When freshman Jaclyn Klinger returned home to Noblesville, Indiana, on March 12 for Hope’s spring break and online classes that were supposed to last only until April 13, she decided to make the most of the situation and head back to work at Northridge Gracious Retirement Living, her place of employment while in high school. She thought working odd shifts for a few weeks at the senior independent living center would give her extra spending money and some flexibility.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic caused Indiana to declare stay-at-home orders on March 23 and when Hope’s temporary move to remote classes became permanent until the end of the spring semester, Klinger made a somewhat long-term decision, too. Instead of just taking shifts here and there, and instead of going back and forth from her home to work them, she decided to stay put at Northridge 24/7.
Klinger has been living there since March 24.
“I didn’t think that [the national crisis] would really get to the point where it is right now so quickly,” says Klinger. “One of my coworkers told me that our boss asked her if she wanted to move in, because it’s just easier and safer being in the building. I was like, ‘That’s an interesting idea.’
“So, I talked to my parents about it, and my mom, who is a nurse, said, ‘It honestly might be a better idea if you’re at the building because if I picked something up at the hospital, and you went into work and passed on the virus to a resident, I’d feel awful.’ So, I just decided to move in.”
Klinger and her co-workers now help in a myriad of different ways at Northridge — serving meals to the residents’ doors, taking out their trash, offering snacks on a cart, walking their dogs. Their small acts of service are a huge help to residents who must stay put.
“Right now, the current state is that the residents are not really allowed to leave their rooms,” she says. “We currently don’t have any [COVID-19] cases in the building, but there are few other retirement homes in the area that do have cases. I think they’re really just trying to increase the safety of the residents and keeping them from sharing anything.”
An instrumental music education major who specializes on French horn, Klinger also plays the piano. Since a baby grand is located in a Northridge common area, she uses it every morning to practice or take her remote keyboard class with Professor Linda Strouf. “Sometimes they are just hearing my random, weird assignments,” Klinger laughs, “but they enjoy hearing the music, I think. They say it sounds nice.”
“She comes to my class every day with her work done and a smile on her face from making a difference in the world in which she is currently living,” says Strouf.
“Being here, I feel thankful that I’m able to work and that I’m healthy, too. I’m glad I can give back to residents with music or chats. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the really small things that we take for granted in a normal-life situation.”
While in the past, Klinger worked solely in the facility’s dining room, now she sees residents a bit more in their living environments, but always from a safe, social distance. She found out that one resident couple loves swing dance and another Trivia Night. One woman enjoys oil painting and recently gave Klinger one of her works of art. “I had just stopped by to offer her a snack, and she said, ‘You see those paintings over there. I paint those. Pick one and it’s yours.’ So, I have a small painting of a mountain range. It was so sweet.”
Though she talks with her parents and sister almost every day (and sees them occasionally when they drop off personal goods and laundry), Klinger knows that living and working at Northridge during this crisis has given her a new appreciation for both the generation she serves as well as her own.
“Their everyday life has changed so much. They miss their friends who live down the hall, just like I miss mine at Hope,” Klinger reflects. “But they’re super thankful that they’re still healthy, that they can still get up and walk around and take care of themselves.
“So, it’s nice to think about that when I feel bummed out about not being back at Hope. That’s the hardest thing for me. I don’t get to finish my semester. I felt like I was getting close to all these people I was meeting. And now, it’s all cut off.
“But being here, I feel thankful that I’m able to work and that I’m healthy, too. I’m glad I can give back to residents with music or chats. It’s a reminder to be thankful for the really small things that we take for granted in a normal-life situation.”