resident josephine at her desk

A Stable Home Helps During Unstable Times

Josephine learned how technology could keep her connected while staying safe at home.

The past year has presented challenges for everyone, particularly for older adults who are some of the most at-risk from COVID-19. However, for Josephine, a resident of Mercy Housing Lakefront’s Assisi Homes of Kenosha, the silver lining has been how she has learned to use technology to connect with others and remain active.

In December 2019, Josephine moved into Assisi Homes of Kenosha, which provides 60 affordable homes with onsite services for older adults with lower incomes. She moved from her house because the maintenance, like taking out trash, shoveling snow, and other upkeep, had become too difficult. She wanted to live somewhere affordable where she could remain active and engaged in a community, and Assisi Homes of Kenosha turned out to be the perfect fit. “I just love it,” she says. “It’s beautiful.” She lives near her daughter, with whom she speaks often, as well as other family members.

One of Josephine’s favorite things about her new home is the onsite services. “I love having somebody that’s touching base with us. It’s a big deal, just to be able to have somebody like Cassandra [the Resident Services Coordinator] on the premises.” Prior to March 2020, Josephine enjoyed group activities organized by Resident Services, like bingo and yoga in the community room, and she got to know her neighbors. She had also been making plans to travel in the summer.

Once the pandemic began, she had to put her plans on hold and adapt to staying in her home. But with support from Cassandra, Josephine has been able to learn new skills and find ways to remain connected during the past year. Mercy Housing Lakefront (MHL) benefited from a partnership with AARP Foundation to provide tablets with internet at senior properties, including five for Assisi Homes of Kenosha, and MHL was also able to provide Chromebooks to communities as well, with support from other partners. With these new resources available, Josephine learned for the first time how access to the internet could benefit her. “I never would have dreamed, if Cassandra wouldn’t have taken the time to show me and set up that Zoom and stuff for me, I never would have dreamed that I could do it. I didn’t know people could explain it to you easy enough so that you catch on. I don’t feel inadequate about it anymore, you know.”

Josephine explains how she discovered the many benefits of technology and internet access in the past year. “Cassandra supported me to download Zoom on my phone and showed me how to use Zoom on the Chromebook. Now I can Zoom yoga in a chair, I play bingo, and talk to family and friends. I watch travel logs and go all over the world! Prague, Czech Republic, Guam, Vietnam, and Venezuela are a few places I’ve traveled to [virtually]. I have learned about different people and how to make and shop for different kinds of food to help me stay healthy. I have moments that take my breath away without leaving my apartment.”

Aside from staying connected through the internet, Josephine has also appreciated other activities and services that have continued during the pandemic, such as writing cards for community members and a monthly food box which is distributed to residents. During the summer, when the weather was nice, she enjoyed going for drives and having picnics in a park, which she was sometimes able to do with one of her neighbors. They learned about high-quality, affordable pick-up meal options from Cassandra.

Josephine is an avid baker and cook; she draws on 15 years of previous experience as a cook at a retreat and conference center. While cooking there, she learned about adapting recipes for different dietary requirements, such as vegans, vegetarians, and individuals with diabetes or other health conditions that require specific diets. Having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes herself, Josephine draws on this in cooking healthy meals and snacks for herself too. She originally went to school for Human Services and worked at programs providing substance use disorder assistance and services for individuals in group home settings for many years. As a result, she understands just how beneficial it is having Resident Services onsite at affordable housing.

Once Wisconsin has opened up, and it is safe to do so, Josephine hopes to fulfill her plans of going on a trip, and she’s also looking forward to more community activities, such as group yoga and bingo, at Assisi Homes of Kenosha. In the meantime, she’s been having fun researching different places and learning about them from her own home, and she is grateful for her newfound understanding of technology and the power of the internet. “Thank you, Mercy Housing and Cassandra, for helping me to enjoy my todays and be part of my tomorrow.”