What to Expect in Senior Living This Fall
The warm weather has lent itself to socially distanced in-person connection outdoors during the pandemic. This past summer, senior living operators brought their communities outside to sustain vital programming, with everything from family visits to yoga classes to outdoor tours.
But summer is nearly over. What will happen when the cold comes in the north and outdoor operations are no longer possible? What if there’s a second wave of COVID-19 and another round of lockdowns?
While so much remains unknown about the trajectory of this pandemic, we do know which strategies can help communities stay connected and safe while they must remain inside and socially distant. Here’s what senior living leaders should consider when planning for this fall and what they can do to prepare now.
Operators Need Technology for Crisis Communications
In the event of a COVID-19 resurgence in senior living communities this fall, operators should leverage what they learned from the beginning of the pandemic. One important takeaway is that any disease prevention strategy must include a robust crisis communication system.
As we saw in March, the virus moves fast. Normal operations one week could very easily be followed by a second lockdown the next. Operators need to be ready to keep all community stakeholders informed and assured should there be another major outbreak.
One great example of crisis communications in action is Friendship Senior Options’ plan from the outset of the pandemic. Once cases began appearing in the community, FSO enacted its communication plan to:
- Notify community members of safety protocols and disease screening processes.
- Deliver live updates about the state of the outbreak in the community.
- Provide peace of mind.
This successful multi-path approach relied on various channels like email, app, and print. This method ensures audiences with different communication preferences receive all important messages.
State Governments Encourage Senior Living Communities to Use Technology to Fight Social Isolation
States want to make sure their senior living communities are equipped to stave off not only COVID-19, but another equally pressing public health concern for older adults, loneliness.
New Jersey recently announced a bill that would require senior living operators to develop plans to prevent social isolation among residents during public emergencies. Under this bill, communities would need to have appropriate senior living technology to help execute these plans when in-person contact is deemed unsafe.
Other states like Wisconsin have released guidelines for ways to keep residents engaged while in isolation. Among these guidelines are a number of technology recommendations, including personal tech devices, smart speakers like Amazon Alexa, video meeting apps like Zoom, and other communication platforms.
Activities Need Virtual Options
While many northern communities still have a month or two left of warm weather for outdoor activities, eventually they’ll need to return indoors. In some regions, like in California or along the Gulf Coast, communities may need to shelter due to nearby wildfires or hurricane weather. Once inside, common area capacity restrictions may make socially distanced interaction difficult.
Whether this is the case or governments announce another stay-at-home order, seniors need options to stay active and engaged in their own rooms. Activities directors can introduce virtual senior living activities that are accessible via in-room TVs and tech devices:
- Live streams of fitness classes and other group activities
- Virtual events on video conferencing platforms like Zoom
- A community engagement platform that allows residents to connect with one another
Virtual life enrichment options aren’t just beneficial during the pandemic. They can also increase attendance and accessibility to senior living activities for residents who have mobility issues or temporary illnesses.
Residents and Families Can Connect through Technology When They Can’t Meet in Person
When outdoor visitation season comes to an end or if visitations are restricted again, senior living operators can provide residents with digital ways of connecting with loved ones.
One way to do this is to help residents set up video calls with friends and family. Staff and dedicated tech assistants can facilitate video call scheduling for residents who might be unfamiliar with platforms like Zoom or FaceTime.
Another way is to set up a family engagement platform like Caremerge’s. This channel enables staff members to send picture and video updates of residents, and family members can set up video calls. Staff can also use the app to answer questions directly about a resident’s health and wellbeing when the front desk is flooded with calls and emails.
Attract the Next Generation of Residents
The pandemic doesn’t mean communities have to put expansion and occupancy goals on hold. They’ll just need to find ways to showcase their communities digitally.
Operators can use virtual tours to allow prospective residents to get to know the community while they’re unable to visit. Plus, digital community engagement platforms like Caremerge let folks on the waitlist talk to current residents, check out community events, and start making connections before they move in.
Building the right systems now to protect and engage your community during a public emergency doesn’t only serve current residents – it serves your future residents, too. Sign up for a demo to learn more about how Caremerge can support your community throughout the pandemic and beyond.