, they’re very careful.”

“This is the right place for us”

So, what does he like about independent living? “Well, it’s great that the cooking is done for us,” he jokes. “They brought food to our apartment every night and the food has been very good.” As a doctor, he appreciates the great care the entire community takes to ensure safety. “Everyone here is well-indoctrinated into what to do,” he says. Social distancing measures are in place throughout the community. Entertainment is available, but events like live music have been held in the parking lot. “Everyone must wear a mask, and somebody’s checking you every day.”  

He and Dorothy are looking forward to a time when socializing will be easier. “She’s very social,” he says. Since moving in, Dorothy has made several new friends. “We go out walking around the building,” says Dr. Smith, “and she talks to anyone.” They’ve also visited with their grandchildren “through the glass” at first, and outside as the weather warmed up. 

“We moved in when the virus was going full blast everywhere,” he says. “But we had no anxiety about moving. We’re both in our 90’s and this is the right place for us. Any fear anyone our age has about moving into a place like this is not founded. We recommend it one hundred percent.”


~ Jim Huinink, July 21, 2020

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