Lifelong Health & Aging

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When her daughter told her to sit down, Sarah Cappiello wasn’t sure what was coming next.

Jackie Morande had gotten the call from Sanders Retirement Village, a Riverside retirement community in Gloucester. A unit had become available earlier than expected and it was time to move.

“I jumped for joy,” Cappiello says. “My daughter was surprised. She thought I was doing it for her.”

The truth is the five-bedroom home Cappiello owned and once shared with her husband, Louis, had become too much to care for. She lost him in 2014 and was eager to move into a more manageable space.

Sanders is just 2½ miles from her old home and close enough to all the Gloucester Main Street amenities that Cappiello enjoys. Her one-bedroom cottage came with new appliances, new blinds, fresh paint and updated carpet. Best of all, she felt safe during all phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They had such restrictions,” she says in the Long Island accent that’s never left her. “At first we thought, ‘C’mon. Everybody thought, ‘Two weeks you’ll be wearing the mask and that’s it, Honey.’ Let me tell you, it wasn’t that way. They take care of us here.”

The community that offers assisted and rehabilitative options in addition to the independent living cottages where Cappiello, 85, resides reported no COVID cases at any time during the pandemic.

Cappiello followed all the safety protocols, which halted community lunches and afternoon Rummikub games. Mingling was discouraged. Everybody wore a mask.

“Not one person got sick,” Cappiello says. “We’re very proud of that.”

Vaccine rollout was a breeze. Sanders offered it to the entire community. Cappiello got hers on February 1, adding “They did a really good job with it.”

When Cappiello watches news reports of the loss of life from the pandemic, she can’t fathom the numbers. She’s grateful for the care the Riverside staff took with the residents in Sanders, where she says, “They make you feel like it’s your home.”

She can plant flowers outdoors if she chooses or put a wreath up on her door — small things that other retirement villages frown upon. The staff checks in on the residents regularly, and the residents look out for each other.

“They don’t restrict you,” she says. “But they do take care of you.”