Julie Lineberry first moved to Goodwin House Alexandria as an independent resident in January of 2020, just two months before initial lockdown occurred due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

The center sits on a spacious campus on Fillmore Avenue in historic Alexandria, Virginia. It’s an Episcopal institution that provides assisted living, memory and health care, and independent living options to hundreds of seniors. Lineberry describes the community during COVID as “the nicest little goldfish bowl I could’ve ended up into,” adding “you can see everything, you just couldn’t experience everything.”  

Originally from Ohio, Lineberry made her way to Washington, DC in 1972 following her involvement in the Missouri state election committee for the second Nixon campaign, which allowed her to work for the Inaugural Committee in DC. Eventually, she gained a job in the White House personnel, working with various commissions. In her words, when she received the offer, “I didn’t even ask what the job was; I just said I’d do it.” 

Soon after the Watergate scandal– the illegal activities of the Nixon administration which resulted in the President’s resignation– and the ensuing events, she decided to switch careers, explaining “I had sort of had it with the whole Washington mill.” She then started her second career, at age 26, as a real estate agent, settling permanently in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. She chose real estate because “I’d been selling candidates all the time… how hard could it be to sell a house?”

Following 44 years in the real estate industry and the deaths of both her husband and her mother, Lineberry and her cat moved into an independent living apartment at Goodwin. After only “six weeks of knowing what things were like” typically at Goodwin, and just shy of her 72nd birthday on March 11th — The center “all just sort of went down, [the virus] closed it down,” Lineberry said.

She describes the first few months as extremely abnormal to typical life at Goodwin. Like the outside world, “if you didn’t have a family, like you didn’t have a spouse, you ate by yourself.” “The dining rooms were closed”, yet residents saw their neighbors in passing in the halls or in the socially distanced common room. 

Primarily though, residents stayed within their own quarters, and Lineberry attested that “24/7… [most residents] were watching a lot of TV.” Lineberry herself gained an interest in foreign films. Meals, she said, “came individually packaged in a bag hung on your door each morning, lunch, or dinner, and you ordered it on little pieces of paper.” She added that the bags were made of “pastel plastic.”

 Safety protocols also increased. Lineberry broke the crown of a tooth in the early months of the pandemic but “could not go to the dentist for seven months” due to safety measures. Residents abided by Goodwin regulations not just for their individual safety, but for the safety of the wider residency — Lineberry estimated that “125 or more” of the residents are over the age of 90. To go on visits to the Goodwin health building, on the same campus as Lineberry’s building, residents made their appointments five days in advance — hard news for couples at Goodwin with one spouse living in the healthcare building and one in independent living. She described the paradox of living in a large senior center during a time of individual isolation, saying residents “were with people, [but] you couldn’t actually gather with them.” 

An avid observer of the community around her, Lineberry said those first initial months among the seniors in the home contained “quite a bit of loneliness.” She explained that the residents were “very aware” of the virus that could harm the over 1,200 members of the broader Goodwin community, and that this knowledge created a common attitude of “it’s coming”. She said the center provided tablets for zooming, adding, “people got to be really good at zoom, or they got very lonely if they refused to go on zoom, as they couldn’t see their family.” She added that masks created a disconnect between residents.

Not to say that quarantine didn’t supply some silver linings for Lineberry. In late June of 2020, she acquired permission from the center to pick up a “little orange cat” from a nearby rescue foundation. After consulting virtually with a vet, Lineberry brought her new pet, Jasper, home to her apartment at Goodwin House. Additionally, through the activities offered daily at Goodwin house, she rediscovered her high school love of art — painting several canvases with images of flowers and her view from her apartment window, as well as working on a group project to beautify the common room with a painted quilt. She also has enjoyed working in her small garden box on the Goodwin campus. She said, “we could leave, we could go anywhere on the campus, and we have a huge campus.” Ultimately though, “we were so safe… that was the silver lining, I was very healthy.”

 According to Lineberry, living in a quarantine bubble such as Goodwin has its ups and downs. And to outsiders, residents may even appear “lucky.” Lineberry said, “my peers, my friends…who were on the outside…I think half of them were like jealous that I was in [the center] and I had all the food and toilet paper I needed and masks.” She mentioned the gift of a “continuous supply of toilet paper” several times. Lineberry said of the leadership,“they were so protective of us that hardly any residents even tested positive for COVID”.

Lineberry is hopeful for the future at Goodwin, and the wider community of Alexandria. She expressed, “June first was a turning point.” Now, she says, she can go to the grocery store, and she can return to showing homes in person with her real estate agency. She can also go to her local church for mass — a service she was unable to participate in in-person for the first 18 months, as the only religious services at the center were Episcopalian. Though the residents of Goodwin House have recently returned to wearing masks as the Delta variant spikes, a sense of community also has returned to the campus, as Lineberry just recently helped host a tea party for several residents. 

Ultimately, she wishes for a time when the constant “level of tension” dissipates, and “where people are not as physically afraid.”