What it’s like on the inside

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  • Dee Dee Bartels in 2016. Bartels, who lives at The Lakeside of Amelia Island, says she has painting and poetry to keep her busy while she stays at home during the coronavirus pandemic. PAMELA BUSHNELL/NEWS-LEADER
    Dee Dee Bartels in 2016. Bartels, who lives at The Lakeside of Amelia Island, says she has painting and poetry to keep her busy while she stays at home during the coronavirus pandemic. PAMELA BUSHNELL/NEWS-LEADER
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Longtime Fernandina Beach resident Dee Dee Bartels, now in her 90s, is weathering the coronavirus pandemic at The Lakeside of Amelia Island. “It is the safest place I could be right now,” Bartels told the News-Leader. “They are doing a fantastic job here taking care of us. They are really going out of their way to keep us safe and entertained.”

The facility is among thousands of senior living communities across the country having to restrict visitation by family and friends during the pandemic. With her typical flair, Bartels has found a solution for that. “I am on the second floor and I have a lovely upstairs porch. My family just drive up and park under my window and I come out on the balcony to talk with them. I feel like Juliet, in Romeo and Juliet.  If only I had a rose to wear in my teeth.”

Routines have changed since the pandemic. Bartels said residents are no longer enjoying communal dining under the circumstances. Residents are spending most of their time in their own apartments. Every morning, staff and residents have their temperatures taken to look for signs of infection. Staff wear masks as they serve residents breakfast, lunch, and dinner in their rooms.

“They put these slips of paper on the trays offering us magazines, books, puzzles, or whatever we would like for entertainment. And they are doing creative little things like having a rock painting contest among residents this week,” said Bartels. “And, of course, I have my painting and poetry to keep me busy.” She has painted landscapes and still lifes in oils for many years and has taught others. “I have written poetry mostly for myself all my life. I have boxes and boxes of it stored away,” she added.

Bartels has just published a collection of her poetry entitled Aging: Ideas, Ideals, Dreams and Idiocy. She received a box of 40 copies of her new publication only last week and sold out within a day. More copies are on the way. Her next project is putting together a collection of poetry from her travels.

Bartels can sit on her own porch as she likes, or she can go outdoors on the grounds wearing a mask and maintaining social distance from others. “I love the sunshine, so that’s important for me,” she said. Rather than chafe at the confinement, Bartels chooses to be grateful for the precautionary measures. For now, she keeps in touch with friends and family by phone, but she is already planning activities “for when this is all over.”

pbushnell@fbnewsleader.com