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“We Gather Together” — Or Can We for the Holidays?

The current COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every part of our lives. There is physical suffering, emotional suffering, and spiritual suffering. Social distancing is causing havoc with shopping, entertainment, healthcare, education, the economy, and family time. Several religious and cultural holidays have come and gone in 2020, and more are approaching, seemingly more rapidly than a vaccine. Older folks are being hardest hit with infections and isolation. Not only are we starving for holiday food — We are hungering for personal contact and celebration. What will the holidays bring?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other organizations, have recommendations for gathering together on holidays. Along with the usual guidelines concerning social distancing and mask-wearing, there are other recommended precautions, as well as suggested activities, that can make your gatherings as safe as possible.


The first step is to check yourself for coronavirus symptoms. It’s always wise to keep away from people when you or they are sick, but it is especially serious when COVID-19 is indicated. Geriatric medicine specialist Ardeshir Hashmi, MD, recommends caution, even if you have met the suggested 14-day self-quarantine. Older folks are more likely to have a condition that is aggravated by the virus, such as heart problems or cancer.

Be cognizant of state, local, and community guidelines for travel and visitation. Find out what airlines, hotels, retirement communities, and the like, are recommending or mandating as far as using their facilities.

If possible, spend as much time outdoors as possible during gatherings, even if it's just you and one other loved one. This helps facilitate social distancing and decreases the likelihood of virus-laden droplets hanging around. When meeting indoors, open a window to circulate fresh air.

Visits and gatherings can happen and be rewarding when precautions are taken. Handwashing, sanitization, social distancing, and wearing masks are a part of life for the time being, but they don’t have to keep us from being human.

Here are some ideas from the CDC:

Low-risk activities 

  • KEEP IT SMALL: Have an intimate dinner with only people who live in your household. 
  • DON’T FORGET HIGH-RISK INDIVIDUALS: Prepare traditional family recipes for family and neighbors, especially those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19, and deliver them in a way that doesn’t involve contact with others.
  • GO VIRTUAL: Have a virtual dinner and share recipes with friends and family.
  • BLACK FRIDAY: Shop online rather than in person on the day after Thanksgiving. 
  • CHEER FROM HOME: Watch sports events, parades, and movies from home. 

Moderate risk activities

  • EAT OUTSIDE: Have a small outdoor dinner with family and friends who live in your community. Lower your risk by following the CDC’s recommendations for hosting gatherings and cook-outs.
  • GET A FEEL FOR FALL: Visit pumpkin patches or orchards. Use hand sanitizer before touching pumpkins or picking apples, wear masks, and make sure people are able to maintain social distancing.
  • GET ACTIVE: Attend small outdoor sports events with safety precautions in place or consider playing games outside.

High-risk activities — The CDC recommends that you avoid these higher-risk activities to help prevent the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • BE CAREFUL WHEN YOU SHOP: Avoid going shopping in crowded stores just before, on, or after, Thanksgiving. Consider ordering groceries and goods for pick up or delivery because stores will be crowded this time of year.
  • BEING A SPECTATOR: Be wary of participating in or being a fan in the stands at a crowded race or sporting event.
  • AVOID CROWDS: Be cognizant of maintaining social distance from people and consider avoiding crowded parades.
  • USE BETTER JUDGEMENT: The CDC says to avoid using alcohol and drugs that can cloud judgment and increase risky behaviors.
  • KEEP IT INTIMATE: Avoid attending large indoor gatherings with people from outside of your household. This could mitigate exposure to COVID-19.

The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ created Sacred Heart Villa (formerly St. Michael Convent) in 2003 with the vision of providing a personal care home for the Sisters and other seniors of southeastern Pennsylvania. The Sisters renovated St. Michael in order to create 35 personal care residential rooms. Sacred Heart Villa officially opened her doors to her first new residents in May 2004, with space for 57 Sisters and 40 other senior residents.

The facility has two residential buildings, a remodeled dining room, a new fireside lounge, library, café, and beauty shop. The chapel remains in the middle of the facility for it truly is the Heart of the community. Each new residential room provides an individual with privacy, safety, and security in an environment of beauty and grace. Mass is celebrated each day and is open to the public.

Sacred Heart Villa is now accepting residents. If you are seeking care for yourself or loved one, contact Sacred Heart Villa today at 610-929-5751 for a tour. You can also visit us at