Gena Bertelsen, director of the Orem Senior Friendship Center, and those who attend are all learning to do things a bit differently during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The center is trying to take care of its own. For Nada Stevenson that meant celebrating her 100th birthday a bit differently than planned.
Stevenson has been through some interesting times — the Great Depression, World War II and subsequent wars, epidemics of one kind or another — but Saturday was probably the most unusual birthday party she has ever had.
“Our seniors have seen some crazy things throughout their lives but their success rate for getting through them so far is 100%. I expect the same for this,” Bertelsen said.
“Family, friends, neighbors and community members joined together Saturday afternoon to wish Nada Stevenson the happiest of birthdays with a drive-by birthday parade,” Bertelsen added.
According to Bertelsen, Faye Howard, one of Nada’s daughters, had planned a big party and invited the members of the Orem Senior Friendship Center, that Nada frequents, to come celebrate. Then social distancing became the new normal and adjustments had to be made.
“This did not stop many from participating in the event,” Bertelsen said. “Signs, balloons, brownies and even a gift of a roll of toilet paper were laid at the feet of the birthday girl. She giggled and waved, grinned and watched as the 20-minute procession passed by her home in Northwest Orem.”
The street in front of Stevenson’s house was lined with cars. Kids of all ages with their parents and even one party animal, a fluffy white dog wearing a party hat made an effort to let Stevenson know she was not forgotten, Bertelsen added.
“She sat upon her walker like a queen on her throne complete with a happy birthday crown on her hat,” Bertelsen said. “Balloons and flowers surrounded her and while the skies were an overcast gray, the sun was shining on Nada.”
Stevenson particularly was happy that modern technology was there to help out. Several times cell phones were used by family and friends to sing happy birthday to her from their cars or down the street.
“It brought tears of joy to her face as she saw and interacted with loved ones,” Bertelsen said.
Stevenson said she is looking forward to springtime, and the roses blooming.
When it came to taking care of each other, social distancing and being prepared, Stevenson counseled, “Listen to what the prophets tell us. Have a supply of money and food. Put your trust in God. He’s in charge.”
Stevenson is just one example of how the Orem Senior Friendship Center is helping keep seniors connected during this period of quarantine.
Bertelsen, her staff, and members of the center are reaching to members by phone.
“With more than 3,400 on the (membership) rolls this takes some time but we are working through it,” Bertelsen said. “We have created a Friend to Friend calling list.”
The seniors can give permission to release their phone numbers to other seniors and then we match them up to call and check on each other daily, Bertelsen added.
“We are trying to get seniors connected with us on our Facebook page where we have daily posts and every Thursday we will be doing a Facebook Live at 2 p.m. with a community member,” Bertelsen said. “This week we will have someone from Intermountain (Healthcare) answering questions about COVID-19.”
“Through our calls we have found that most of our friends just need someone to talk to,” Bertelsen said. “Please, pick up a phone and check on your neighbors. Bring a little sunshine into their lives.”
If seniors are in need of a meal they can call Mountainland Association of Governments at (801) 229-3800 and get on its Meals on Wheels route.
Bertelsen is checking her office phone messages at (801) 229-7111.