A Year later, senior living emerges from the dark
Spring brings the promise of rebirth, both figuratively and literally. New bulbs push their way through the soil, making beautiful metaphor of the way it feels to emerge from the doldrums of a long, hard winter.
Last spring, however, we were just awakening to a new and horrifying reality that a tiny virus was wreaking global havoc, affecting every facet of our daily lives. Senior living was hit particularly hard, with news of outbreaks, illness and death in some communities, casting a formidable shadow of doubt on all senior communities. The media’s feast on such news made it exponentially worse.
Fast forward a year later: with nearly three million residents and staff in senior living fully vaccinated against the coronavirus and 33 percent of all Americans (187 million) having received at least one dose, spring 2021 dawns with unparalleled hope and revitalized spirits.
Dr. David Gifford, chief medical officer for the American Health Care Association (representing thousands of American long-term care communities), was quoted in The New York Times as saying that the decline in cases of COVID in senior living is “amazing and exciting.” He added that he was “almost at a loss for words.”
The picture in senior living has brightened so much, in fact, it is worth sharing some comparative statistics between 2020 and 2021. Created by IVY Marketing Group, this infographic cites information from public health sources dating between February and April of 2021.
So, what does this mean?
Can residents, staff and stakeholders in senior living breathe a sigh of relief, celebrate the wonders of epidemiology, and go back to life as usual? Celebrate, yes. We’ve certainly earned it. Life as usual? Not so fast.
From a health standpoint, it will most likely be months before places outside the home will do away with the safety protocols with which we’ve become so familiar. Hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing have become second nature, a habit we would be wise not to completely kick.
Long before the pandemic, senior communities were adhering to strict hygienic practices, and while visitation and some outing restrictions have been lifted, several of the pandemic-induced safety measures are still enforced in senior living and will likely be for quite some time.
According to the founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), Colin Miller, “I don’t think there’s going to be a new normal, at least not anytime soon. It’s just going to be the next normal and the next normal.” He said this eight months ago, before COVID vaccine manufacturers were showing over 90 percent efficacy in clinical trials of over 80,000 people across all age groups.
Still, Miller has a point. While his prognostication of a continuous “next normal” sounds ominous, it’s good news from a business culture point of view. There are countless stories of how senior communities have sprung into novel action on a dime, proving that evolution doesn’t have to happen at a snail’s pace. Gone are the days when it took months and years for one change to be adopted.
In a comprehensive ICAA task force comprised of over 150 thought leaders recommending 900 ideas, strategies and tactics (whittled down to 35), a rosy view of the future of senior living was brought into focus. Six key strategies were identified:
- Improve interiors and exteriors of buildings
- Develop caring, passionate, purpose-driven staff
- Use technology to optimize health and socialization
- Establish a culture of positive aging
- Be prepared for crisis
- Share good news and positive stories to update perceptions of senior communities
In the year since the pandemic hit senior living full throttle, lightning speed adjustments have been made, new and valuable strategies have been implemented, nearly all seniors and staff in community living have been vaccinated, and, man, those comparative statistics between 2020 and 2021 are compelling!
A year ago, professionals in senior living were racking their brains trying to market to fearful prospects. Today, they can forge ahead with confidence and pride, not only in the literal health of their communities, but in the knowledge that when the unthinkable happened, their teams came together like the champions they are.
With 30 years of experience telling your stories and certified training in crisis communications, our IVY team of experts is uniquely qualified – and utterly thrilled – to help you show the world why your community is the first place people would want to be.
IVY MARKETING GROUP. COME GROW WITH US.