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

Lorraine Pizzo, left, and Linda Balfour talk from

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.”

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.

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.

At The Vineyards at Blue Point, a new senior development where about 250 of 280 homes have been sold and are occupied, some homeowners participate in exercise class in their driveways, says Diane Maier, a sales agent for the complex.

Some residents put together hundreds of grab-and-go lunch bags for neighbors in need, and the community does a salute to sanitation workers at 8 a.m.

With the first phase of the complex nearly sold out, the community is putting together a virtual bingo night so people can meet their neighbors.

“Sometimes you live in a  community where you don’t know your neighbors, but the community living is nice because you still have a group,” Maier says.

The latest issue of the Vistas’ Voice, the monthly newsletter that’s e-mailed to residents of The Vistas of Port Jeff in Port Jefferson Station, features clickable links to register for virtual yoga and meditation classes offered by the development, as well as a link to the Comsewogue Public Library, which offers access to eBooks and audiobooks.

“Throughout The Vistas we have beautiful walking trails that they are taking great advantage of and a dog park so the pups can exercise, too, says Jennifer Grenard, the leasing manager for The Vistas. “I think we will have the most fit dogs around when this is over.”

Consuelo Gross, who lives in Fairfield Knolls, a rental community in Port Jefferson Station, said she's heard of COVID-19 cases in the community, as well as a few deaths of older residents, and she notices residents are being extra-cautious.

"Everyone has a mask," says Gross, 69, an office manager for a dentist, though she isn’t working at the moment. "If you see someone without a mask, they will walk away from you."

Gross, who has lived in the complex for 11 years, says she believes the pandemic has brought neighbors closer together — figuratively, of course.

"It's kind of been a positive experience living here because you don't ever feel alone," Gross says. "You can walk out the front door and your neighbor is sitting on his porch and you think, 'This isn't so bad.'"

Some 55-plus communities on LI

Vineyards at Blue Point, 1000 Sunrise Hwy. S. Service Rd., Blue Point, 631-281-3300, vineyardsbp.com

Hidden Harbor Estates, 100 Schmeelk Pl., Copiague, hiddenharborcondo.com

Harvest Pointe, 75 Schoolhouse Rd., Cutchogue, 631-735-9300, harvest-pointe.com

The Seasons at Elwood, 544 Elwood Rd., Elwood, 631-368-1600, seasonsatelwood.com

The Greens at Half Hollow, 1 Altessa Blvd., Melville, 516-384- 6868, thegreensathalfhollow.org

The Manors at The Colony Preserve, 333 William Floyd Parkway, Shirley, 631-772-6770, thecolonypreserve.com/manors- home.php

The Seasons at Plainview, 135 Autumn Dr., Plainview, 516-349-0181, seasons-at-plainview.com

HarborView, 2 Fairway Dr., Port Washington, 516-767-1210, harborviewpw.com

Seaford: The Seasons at Seaford, 2165 Seaford Ave., Seaford, 516-679-6900, seasonsatseaford.com

Kensington Estates, 38 Plainview Rd, Woodbury, 516-844-0008, kensingtonestateswoodbury.com

Senior population on LI

2018

55-59 years: 101,140 in Nassau (7.5%); 110,693 in Suffolk (7.4%)

60 years and over: 322,495 in Nassau (24%); 335,142 in Suffolk (23%)

2010

55-59 years: 6.7% in Nassau; 6.3% in Suffolk

60 years and over: 20.6% in Nassau; 18.3% in Suffolk

Source: U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

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