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Windows Bring Joy in a World Confused by Coronavirus

Families, friends finding ways to connect through a pane of separation

spinner image a nursing home resident and a person outside the window touch hands on either side of the glass
Patricia McGalliard, 92, gets as close as she can to her grandson, Erik Nisson, before they play tic-tac-toe and hangman on the glass at her retirement community in Chester, Connecticut.

When Julia Adams’ son called the other day to ask her to open her blinds and look out her third-story window, there he was, waving from the boom lift of his bucket truck.

Adams lives at Windsor Estates Assisted Living in New Middletown, Ohio, a couple of miles west of the Pennsylvania line, and was feeling a little cooped up because of the COVID-19 quarantine. Her son, Charley, who usually visits her weekly, was missing her, too.

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Charley Adams owns a tree preservation company and was putting gas in his bucket truck when the brilliant idea struck. He wondered if his truck would reach as high as his mother's window. He drove to Windsor Estates and asked a nurse if he could give it a try. It worked.

His wife snapped some pictures from the parking lot, and his uncle posted it online. Next thing they knew, it went viral.

"It's been such a blessing because she's getting a lot of calls from family all around the country,” Charley Adams says. “The way I look at it, it's a little bright spot in the world."

Emotions through the window

In Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina, Shelton Mahala, 87, got all choked up when his 21-year-old granddaughter, Carly Boyd, showed up at his window to announce her engagement.

The staff of Premier Living & Rehab Center let Boyd come around the building to his first-floor window to bring him the news.

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"I pointed to my ring, and I was like, ‘Look, I'm engaged!’ And he was like, ‘Oh, well, when's the wedding?’ “ says Boyd, who explained that the ceremony was probably more than a year off.

"I told him that and he got a little sad, and he was like, ‘Well, I hope that I'm going to be able to make it,’ “ she says. “And that's when I got a little emotional because I was thinking, you know, he doesn't understand this whole virus thing.

"He doesn't understand why he's inside and why I can't come and see him,” Boyd says. “So, that's when I put my hand on the window, and he put his there, and I was like, ‘Listen, everything is going to be OK. This will all blow over, and I'll be able to come inside and see you soon.’ And we both cried, and I told him I loved him, and he told me he loved me."

spinner image a man in a bucket truck visits a resident on a third level floor of an assisted living facility
Charley Adams uses his company’s bucket truck to visit his 80-year-old mom, Julia Adams, on the third floor of her assisted living residence in New Middletown, Ohio.
Courtesy of Charley Adams

Games through the glass

In Chester, Connecticut, Patricia McGalliard, 92, has been delighted to have her 28-year-old grandson visit through the glass at her retirement community.

Erik Nisson, who normally works about 100 miles away in New York City, has been working from his parents’ Connecticut home during the COVID crisis and decided to surprise his grandma. He showed up with markers.

"I call her Moo-Moo,” Nisson says. “I was like, ‘Moo-Moo, we're gonna play some games.’ “

They played tic-tac-toe and hangman, and she gave him some knitting lessons through the window.

"She was extremely excited,” Nisson says. “It put a big smile on her face."

Visits can be scheduled

spinner image an assisted living resident gets a visit form his daughter through the window of his ground floor unit
Shelton Mahala, 87, learns about the engagement of his granddaughter, Carly Boyd, through the window of his rehabilitation center in Lake Waccamaw, North Carolina.
Courtesy of Carly Boyd

Scenes like that are playing out across the country and the world. But for safety, the glass window must be closed, not open even slightly. Window screens also don’t protect people from germs. The idea is to see your loved one even if you can’t hear each other well or touch.

In Stafford Springs, Connecticut, Bob Shellard wanted to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife, Nancy, but she was quarantined inside her nursing home. So he stood outside with a poster that read: “I've loved you 67 years and still do. Happy Anniversary."

The Vancrest nursing and assisted living facility in Payne, Ohio, has been using Skype, walkie-talkies and what it's calling “window visits” to connect families. For Easter's window visit event, families decorated with window clings from the outside, and residents and staff members dressed up the windows from the inside.

Scheduling window visits has brought some joy back for residents during a stressful time, says Marty Bradford, Vancrest's administrator. “They're overjoyed,” she says. “They're happy again."

spinner image two women interact through the closed glass doors of an assisted living facility r
Vancrest, a nursing home and assisted living center in Payne, Ohio, has been arranging window visits between residents and family members who can’t come inside.

Hunting for (stuffed) bear

Some of the window dressings are for kids of all ages. Vancrest staffers are placing teddy bears in windows as part of a “bear hunt” initiative in the town of about 1,100 residents near the Indiana-Ohio border.

Libraries nationwide are encouraging parents to read the beloved 1989 children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, and take a stroll around their neighborhood to look for teddy bears people are putting on windowsills.

In Junction City, Kansas, the idea has blown up. People have bears in windows, on porches and even as lawn displays — such as the family with a Jet Ski outside that has a bear wearing a life jacket.

“I'm a hair stylist in town, and I have a lot of elderly clients,” says Crystal Merrill, a bear hunt enthusiast. “And they've texted me and said, ‘We've put our bears out. We've decorated outside. Come see us, and call us when you get here.’ So they'll stand on their porch, and we'll stay in our vehicle, and we'll yell across the yard at them and have a conversation."

During a time when many people may be feeling down, windows like these are opening a bright spot by uplifting people, says Bradford, the Vancrest administrator.

"That was our whole goal,” she says.

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