Salmon Arm resident Shirley Pilcher up her latest book of poetry, Life Moves On, influenced by life under lockdown at a seniors care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)

Confined by COVID-19: Salmon Arm senior poet reflects on loneliness in lockdown

Shirley Pilcher’s latest books inspired by caring staff and challenges of pandemic

COVID-19 and the necessary solitude of lockdown are the inspiration behind a Shuswap senior’s latest book of poems.

Prior to the pandemic, the things that brought Shirley Pilcher happiness were reflected in her poetry. Since March, however, she has been a prisoner of sorts to COVID-19.

“It’s all you can think about nowadays,” said Pilcher. “I’ve written a lot of poem books, but the only inspiration I have now is COVID-19. Normally there was all kind of nice things happening in my life.”

The 87-year-old Mount Ida Mews resident has has been writing poetry now for six years, and has released a total of 12 books, published in town by Hucul Printing. In the latest book, Life Moves On, one of the things Pilcher reflects upon is what it’s like being a senior in a care facility under lockdown.

“I feel like I’m doing the time but I didn’t do the crime,” said Pilcher. “However, we survive. We have to.”

Under lockdown protocols, Pilcher explained she is allowed to see one visitor a week of her choosing.

“I have no children so I chose my niece who is very good to me,” said Pilcher. “She’s allowed to come once a week to a special room here where I go to, and we have a half hour together… I’m happy to have her, but I’d love to see a few more people too.”

Pilcher was quick to add the staff at Mount Ida Mews have been very good to her, and that this positive during the wearisome pandemic was a source of inspiration for her previous book.

“I’m in a lockdown situation which is not their fault, but the staff here, the care aides, the nursing staff… I can’t say enough good about them. They are just wonderful,” said Pilcher. “Actually, the book I wrote before this one, was all about how I survived COVID-19 and most of that book is thanking the care aides here.”

Pilcher said she found poetry after her husband had passed away and she made the decision to sell her home and move into Piccadilly Terrace.

“(It) is a great place to live, a happy place to live, and that kind of inspired me there I guess; that’s when I started,” said Pilcher, who lived at Piccadilly Terrace until she suffered spinal stroke, which resulted in the move to Mount Ida Mews.

“I’m not a person that gives up,” said Pilcher. “Although I must say I’ve had my down days the last couple of months, but I’m OK. At least they’re keeping us alive which is more than they’re doing down at the coast in these facilities.”

Despite being able to laugh about the lockdown keeping her alive, joking, “Whether that’s a good thing or bad, I don’t know some days,” the seriousness of the pandemic is not lost on Pilcher.

Read more: VIDEO: Salmon Arm business offers safe solution for visits with seniors in care facilities

Read more: B.C. seniors suffer from isolation, depression in COVID-19

“I think it’s very serious and I think, up until the last couple of weeks, British Columbia have shown that taking precautions and being serious about COVID-19 is something we should all do,” said Pilcher, adding she feels sorry for younger generations, for children and teens who, in different ways, are currently confined by COVID-19.

“I’ve had a wonderful life so I can handle this for a couple of years if I must. But the young people, little guys trying to figure this all out, it’s got to be terrible for them, just awful. And the teenagers, I know they’re going out and getting themselves in trouble, but who knows what we would have done under the circumstances. It’s a tough world out there.”

One of Pilcher’s poems is included in Celebration of Creativity, a book featuring the works by local writers and artists. Sales of the book, a fundraising effort, resulted in a $1,000 donation to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

2020: The Summer That Never Was – by Shirley Pilcher

2020: the summer that never was –

COVID-19 was the cause.

The news all bad, morning, noon and night

– nothing in the world was right!

Every country in this world

Each, on its own, was hurled

Into a big black hole.

There was no escape for any soul.

Most of us were where we’d rather not be,

But no choice was given to me.

I was locked down.

Do you see? Do you know what that does mean?

I ask you – have you ever been?

I felt I was in a jail doing time

Although I did not do a crime.

On that third floor, with nineteen others,

We were locked away from our sisters and brothers

Who could go nowhere, although others did care.

Our facility tried hard to help us cope

But at times I thought there was no hope.

Six months we’ve been locked down

With no outsiders around.

Our lockdown is not over yet.

Yes, it’s been a year I will never forget.

Separating even husbands and wives –

Yes, COVID-19, you’ve changed our lives!

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