Wednesday afternoon, one-by-one, seniors from the Sunrise Bluffs retirement community in Belen rode past neighbors on motorized wheelchairs, scooters and decorated golf carts, putting on a social distancing parade. “It lifts up everybody’s spirits, exactly,” one neighbor said. “And it’s fun!”
The idea was simple: to connect with each other from a safe distance. It’s something News 13 photographer Kenneth McGlothin felt as he captured the smiling faces on camera. “It’s just a good thing to do, weren’t you smiling?” Susan Vasquez asked McGlothin. “I was!” He replied.
Most of the seniors have been stuck inside during the statewide stay-at-home order. They’ve canceled normal clubhouse gatherings in an effort to protect themselves.
“The gate is locked now,” said Vasquez. “We used to have it just locked on a Sunday, but it’s locked 24-7 now,” she explained.
Feeling the weight of the coronavirus outbreak, newlywed Gloria Hill said she felt inspired to do something. “A couple weeks ago my husband and I were sitting out on the patio and I said, ‘You know, this is starting to get to everybody,'” she recalled. “And he says, ‘Well I’ll take you for a ride in the truck.’ And I said, ‘That’s a great idea!”
Hill said her neighbors jumped on board, organizing the parade and decorating vehicles. “I was passing out candy and individually wrapped prunes for those who need it,” she chuckled.
She said while they’re not first responders, sometimes laughter can be the best medicine. Neighbors sat outside on lawn chairs, waving and cheering along with parade participants. “One of my favorite things to do is laugh, so I wanted to bring some laughter to some of the other people,” said Hill.
“It’s just a matter of being emotionally connected when we can’t be physically connected,” she added. “We need each other’s emotional support.”
Sunrise Bluffs is a 55-and-older active adult and retirement community with about 112 homes.