No news is good news. We’ve all heard that expression, uttered it ourselves, and relied on it to ease our own or others’ worries.

But if there is one place this old adage does NOT belong, it’s the senior living arena during the time of COVID-19.

Not being completely forthcoming about the virus in your community is a recipe for trouble. Transparency must extend to staff, residents, their families, prospects, stakeholders, the surrounding community, and the media.

What isn’t said in any given situation is often more telling than what is, and this is particularly true of cases and deaths from coronavirus. Reporting to the CDC is mandated and numbers are easily discovered, often with a quick Google search of a community’s name.

Even if you wanted to keep things quiet, you can’t.

But you really don’t want to.

Here are five reasons why:

  1. Transparency builds trust in your community. Communicating honestly and regularly (daily or weekly at least) builds bridges among all interested parties. Authentic, empathic and truthful information should include:
    • Protective measures being taken and how often
    • Potential risk factors (i.e., an essential medical worker tested positive)
    • Number of residents or staff who have tested positive or passed away
    • Expressions of comfort, condolence, compassion, and offers of counseling, if available
    • Opportunities to interact with you and others affected, ask questions, provide feedback
    • Actions taken to keep residents engaged physically, emotionally and socially
  2. Transparency eliminates panic and false assumptions. Leading with 100 percent transparency removes conjecture about how COVID-19 is affecting your community. Most stakeholders understand it’s nearly impossible for senior communities to be completely free of risk for the new virus that has claimed over 100,000 lives in the U.S. alone, as of this writing. They also understand that information is stabilizing and empowering, while being left in the dark breeds fear, doubt, mistrust and potentially unwise impulses, such as removing a loved one from senior living into a less safe environment.
  3. Transparency lets you share your good news. Paradoxically, the spotlight COVID-19 is shining on senior living has also presented ample opportunities for communities to showcase their positive stories. Countless communities have risen to the unparalleled occasion, creating novel, innovative ways to keep residents engaged in activities and socialization with staff, one another and their families. Technology has been a huge asset to senior living, but the human resources behind it are telling some of the most heartfelt, compelling stories of current times. When reporters and media outlets come looking for news about senior living, communities can capitalize on the opportunity to share the many good things that are happening.
  4. Transparency educates and builds relationships with the media. Most reporters are woefully uneducated about the differences among independent living, assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. As such, they miss the critical nuances of various living environments and care models and tend to lump them all together, painting a picture of mass infection in senior housing in general. Candid, respectful exchanges with media professionals allow communities not only to educate them about these crucial differences, but also to build relationships with them that will bode well for future coverage.
  5. Transparency builds your brand. It seems counterintuitive that a pandemic largely affecting senior citizens could ultimately strengthen a retirement community’s brand. But, consider the discourse COVID-19 is generating and, thus, the opportunity it presents for quality content. Senior communities can no longer afford to remain lax or sporadic on social media, blogs, marketing collateral, press releases, feature stories, outreach to prospects. With so many platforms from which to communicate, you can develop content and conversation that will associate you with hope, encouragement and thought leadership. Multiple channels of content on a topic that is (fortunately or not) going to remain relevant for quite some time also facilitate the growth of brand consistency.


IVY Marketing Group has nearly 30 years of experience in marketing and public relations for clients in senior housing. Like them, we have never seen times like this. However, we believe that the care, commitment and incredible ingenuity our friends and partners have demonstrated these past few months will bring them into a new and even better era of senior living.

We’d like to be part of that by sharing your wonderful stories and, should crisis come your way, helping you craft responsible, effective communications.