A Friend, Mother, and Social Butterfly Adapts to Change

Ms. Carole Wilson has always been hard working. In order to help provide for her two kids and husband, at times she worked two jobs. In fact, in her 30s, she worked at five fast food restaurants: McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Boston Market, and Arby’s. Though she liked working at the restaurants because she got to meet and talk to different people, the long hours and standing were really hard on her, so she decided to go back to school.

Hard worker her whole life

After getting her GED, she and her husband did janitorial work and she even worked in a toy store, but the job she loved most was being a Mother.

One morning it all changed

But one morning, Ms. Wilson woke up and had trouble moving. She recalls, “That morning I still went to church and just limped everywhere. When it was time for prayer, I could hardly get up. One of the ushers had to help me back to my seat. And at the end of service, someone got a wheelchair to push me to my car.” Her condition hit her out of nowhere and she now depends on a wheelchair for mobility.

And then she found CEI

Before she needed a wheelchair, she used to walk all the time. And even before COVID-19, she never let the wheelchair confine her – she went shopping and to church using paratransit. Ms. Wilson found CEI after her health decline when a representative came to where she lived in Richmond. She says she went on her center tour, “met people, and had coffee.” She smiles at the memory and adds, “and I’ve been there ever since.”

Making friends and keeping healthy

“CEI is a good place. I like the exercise gym, the clinic, the day room. I really like the activities we do in the day room. I love the different entertainers that come. We can drink coffee there, or do artwork, painting, crossword puzzles, and beading. There’s just so much to do.”

Darlyn San Jose, an Occupational Therapist working with Ms. Wilson says she loves doing exercises that strengthen her upper body, and has transitioned well to doing a workout from home during the pandemic.

Wilson says, “CEI is a good place. I like the exercise gym.”
Working out in the gym with the help of an Occupational Therapist.

Building a community around a pandemic

At the senior residence Elder Ashram* where she lives, she has a friend she calls her little sister. “We sit together at meals. We go shopping sometimes, too. She looks out for me. ‘Don’t scratch your leg,’ she says. And I tell her, “I’m rubbing it, not scratching it.” Ms. Wilson has a playful relationship with some of her friends at the center too. The Berkeley Activity Director Mona Leones says, “She loves to talk, and is very friendly, funny, and a very caring person.”

She’s a social butterfly

Her personality is appreciated during the hard times we’ve been living through. Even before COVID-19 hit, the center director says that Ms. Wilson called to check up on other participants. So when CEI started to offer more virtual services, she adapted, like she has done throughout her life. With her bubbly personality, she shares her cheer and continues to look at the bright side of the pandemic: she has great healthcare, she is alive and safe at home, and she still gets to see her friends at CEI.

Activity Director Mona Leones says, “She loves to talk, and is very friendly, funny, and a very caring person.”

Together we will make it”

During Berkeley’s Zoom virtual activities, Ms. Wilson has become a regular and popular attendee in online bingo and the exercise groups. She loves to sing with her friends during online karaoke, and encourages others in word and trivia sessions. She loves to join the online spiritual activities, too. “I get along with everyone at CEI. Since I don’t have my family out here, they became my family and together we will make it.”

*Note: Since this interview, Ms. Wilson has moved to Diamond Care residential facility.