The Covid-19 pandemic was a horrific time for people around the country. Schools were closed, hospitals filled past capacity and millions of people were on furlough.
But few felt the impact more than the older population. With the virus having a greater impact on the elderly and unwell, people over a certain age were much more likely to suffer, with the vast majority of people who died in the UK being over 60.
One Coventry resident was left distraught when her husband of over fifty years died of Covid. Roma and Ernie had been living happily at Midland Heart’s Poppy Court in Willenhall for six years.
They were a popular pair, always at the forefront of the retirement living scheme’s social scene. Roma loved karaoke and got involved in as many activities as she could. Ernie was in a wheelchair, but it didn’t stop him dressing up as Santa Clause at Christmas time to raise smiles and the festive spirit.
But Ernie, a retired Jaguar worker, was one of the ones who sadly didn’t make it through the pandemic. A series of strokes had left him weak, with sepsis and other conditions making his immune system weaker still. When he contracted Covid, he was unable to fight it off.
Roma and the couple’s five children were devastated to lose Ernie. After having lived in a double flat during their time at Poppy Court, Roma downsized to a single flat after his death.
“My whole world was turned upside down when Ernie died,” Roma said. “He was the kindest man who would do anything for anyone. I was heartbroken.”
Distraught and grieving, Roma kept to herself. The once active pensioner was seeing out the days, dealing with the loss of a man she’d spent more than five decades looking after, raising a family with.
But as the pandemic subsided, activities and outings were permitted again. With the help of Coventry Moves, Poppy Court’s Lifestyle Coach Kymme O’Toole has helped residents get out and about, taking part in quizzes, day trips to the seaside, social outings with other schemes, and much more.
Right at the centre of the new programme activities is Roma.
The mum-of-five has a new lease of life, is back singing karaoke and taking part in whatever is on offer. But more than that – she is organising activities, prompting others to get involved and coming up with ideas too.
Roma said: “I miss Ernie every day, he was a wonderful man. But death is a part of life, and when someone dies, everyone else’s life carries on.
“We always said to each other ‘when one of us dies, the other shouldn’t feel sad for too long’. He’d be so happy to see me being out and doing stuff, living my life – it’s just what he’d have wanted.”
Discussing Roma and Ernie, Lifestyle Coach Kymme said: “I’ve known Roma and Ernie since they arrived at Poppy Court and know both of them really well. Everyone was devastated when Ernie died.
“They were always so involved with what was happening, and when he died, we sort of lost both of them for a while as she kept to herself more.
“But now she’s doing so much and not just getting involved but helping coordinate too. It’s been really lovely to see her back with her friends and making new ones all the time.
“It’s brilliant seeing her smiling again. It makes it all worthwhile.”
Jade Woodward is the community programme coordinator for CV Life. She spoke of the importance of Coventry Moves and the impact it can have.
She said: “Our mission is to get people in Poppy Court and similar schemes across Coventry active and busy, stopping them becoming isolated or lonely. Getting involved and socialising can do so much for your wellbeing both mentally and physically.
“Roma is a perfect example. She was understandably devastated when Ernie died and tended to stay in her flat.
“But through the work Coventry Moves and Kymme is doing she’s been really busy – she spent a day at the beach in Weston-Super-Mare over the summer, has been running quizzes and games, and she’s always texting me with reminders and ideas. To see her thriving is amazing.”