“You try to stay joyful,” was John Plett’s response to how one lives in a personal care home during a global pandemic.
Now 94-years-old, Plett has lived in several care homes across southeastern Manitoba. Most recently, he has been given temporary room and board at Cedarwood Supportive Housing while the construction project at Resthaven, where he is technically a resident, is completed.
Plett’s life has been one of constant change since March as COVID-19 has forced PCHs into a circuit of adapting and re-adapting to the ever-evolving health guidelines. With eyesight that is failing, Plett does not have the means of reading, watching television, or playing sudoku like his contemporaries.
“There are changes, but you learn to live with them ... and I have the Lord Jesus Christ with me so that helps too.”
Instead, Plett has taken up walking. More specifically, he has taken up walking to raise money for a Mennonite Central Committee food relief initiative that he and his daughter invented.
“He has always been a big supporter of overseas development and food relief and always been a big donor to organizations that are less fortunate. So he was totally on board,” remarks Plett’s daughter, Liz.
Recognizing the value in having a sense of purpose during the long months of self-isolation she prompted her father to set a goal. After discussing the matter, he set off to raise $9,400 through his own personal walkathon; $100 for every year he has been alive. Nearly every day since the two of them outlined their objective back in April, Plett has grabbed his walker and slowly put one foot in front of the other. When it got too cold to walk outside, Plett moved indoors, when restrictions further limited his mobility, he walked the same hallway over and over on repeat.
“I have always had enough to eat and people who do not have enough to eat because they are poor or cannot find food … I have a heart for them,” he explains. “It is nice to do something for those people.”
With COVID-19 restrictions become increasingly prohibitive, Liz is now unable to visit her father. For a person who usually thrives on visitations, she says the walkathon at this point is almost as much for Plett’s own mental and physical stimulation as it is for hungry people across the world.
“My dad is a very positive guy and he is aware that he needs to see the sunny side of life so he is doing what he is able to do.”
Cedarwood had a staff member test positive for COVID-19 just last week and the province declared an outbreak in the facility. The "outbreak" designation came with its own unique set of rules which were made even stricter when the Pandemic Response System moved up to red or “critical” on Thursday.
Nevertheless, Plett says the team of Resthaven and Cedarwood workers he is in contact with have been more than accommodating, even allowing him to continue walking the halls when they are empty of all other residents.
To Plett, the best way of approaching the situation is to take it one step at a time. “There are changes,” he says, “but you learn to live with them ... and I have the Lord Jesus Christ with me so that helps too.”
Those wanting to support Plett in his efforts to raise money for food relief are invited to visit his page on MCC’s website.