‘You have to be positive’ Six months into pandemic, Donna Schirer makes the best of it

By Mary Clarkin | August 31, 2020

Donna Schirer lives in independent living in southwest Wichita.

Up until six months ago, 91-year-old Donna Schirer enjoyed what she calls a “very, very active lifestyle.” A resident of Prairie Homestead Senior Living community in southwest Wichita, Schirer has her own independent living duplex but ate some meals in Prairie Home’s dining room, took part in monthly social gatherings and joined other residents on field trips to restaurants and more.
“Oh, I went to all the activities at our complex and enjoyed being with the people,” Schirer said in a phone interview.
What a difference a pandemic makes. Today, Schirer describes her lifestyle as “secluded.”
Schirer made the decision to self-quarantine when the coronavirus pandemic reached Kansas in March and doesn’t regret doing so. Neither does she feel sorry for herself.
“I’ve always been content to be where I was,” she said. She can be happy doing a lot of different things or sitting and doing nothing at all. Her philosophy of life is, she said, “You meet every day head on, and you do what you can.”
Schirer moved to the retirement community in 1992 with her husband, Marshall, a Baptist minister. Then in their 60s, they both enjoyed the retirement community’s many activities. Marshall died in 2010 at age 81.
Today, activities are halted or severely restricted. Apart from her duplex, the only buildings Schirer enters are medical buildings for doctor visits. Family members – Schirer has four married children, eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren – haven’t been inside her residence, and she hasn’t been inside their homes. When they visit on her patio, they wear masks and social distance.
Schirer enjoys reading and still takes walks on the Prairie Homestead grounds. She keeps up with family and friends through Facebook and phone calls. Once a week, she and her children and their spouses participate in a Zoom visit. On Sundays, she participates in the “virtual” service at her church, Westside Baptist Church, as well as the service where her son is a pastor in Arkansas. She also watches the service of First United Methodist Church, Wichita, on television.
“I get plenty of services on Sunday,” she said.
And she looks forward to resuming life as she knew it, although there’s no way of knowing when that will happen. “You have to be positive.”