Staring at a cleared calendar, Jim Gillespie considered his options. As the threat of COVID-19 brought about shutdowns and stay-at-home mandates, like most of us, Jim found himself with unexpected time on his hands.
"The gym was closed, so I had to figure out something else to do," says Jim, who lives with his wife Mary at Eagle's Trace, the Erickson Senior Living-managed community in West Houston. Both fitness enthusiasts, Jim and Mary are used to staying active.
"I decided to walk 100 miles in the month of May," says Jim, a U.S. Air Force veteran and retired civil engineer. "When I was younger, I ran 100 miles a month when I was running marathons. I thought, 'Why can't I walk 100 miles in a month?'"
A man on a mission to embrace active retirement living
Every day in May, Jim set out with his GPS to track how far he walked around the 72-acre Eagle's Trace campus. He kept a log of the distance he walked each day.
"My longest walk was 4.42 miles on May 14," he says. "I passed my goal of 100 miles on May 28 and decided to keep going. I walked a total of 110 miles in May."
Jim says the walking goal gave him the motivation to get moving each day. The timing worked out, as the fitness center at Eagle's Trace reopened just as Houston's summer heat and humidity intensified.
"Now I'm riding the stationary bike in the fitness center three times a week," says Jim. "Having something to do keeps me going."
Enjoying the flora and fauna at Eagle's Trace senior living community
Lynn Luton and her husband Bob also found a new purpose while walking around the Eagle's Trace campus throughout the safer-at-home initiative. Theirs wasn't the brisk pace of Jim's daily constitutional, but a wonder-filled stroll to take in the natural beauty around them.
"As we walked, we started to notice the wildlife around us," says Lynn. "There are ducks, herons, mockingbirds, cardinals, turtles, and more. That's one of the benefits of a slower pace. You take time to really see what's all around you."
Bob and Lynn moved to Eagle's Trace in January 2019, settling into a first-floor apartment in the community's Galveston Crossing residence building. The community's eight-acre Lake Aquila is a short walk from their patio.
"I started taking pictures of the flora and fauna with the camera on my cellphone," says Lynn. "Bob surprised me with an early birthday gift, buying me a camera so I could take better pictures of the animals and flowers we were enjoying on our walks."
Over the past several months, Lynn has amassed an impressive digital collection of nature photos.
"There's a blue heron who built a nest near the bridge [over Lake Aquila]," says Lynn. "We saw five eggs in the nest, then a few weeks later we saw four baby birds. We watched as they left the nest. I've really enjoyed seeing the amazing sights all around us."
Reconnecting with seldom-seen relatives
For Eagle's Trace resident Yvonne Overschie, the pared-down daily routine created time to reconnect with family and friends in her native Holland.
"The unexpected quiet time came with some pleasures, and for me that meant a lot of long phone conversations with relatives in Holland," says Yvonne. "They were in the same at-home situation, so we had plenty of time to talk."
Yvonne and her husband moved to Houston in 1973 on an assignment with Shell Oil.
"I've been here ever since," says Yvonne, whose husband passed away in 2018. "For many years, we traveled back to Holland often to visit relatives, but I haven't gone for several years now."
While travel has become more of a challenge, technology has created new opportunities to connect across the pond.
"Making phone calls is so much easier these days," says Yvonne. "There are ways of doing it, like using WhatsApp, without it costing a lot of money."
Technology also provides opportunities for shared experiences.
"My niece sends me links to Dutch programs, which I can watch in my apartment," says Yvonne. "Not only that, but I've also been playing Wordfeud, which is like Scrabble, online with my relatives. I make words on my iPad, and they're making words on theirs. It's as if the ocean between us is not there. It gives me the feeling they're in the same room playing the game with me."
Yvonne says the lifestyle she enjoys at Eagle's Trace allows her to focus on the simple pleasures that have brought her so much joy during this time.
"I feel safe in my apartment, and I don't have to worry about anything," she says. "The past few months have given me the chance to slow down and do things I didn't have time to do before."
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