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9 Under the 19
Nine couples in the highest risk group navigating the new normal.

Pedro Oliveira by Pedro Oliveira on May 26, 2020

Having so many friends within the highest group of risk made me wonder and worry about what the future would hold for those I learned to love and care for as if they were part of my own family.

Luckily, age generally comes accompanied by wisdom, and the majority of those I had been concerned about quickly adapted to the unprecedented reality.

This photo essay is the result of a 72-hour project in which 9 couples participated who are over their 60s and within the group of highest risk. They reported through images and their own words, how COVID-19 has affected their daily lives, and how they have adapted to the pandemic.

Allen & David

"Our routine is pretty different, these days. We used to get up early and go to the gym; that's closed, so we're sleeping a little later. One thing that surprised me was the fact that I am much busier during all of this - communications is ramped up when you're trying to educate people about new policies and procedures, so it's pretty non-stop for me. David, on the other hand, has seen his work flow slow down; he is taking Fridays off, at the moment, although "taking the day off" means he gets to paint or read a book while he watches me work.

Days tend to have a sameness to them - it's hard to remember what day it is, and weekends don't provide that much difference in our routine since everything takes place within these same four walls. We miss our friends. We miss restaurants. We miss shopping, even if we don't need anything...the social act of being out and among people is something we didn't realize we craved as much as we crave it now, since it's forbidden."

Bill & Ann

“Worldwide, at least 3.1 million people have been infected in less than four months. Economies have nose-dived. Societies have paused. In most people’s living memory, no crisis has caused so much upheaval so broadly and so quickly.

For us, it has meant so far, more time to ourselves. More time playing internet games; visiting with friends and family by email, texting, Facetime, and Zoom; more cooking and eating; making and giving away face masks; beading; listening to music; reading and binge-watching television. And of course doing things long put off, like going through fifty years of pictures and organizing them; sorting through things long collected but no longer needed; and writing instructions to our kids on where to find our money, accounts to close, and things to do if we end up dead soon.

What do we miss? Touching and hugging our kids and grandkids, friends and other family; family dinners; going out to eat; travelling; and for Ann, going to her art studio."

Bill & Susan

"Social distancing is necessary, but it is so boring! Human beings are social creatures. We require frequent interaction with members of our own species. We are not lone wolves! Standing in line at Costco or Home Depot, six feet from the person in front of us, while wearing a face mask, is not my idea of social interaction. I can’t wait for social distancing to end!

How do we survive Covid-19? Health clubs are closed, hiking trails in the Columbia Gorge are closed, and the beaches are closed. What do we do to maintain our sanity? We go on urban walks. We bought a book entitled “Portland Townscape Walks.” We have rediscovered wonderful neighborhoods in Portland – Laurelhurst Park, Irvington, Sellwood, and Alameda. We go on frequent walks in our own neighborhood. We go on bike rides in Portland and along the Columbia River in Washington. We bought a spin cycle with a 22 inch monitor and access to hundreds of cycling classes and rides throughout the world. We have cycled through Singapore and the island of Corsica and other locales as well. Since international travel for us is unlikely again until a vaccine is developed, we live vicariously by cycling through distant lands and reading books.

We shop at stores as infrequently as possible and stock up when we do go. We have organic vegetable delivered to us every week. We have improved our culinary skills by cooking at home. I would make a good sous chef! We watch far too much news – much of it morbid. We wear face masks, as necessary. We persevere."

Joan & Dave

“I am no longer able to be with and to hug, in-town grandchildren, or their parents! That is the hardest. The newest grandchild, who recently arrived from out of the country, just turned one year old and has been in PDX now for a little more than a month. Dave and I have not had physical contact with her or her parents. I’m hoping that with good testing, this might change. I’m sad not to be with the kids who are here in PDX, but also not being able to be helpful for their parents who continue to work.

I am unable to work at the Friends of the Oak Lodge Library bookstore or be in any way involved with the board since the Library is closed. The board has started to have Zoom Meetings, but there we are entirely on hold.

No personal social gatherings, but all of those have converted to Zoom meetings, which have worked out rather well. Even with friends who are not local or who I have not seen in some cases in years. That has been nice.

I can’t go to the gym five days a week – this is a big deal. But I have enjoyed walking in the neighborhood with neighbors – all masked and 6-10 feet apart.

I could not walk the neighborhood to distribute Democratic Party voting literature – had to write letters and put a stamp on the thing and mail them. That was rather fun.

I have to clean our house (not very regularly).

The positive side:

First, more bird songs—really! Second, I got to see clearer skies—I can usually see Mt Hood these days unless very overcast or raining. And finally, I have enjoyed spending more time in the garden.”

Larry & Nick

"We are sleeping in the same room, the one bedroom in our 1-bedroom unit. We have not ordered cooked food or groceries to be brought in.

Further, we walk twice everyday together, different paths for the morning and afternoon. We always walk together, with masks, because with the lockdown, the streets feel less safe.

