Original Column by Nancy Weinbeck, Bayview CEO can be found here.
I keep my eye on senior living trends, and I’m seeing split opinions on the impacts of COVID-19 on the future of senior living.
On one side of the fence is the consumer who expresses a desire to delay or cancel moves into senior living communities to maintain freedom and diminish the risk of infection.
On the other side of the fence is the consumer who wants to move as soon as possible to a senior living community for exactly the same reasons: to maintain freedom and diminish the risk of infection. So who is right?
As CEO of Bayview, a proudly independent non-profit life plan community in lower Queen Anne, I can tell you what we see from our vantage point.
We’ve had the joy of welcoming new residents to our campus, but we’ve also had “nearly” new residents delay their moves or cancel altogether until “there’s a vaccine” or “the pandemic is over” or cancel all together.
Moving to a senior living community is a big change from living alone in your own home, emphasis on “alone.” At communities like Bayview, though you may live alone in your apartment, your home is the entire campus and community.
Though we do not encourage residents to visit in each other’s apartments during COVID times, there are plenty of friends and neighbors milling about, socially distanced, wearing masks and engaging with each other and staff in all our common areas. This is in addition to residents engaging virtually in a variety of programs, as well as with families and each other, through Zoom and other technologies.
During the pandemic, can families enter inside Bayview and other similar communities? Not yet, per local, state and federal guidelines regarding licensed areas like assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing. Can residents leave the campus to meet with families? Yes. Does outdoor visitation happen at Bayview? Yes.
We and other communities are awaiting further guidance to determine when visitation can move indoors, which we believe will happen soon.
One hears that COVID-19 is rampant in senior living. Unfortunately, many nursing homes have lost precious lives to COVID-19. But life plan communities like Bayview, most of which are nonprofit and have different levels of care, have seen minimal to zero infections. *As I am writing this, Bayview, which includes residential living, assisted living, memory care, skilled nursing and our intergenerational children’s center, has had no known cases among residents or staff since the start of the pandemic. Life plan communities, with professional staff trained in infection control, offer a safer environment than managing alone in one’s home. Not only are strict infection control protocols in place, but residents can have their needs met without having to leave their home through meal delivery, 24/7 nursing staff, housekeepers, maintenance, security and other support staff.
The beauty and power of any senior living community comes from the strong bonds that develop among and between residents and staff. COVID can’t stop the love, support, friendship and connection that is the gestalt of a senior living community. But a community can stop COVID and maintain friendships and connection, a key to quality of life. We hope you’ll consider joining us on our side of the fence. We’ll share virtual hugs along the way.
*Please refer to our COVID-19 page for current updates.