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Although life has slowly started to return to normal, memories of the COVID-19 pandemic remain indelibly etched in Ruth’s memory.

“I didn’t like the pandemic. It was frustrating,” she says.

Perhaps no aspect of the pandemic was more frustrating for Ruth than the resulting health restrictions that limited in-person gatherings.

Those restrictions meant the outgoing senior often had to forego meeting up with friends and family and couldn’t participate in activities like bowling or camping that were staples of her social calendar. They also meant she couldn’t attend regular Sunday services at her church.

“I was really disappointed. I love going to my church. I missed all the people I see there,” she says.

An avid traveler, pandemic restrictions also meant Ruth had to postpone a couple of scheduled trips.

Despite the limitations on in-person gatherings, Ruth says she was grateful to still be able to connect with others virtually. That included taking part in a weekly, online bingo session with other people served by Epic Opportunities. She was also thankful for the companionship of her feline friend Smokey with whom she shares an apartment.

In spite of some of the challenges she faced during the pandemic, there were also moments of joy for Ruth. One of the most joyful moments was when she learned this past January that the Manitoba Developmental Centre in Portage la Prairie will close and people living at the residence for adults with intellectual disabilities will move into community residences over the next three years. It was something Ruth fought for as a member of People First of Manitoba.

“I think it’s good. Now those people can go for coffee or out to eat or go to a show. They weren’t having a life in MDC,” she says.

With many pandemic restrictions being lifted, Ruth has been able to resume many of the activities she had so dearly missed. She is attending church once more and is eager to start bowling when the league she plays in returns to action in September.

Still, there is nothing she’s enjoyed more than being able to spend time with friends in person again. She and a group of friends rented a cottage in Kenora in early June. On June 12, she celebrated her 80th birthday with a group of two dozen people at a popular local restaurant which included a performance by an Elvis Presley impersonator. It was a moment Ruth savoured.

“I’d been waiting a long, long time,” she says of the celebration.

Like Ruth, Robert also had to forego many of the everyday activities he normally enjoyed because of the pandemic. That included camping with friends, spending time with his mom and the rest of his family, exercising, music therapy and playing cards.

“Yes, it was frustrating. It was frustrating to have to stay back,” he recalls.

Thankfully, he was able to remain connected with those close to him even when he couldn’t literally be close to them. He received an iPad during the pandemic that allowed him to speak online with his mom and others he’s close to. The tablet also allowed him to listen to his favourite audiobooks and continue to perform musically.

“It was good to talk to mom and my friends and people I work with,” he says.

The pandemic pushed Robert to find other creative ways to continue with the activities that were important to him. For example, he used to invite friends over for holidays dinners. When that wasn’t possible due to pandemic restrictions, he opted to cook meals at home and have them delivered to his friends. He also decided to purchase a treadmill so that he could remain active even when he couldn’t go anywhere to exercise.

Still, he admits that it’s a huge relief to be able to be able to return to many of the in-person activities he had to forego during the early days of the pandemic. He recently returned to the daytime recreation program he previously attended and the talented singer and keyboardist (Help by The Beatles is his favourite song) has resumed attending music therapy class. He’s also looking forward to spending time at his friend’s cottage near Twins Lake Beach this summer.

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