Mountain Meadows is gradually returning to normal
Our experience at Mountain Meadows since the Oregon Governor ordered a statewide response to the Coronavirus Pandemic over one year ago tells a great deal about the advantages of living in a self-owned and self-directed planned community of active adults. During the shutdown, we found substitutes for many activities and services that we had to give up temporarily, and found new ways of doing things that we will continue to enjoy after all of this is over. Overall, we counted ourselves fortunate to live where we do. But now, with over 90 percent of the residents and staff fully vaccinated against the virus, and the state gradually relaxing its restrictions, the community has begun to return to the life style we enjoyed pre-COVID.
With the official lifting of COVID restrictions throughout Oregon on July 1, Clubhouse life has pretty much returned to normal. Committee meetings are now being scheduled for the various meeting rooms, and the first in-person Mountain Meadows Owners Association Board Meeting in over a year will be held in our primary space, the Mt. Ashland Room, this month.
Music at the Meadows is also returning to our primary space, the Mt. Ashland Room. Our first concert there was held July 7, welcoming a cellist known throughout the region to entertain our residents. In addition, our resident volunteer concert impresario and classic music buff has announced that the long-standing Wednesday evening Movies at the Meadows will start again this month.
The Fitness Center is open for individual use, as is the pool and spa, though only pool classes and water volleyball have resumed. The woodwork shop and craft studio are open, as is the library.
The dining room has reopened to residents on a reservation basis, though with greater spacing among tables and conscientious measures by staff members to protect diners. We hope to be able to welcome guests of residents in a few weeks.
Though many residents have been able to socialize in the comfortable outdoor settings of our campus, it is a pleasure to see old friends again in the indoor settings of our Clubhouse, Dining Room and Fitness Center.
Mountain Meadows during the Pandemic
The Mountain Meadows Owners Association Board of Directors and the RCM management company staff worked very hard to keep things a normal as possible while keeping everyone safe and healthy. This required quick adaptation to changing circumstances and regulations, a process that was facilitated by a close working relationship between the Mountain Meadows Owners Association board and the onsite management company team. For the benefit of people who are interested in the policies and decisions made during that period, the following is from our website announcements during the Pandemic shut-down period.
Over the COVID period, many senior communities had to make adjustments in their procedures and activities. There is certainly no one-size-fits-all, even in a given state. Mountain Meadows is unique in that residents do not have to be on total lockdown as with some other communities in the area. Residents here had access to public areas outside our community and also have outsiders visiting.
What never changed during the pandemic period were the basic needs of a full and healthy life in the active senior years around which this community was designed almost 25 years ago: nutrition, exercise, intellectual challenge, companionship and meaningful activities. With some ingenuity and resilience, we have been able to adapt so that we still find our lives healthy and satisfying. Here's the history of how Mountain Meadows has responded.
On March 19, 2020, as the seriousness of the pandemic became clear, the board of the Mountain Meadows Owners Association called a town hall meeting of the community with most management staff members present to talk about what changes might be necessary in our life style. Little did we know that would be the last meeting of the community in the Mt Ashland Room, our largest gathering space, for some time to come. The following Monday, March 23, the governor of Oregon issued a state-wide shelter-in-place order for all but essential workers.
We were amazed and impressed at how fast the on-site management staff responded. By Tuesday evening the dining room and kitchen staff announced that the dining room would be closed. Starting with lunch Wednesday, the first regular meal of the week, the new system was in place. Residents would email or call in their food orders and the meals would be delivered in the same manner that had been used for residents who had been unable to come to the dining room.
Within only a few days, the few glitches had been ironed out, and now the dining and kitchen staff is delivering an average of about 175 meals for every one of the five regular main meals each week, Wednesday – Sunday, with meals arriving hot and ready to eat before 5 pm every evening and at noon on Sunday.
Anticipating closure of the Clubhouse, which meant no access to the library, residents were encouraged at the community meeting to check out a few extra books, which they did over the weekend, providing reading material for the interim. As State restrictions changed, the Library Committee checked in all of those books and reopened the library for limited hours each week under social-distancing rules so that residents can again take advantage of our excellent collection of books, CDs, and videos.
Since the closure, we haven’t been able to hold any of the 10-15 meetings that normally would be taking place each week in the Clubhouse, but many of us have gotten very adept at hosting and attending meetings via video teleconferencing. Thank goodness for excellent internet service in Ashland. These video teleconference meetings have turned out to be reasonable substitutes for face-to-face meetings in the Clubhouse.
In addition to board and committee meetings, our bimonthly Chautauqua gatherings have gone to a biweekly schedule with at least 20 residents gathering on the screen every Thursday afternoon to discuss current affairs and important issues, and a more social gathering is hosted by our resident services manager and Clubhouse receptionist every Wednesday morning to chat and share ideas about what we’re doing with our newfound spare time.
When the Clubhouse was re-opened for access to the Library, we were also able to open our well-equipped Workshop and craft room on the lower floor, and our Game Room adjoining the Fitness Center. Though these spaces can only be used by a limited number of people on a sign-in/sign-out basis, hobbyists are appreciative of the opportunities to use these facilities on a safe basis.
Initial Oregon State restrictions required that we close the Fitness Center and Pool, but our Fitness manager filled in admirably with a combination of exercise tips in the Weekly Update newsletter and bulletin, which most of us now receive online every Friday, online exercise sessions done using the same system as for regular meetings, and exercise sessions on Hunter Green in front of the Clubhouse nearly every morning. In September, when restrictions eased, we were able to reopen the Fitness Center for restricted use, with residents allowed to check in, have their health and temperature checked and use the facilities of the Fitness Room under socially distanced conditions, with masks and with the exercise equipment distanced and separated by plastic barriers. The Pool will re-open under similar restrictions on November 3.
But one of the most positive aspects of living in Mountain Meadows under these circumstances is our open campus of contiguous neighborhoods around our park and with easy access to open space nearby. For many of us, an early morning or evening walk around the community, through our four-acre park and in the adjoining scenic open space overlooking Ashland, has become a regular part of our routines. Out walks get us out in the fresh air and often give us an opportunity to stop and chat at a safe distance from friends we encounter on the trail past the community garden and up to the top of the hill or through North Mountain Park right next us.
The community gardening group hasn’t had to interrupt its routines at all, with the assigned raised beds of the Kitchen Creek Community Garden ready to be cleared and planted. Now, three months after the closure, those beds are thriving and the flowers and vegetables are a visual treat. In addition, the group created a gathering place with properly distanced chairs and benches under the shade trees at the east end of the garden and invited all residents of the community to enjoy the space as a healthy and friendly alternative to staying inside alone, as many people in other regions must do these days.
But most of all, the companionship that comes from living with almost 300 other people who have shared interests and experiences has been very rewarding. The craftsman style of our homes is particularly appropriate now, as we can sit on our porches at home or walk along the sidewalks and chat with our neighbors without taking risks of being too close.
All of these measures, we must say, have not been particularly onerous, and in fact have given us a greater appreciation for everything we have. And all of this has paid off. Thanks in large part to the flexibility and responsiveness of the on-site staff, our community leaders and our residents, there have been no reported cases of Covid-19 among our 285 residents in the three months since the closure. As progress is made on controlling and eventually preventing this disease, we can also expect that – though circumstances have been challenging – we will be able to go back to the best of the old while maintaining many new habits we’ve been acquiring at Mountain Meadows since closure.