Forging New Connections: a Conversation with Lois Ricci

Portraits of Resilience: Metro Atlantans Share their Stories of Life during the Pandemic

For adults ages 65 and older, the past two years have been especially challenging. As we enter the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we take a look back to see how the lives of metro Atlanta residents have been impacted. During the month of March, we will share the stories of older persons from across the region weekly.

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Lois (center) gathers with loved ones for her anniversary celebration.

For Lois Ricci, one of the silver linings of the pandemic has been getting to know her neighbors better. The first year, when most people locked down at home, she started a chain in her DeKalb County community to reach out to her neighbors. Folks connected via Zoom twice a week in the morning over a cup of coffee to just talk, even if just a few showed up.

“What it did, it created an energy in our neighborhood,” says Lois. “Neighbors got to know each other. We were connecting across generations, across many cultures and ages.”

Neighbors are meeting in person now, she adds. But as a result of the isolation, people still call each other and stop to talk when out walking.

During the course of the past two years, Lois rode along with the ebbs and flows of the COVID-19 pandemic. That meant spending a lot of time at home, but also celebrating milestones with family. There’s been joy and sadness; loss of relatives and friends; hope; moments of feeling low; and new ways of bonding with her children.

The first year, Lois and her husband stayed mostly in their home without seeing family. They were very careful about not getting COVID.

“In the beginning, we stayed close to home; we didn’t even spend holidays with our children,” says Lois. “We Zoomed, which was the way we stayed visibly connected.”

At the onset of the pandemic, Lois was teaching gerontology at Kennesaw State University. The pandemic meant adjusting from in-person teaching to online instruction. She bought a new laptop and learned how to use the university’s remote-learning platform. She missed the personal touch with her students, but virtual teaching meant she didn’t have to drive back and forth between her home in Tucker and Kennesaw, which could take up to 90 minutes each way.

In 2021, Lois and her husband were vaccinated and got their boosters. Her daughter came to visit from Chattanooga last summer. In August, the couple celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with their children and five grandchildren at a restaurant in Norcross. The family also was together for the Christmas holiday in 2021, hoping for many more years.

Lois no longer teaches at KSU, but she’s staying busy. The geriatric nurse practitioner is a facilitator for AARP’s Disrupt Aging Classroom, which she teaches virtually and in person at college campuses across the country.

She is organizing a walking and wellness program, Tucker Walks, to get Tucker residents walking however they can. Tucker Walks is an America Walks program.

Lois serves as co-chair of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Advisory Committee on Aging and facilitates evidence-based health programs for older residents in metro Atlanta. She also stays active consulting with continuing care retirement communities.

She’s glad that all along she and her husband have stayed in touch with family and friends from all over the country.

“I’m very grateful that we’ve always connected with our old friends,” Lois says. “How grateful I am that we’ve done that. It’s made me realize how valuable it is to stay in touch with people because we don’t have them forever.”

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For more information about services for older people and people with disabilities in the Metro Atlanta area, check out our Service Provider page, or visit the Empowerline website to be connected with counseling.

 

Arin Yost

Arin is a Lead for America fellow with the Aging & Independence Services Group working with the Live Beyond Expectations team to identify and address disparities in life expectancy throughout the Atlanta region. In their free time, Arin enjoys gardening, creating zines, and spoiling their pet tortoise, Michel.