Retirees Kept Apart by Covid Defy an Isolated and Lonely Future

Retirees Kept Apart by Covid Defy an Isolated and Lonely Future

  • The Phoenix Phellows feel the loss after 30 years of coffee together.

For years, the Phoenix coffee house on Lee Road was a haven for a group of old friends in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. It started when they were working, continued after they retired. They showed up every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m., told bad jokes and talked politics. They got out of the house.

Then came Covid-19. After meeting three days a week, many of them for 30 years, the Phoenix Phellows — as they call themselves — are largely stuck at home and fighting the strains of isolation even as their Cleveland suburb begins to reopen.

“If a list was made of who was going to still be inside in September, it was always going to be us,” said Art Brooks, a retired real-estate lawyer. “Even if things are better in January, forget us. We’re still going to be locked away because we’re the ones most vulnerable.”

As Covid-19’s U.S death toll tops 200,000, the virus’ fatal toll on the elderly has been well documented. Tens of thousands have died in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. The Phoenix Phellows reveal the hidden cost, one paid by retirees still living at home who were suddenly severed from active and fulfilling lives.