CONNEAUT — Residents of a Conneaut senior living facility, isolated from family and friends by coronavirus precautions, are using social media to reassure loved ones they are happy and well.

The Villa at the Lake on Parrish Road is posting photos of smiling residents holding a dry erase board inscribed with a personal message. The program began early last week with more than two dozen residents participating, a number that grew, said Deanna Fleischmann, executive director.

Ohio health officials recently prohibited visits to senior living/nursing facilities, with few exceptions, in an attempt to contain COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are especially vulnerable to the effects, experts have said.

More than 200 Ohioans have been diagnosed.

Staff at the Villa knew the policy could cause some anxiety among families and sought a way to share messages of hope and encouragement, Fleischmann said.

“We thought, ‘What is it we need to do to communicate with families?’” she said.

Initially, staff thought of arranging face time on computers with residents before deciding on the photo shoots, Fleischmann said.

“We thought it would be meaningful if [families] could see them and see that they’re OK,” she said.

Residents who signed up are photographed holding a message board entitled “To My Family ...” A message dictated to a Villa staffer follows.

Messages are short and sweet, simple declarations of love and support.

“Things are going well here. Enjoy Florida and I will see you when you get back,” says one.

“I’m trying to do my best,” reads another.

Some of the messages take a light-hearted tone:

“I’m doing fine. Please pay all my bills.”

“I’m doing fine. See you when we get out.”

“I died, went to heaven — look at all the attention I’m getting LOL”

Responses are written down by staff and read back to residents, Fleischmann said.

Morale and attitude has been amazing, Fleischmann said.

“Everybody is being very positive,” she said. “They all have a sense of humor.”

The Greatest Generation has learned to take a lot of adversity in stride, Fleischmann said.

“They have a tougher skin,” she said.

The Villa is making lots of adjustments to safeguard residents from the coronavirus, Fleischmann said. In the spirit of social distancing, residents are eating lunches in their rooms, while breakfast and dinner are served at staggered times to very small groups seated throughout the facility, not just the main dining room she said.

Similarly, daily activities — such as exercise programs — are held in smaller groups, Fleischmann said. Also, the Villa’s transport van has been “totally sanitized,” she said.

Employees have their temperature taken before they enter the building and are screened for any health concerns, she said.

Families have embraced the photo messaging program, Fleischmann said.

“They’re so supportive,” she said.

Fleischmann said she appreciates the residents’ understanding during these trying times. Friendships forged among the residents has made the situation much more bearable, she said.

“They’re a community within a community,” Fleischmann said. “Inside these walls we’re a family.”

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