Among the most unfortunate effects of the COVID-19 pandemic is the chill it cast—and is still casting—over social activities nearly everywhere, including in multifamily communities. So little was known early on about how the virus was spread that group social activities—the backbone of many co-op and condo communities, especially those designed for residents over 55—were put on indefinite hold. No more holiday parties, book clubs, or fitness centers. No more planned outings or tennis lessons. Heck, even committee and board meetings were cancelled.
Now that the pandemic appears to be receding (we hope), and we are learning to live with endemic COVID, how do we bring our communities back together? Many still live in a state of low-level fear and anxiety; others want their former lives back. What are residential communities doing to solve this paradox and allow residents to socialize safely?
The Psychological Experience
Residents of multifamily buildings, particularly large ones, make their decision to live there as a lifestyle choice. Chances are that some portion of their social life revolves around the community, whether it be interaction in a gym or pool, membership in a book or movie club offered through the building, or the occasional summertime roof deck happy hour. They also seek the convenience of a staff to assist with the exigencies of daily life. This concept is particularly true for co-op and condominium communities. Members of these communities literally buy into a specific social setting.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic changed all that. Initially, everyone was told to stay home. No contact with others. If you found yourself in a situation where you had to have contact, say going to the grocery store, it was necessary to wear a mask (maybe two) and keep a safe distance between yourself and anyone you might encounter, friend or foe, neighbor or stranger.
That was hard enough when the pandemic began, but no one expected all those cautions and protocols to continue for nearly two years and counting. After a while, the effects that distance and isolation imposed on us—perhaps particularly for people in typically congenial, socially interactive communities—started to sink in. Those effects included depression, anxiety, shortened tempers, and a sense of being detached or cut off from others.