The COVID-19 pandemic is by no means over, and by all accounts the infection rate is accelerating in many parts of the country, but it appears that many senior living providers have absorbed the initial blow and are beginning to re-open to new admissions.
So what does the “new normal” in senior living look like? It depends on whom you ask.
Ventas, one of the country’s largest senior housing owners, said in mid-May that about 30% of its communities were still closed to new admissions. Earlier this month the company said that move-ins were improving and that many of its communities were planning to open “to a more robust resident experience” in early July.
The communities that are in advanced stages of reopening have “a lifestyle that looks and feels much more like it did before the Covid crisis,” said J. Justin Hutchens, Ventas executive vice president, at an investor presentation earlier this month.
It seems unclear from this whether Ventas will offer a more robust experience or a pre-pandemic lifestyle.There will be strict admission and testing protocols before any new residents are allowed to move-in.
Some senior living providers will experiment with revised service offerings in hopes of warding off new infections.
Plans for restaurants operating at reduced capacities or with only socially distanced, outdoor dining can be adopted by providers looking to re-open dining rooms. Curbside service and meal deliveries can be leveraged for residents to engage with each other over themed meals and activities. Outdoor spaces can be repurposed into small gathering spots. And anti-microbial surfaces and ultraviolet light can be used as disinfectants and to protect residents.
Other pandemic preventive measures will include
…keeping residents from touching hard surfaces as much as possible…heightened hand washing and cleaning protocols…anti-microbial coatings and films applied to high-touch surfaces such as doorknobs and countertops in order to inhibit the growth of bacteria…
(Although COVID-19 is a virus, not a bacteria).
…touchless door openers to reduce touchpoints…increase(d) ventilation within a community’s common areas and residential units…ultraviolet radiation…
…UV robots cleaning rooms nightly, might become common as the industry moves forward…But they are costly, at around $30,000 per unit.
These are all wonderful ideas. How many of these get implemented is another story. Many of these initiatives are not only expensive, but require the diligence of daily execution from staffs that are already overworked. Unlike the rest of society, senior living communities can’t just “learn to live with it” because the older population is too vulnerable.
Re-opening senior housing is necessary not just for the industry, but for our aging population and their families who need the care, security and peace-of-mind that senior living communities can provide.
Move forward, but proceed with caution.