And since our day focuses on our evening meal, we still shop, maybe twice a week, with masks in place, and a written list to work from, to shorten our exposure.

We believe what the science and scientists are telling us. As well as the local politicians..."

Randy & Laurie

"We are ordering in groceries on Instacart, and that is working out OK. I am basically not going anywhere except to pick up prescriptions and to pick up Laurie's dad when he visits. However, we are keeping in very close touch with friends by phone and on Skype.

I am getting a lot of recreational reading done. Fortunately, my birthday is coming up at the end of the month -- I am going to have to replenish my book inventory. I also practice my clarinet regularly, and we are getting the most out of available streaming services.

Finally, on the positive side, with the weather having been so relatively good lately, I have had plenty of time for gardening. My flower beds are in great shape, and I have had plenty of time to watch spring plant developments happening and to enjoy whatever nature has to offer in the yard."

Richard & Margie

“Having lived together for almost 22 years now and being of an age when slowing down comes naturally, the Covid-19 pandemic has not been too difficult for us to adjust to. We have actually found the stay-at-home order good for our relationship as it has given us more time to spend together, to reflect on how fortunate we are and how blessed we are to have each other as life companions.

We recently moved from a house in Portland Heights to a condo in northwest Portland to have more immediate access to all the local shops and restaurants in our neighborhood, allowing us to become better connected with the community-at-large. Although many local businesses are temporarily closed, we enjoy taking our dog Ché out for long walks, visiting with family (at a safe distance) and keeping in touch with friends by phone or through social media.

Although we miss the hustle and bustle of Portland’s once-vibrant civic life, the city’s wonderful spring weather has helped keep our spirits up. While we miss not being able to hug our kids and grandkids, dine out with friends or take trips to far off lands, we’re both healthy, happy and safe. We can’t ask for anything more..."

Susan & Jim

“I don’t know if we are very interesting. We wear masks when going out. I walk several mornings per week with Joan and other neighbors. All are wearing masks, keeping 6-10 feet apart. I think we must look like bowling pins in formation walking down the street.”

“I’ve been sewing masks, trying various patterns that come across the Internet. I made two out of purple paisley shoulder pads from the 1980s. I sort of wondered why I kept them, but they found their new life and work well. I seem to have a Zoom or Webex or google meeting each day. I also do exercise workouts online. We have fruits and vegetables delivered by Imperfect Produce, and a lot of staple foods on regular delivery by Amazon (we’ve done this for months). One of us typically goes to the store about once per week. Since I’m a dentist, I have a pretty good grasp of infection control. Jim has learned to wash his hands more frequently and thoroughly. We share the same bedroom. We watch about an hour of a movie in the evening. We’re both pretty much introverts, so time at home is not a “penalty.” There’s plenty to do in the house (long-postponed projects) and garden. We are fortunate that our son and daughter in law consider us “safe,” and we have our middle school age grandchildren overnight each Thursday. Overseeing their Friday homeschooling is a fun challenge. They have a Zoom class meeting during lunch, and they have YouTube lessons to watch in addition to reading and journaling and math worksheets. I find time each day for creative pursuits and to practice musical instruments.”

Suzanne & Brad

"I can’t help but say how much we both are enjoying the lack of everyday working pressure that we are sharing. We are both officially retired – whatever that means in this day and age – and continue to work part-time. Brad continues as a state policeman in Salem, and is also the head of the Board of Directors for the Oregon Maritime Museum here in Portland. He, of course, also is not let off his duties as my husband and his share of taking care of our home. He has planted a super vegetable garden … he loves to be outside thankfully so the ship, Salem, his garden, and of course me keep him really busy.

For one of our pleasures we try to take a walk everyday if possible, weather permitting; we both love being by the water so our walks gravitate us to the Columbia River, which is close to where we live. Thankfully we like each other and laugh a lot and share the same political views and sense of what we think is funny. We go on what I call adventures in the car; Oregon is so beautiful this time of year particularly, and driving now is a pleasure with so few cars on the road.

Of the many hats I wear I now teach on line as opposed to driving to my students everyday which some days proved to be distressing scheduling the classes through the traffic from one end of Portland to the other. I am a Dyslexic reading specialist and also a tutor mainly in English for children and foreign students. The pleasant difference it has made for me not having to battle the traffic is enormous. It has presented so much time to be able to know and enjoy each other again more fully, to Spring Clean the house and get to take pleasure in our home again and not give it, as my mother would have said, ‘a lick and a promise."

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More About Pedro Oliveira

Pedro OliveiraPhotography started as a hobby to keep me busy in my free time. It became a passion when I started a project called “Careful: Soul Inside.” Ever since, framing moments has evolved into a passion that pays my bills (or some of them). Whenever I am not working, I am taking pictures, which can mean either I am never “working” or never take days off—You decide it. Some people would call me an workaholic, but the truth is that I never feel like I am working when I have a camera in my hand and a subject in front of me.

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