As stay-at-home and physical distancing measures continue, seniors might be considering alternative living arrangements. And while many long-term care homes across Canada have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, independent-living residences have been a safe haven. Already following stringent safety standards and ready to adapt as situations arise, these communities offer sanctuary and support in a crisis.
Take PARC Retirement Living: our staff and residents received their first vaccine doses in mid-March 2021, and will be receiving the second dose in the next few months. Throughout the pandemic, PARC has remained 100 percent up-and-running by following strict safety practices. Our residents have been able to continue enjoying PARC’s extensive roster of activities, programming and dining services, knowing that our staff is deep-cleaning and sanitizing on an hourly basis. This will continue, as B.C. rides out the remainder of the COVID-19 wave.
Read on for more reasons why independent living is a smart choice during a global pandemic.
At the best of times, seniors living alone at home might worry about contracting an illness like the flu, or suffering a fall. But when a pandemic comes along, with the potential to hit older adults particularly hard, that worry can go into overdrive.
On the other hand, seniors living in an independent retirement community can feel secure, knowing they’re protected by multiple layers of defence. PARC, for example, provides an onsite wellness nurse, 24-hour staff support, strict safety and sanitization protocols and adaptable social, fitness and dining programs at each of its five residences. To handle unforeseen circumstances, such as flu and other outbreaks, PARC has an emergency preparedness plan in place. And being privately owned, PARC has the flexibility to quickly respond and adapt as situations arise. So when national and provincial COVID-19 measures were launched back in March, it was a seamless process to step up safety protocols and implement new ones.
Right away, PARC began to discourage travel among its employees, and shift individual roles to assist where most needed (including transitioning drivers to in-house positions). By increasing hours and paying all staff a living wage, PARC ensures workers and health care providers aren’t shared across multiple properties.
PARC also established clear COVID procedures for prospective and new residents. We now offer PARC Safe Tours for prospective residents to view amenity spaces, available suites and outdoor facilities (with a few areas limited to vaccinated individuals). During these tours, prospective residents must observe basic safety precautions by filling out a COVID information sheet, undergoing a temperature check, sanitizing their hands and wearing a mask. When moving in, new residents who have been vaccinated simply take a rapid COVID test or PCR test provided by PARC’s Wellness Nurse. A three-day in-suite isolation follows, giving the new arrival plenty of time to settle in and unpack prior to joining the larger resident population.
Thanks to all of the precautions mentioned above, our residents are generally free to come and go. And our residents and their families enjoy peace of mind. As Summerhill PARC resident John says:
“PARC acted quickly with the necessary measures. Each phase of the shutdown was implemented in such a manner that it had minimum impact on residents. Perhaps more importantly was the training and involvement of the staff, who have overcome difficult circumstances to look after and care for their residents. We all owe them a massive bear hug when this is all over.”
Chores like prescription pick-ups, grocery shopping and doctor visits can become daunting for seniors living alone, especially so during a pandemic. Long lineups, crowded aisles and getting to appointments on time are stressful, but they’re even more so when trying to physical distance and worrying about contracting an illness. Extended family members feel the stress, too, helping out where they can, but still worrying about their loved one’s well-being.
Part of the appeal with independent senior living is having most daily tasks done for you. Cooking and cleaning, and transportation to and from personal appointments, are no longer a burden on residents or their families. Of course, seniors can still choose to shop at their favourite grocery store and prepare a meal in their suite’s full kitchen. But during a crisis, access to help and support can be particularly comforting. Last year, PARC opened new in-house marketplaces stocked with essentials at several communities – further easing the worry of grocery shopping during virus season. For all of these reasons, seniors in independent living settings tend to feel less isolated, and family members can relax knowing they’re part of a safe and healthy community.
Healthy meals amid good company
With access to groceries and supplies likely limited during a crisis, older adults living alone might be hard-pressed to maintain a healthy diet. Yet as we age, our dietary needs change; not being able to prepare regular balanced meals can negatively impact our health and well-being, and potentially weaken our body’s response to illness.
Independent living providers take pride in creating flavourful menus designed with senior nutrition in mind. At PARC, we serve up chef-prepared dishes in dining spaces modified to follow COVID-19 physical distancing protocols. PARC residents can still enjoy each other’s company by observing two-person and four-person limits at small and large tables respectively. Commenting executive chef Bob Fortin on and his team at Summerhill PARC, resident Mary says:
“Bob’s meals are number one! He’s the best, as are his helpers.”
Ongoing social connections
Also affecting seniors’ physical and mental fitness is social connectivity. Interacting with others can help lower blood pressure and risk of disease, while feeling isolated can lead to high blood pressure and depression. Seniors who live alone are particularly vulnerable to isolation and loss of personal connections, and they might lack the technology skills to interact online.
By design, independent living communities foster social connections via common spaces like dining rooms, games rooms and outdoor gardens and patios. It’s easier to make friends in a residence than at home on one’s own. And participating in onsite classes with like-minded individuals can help motivate seniors to do more. Throughout the recent crisis, PARC has maintained physical distancing in all gathering spaces, and hosted multiple classes in smaller groups. At the same time, residents have been encouraged to connect with family and friends via FaceTime, Zoom and other online platforms.
“We are truly a community, there’s a feeling of caring that is shared by all. During this pandemic, we all agree that everything that can be done to keep us safe is taking place. Our families can rest assured that we are in safe capable hands.”
– Patricia, Summerhill PARC resident
A seniors lifestyle for the future
A trailblazer in the senior living industry, PARC continues to influence other retirement communities with its signature Independent Living+ program. Empowering older adults to pursue healthy, active and full lives in resort-style residences, the PARC package also includes such innovative features as an in-house wellness nurse and the PARC Fit exercise program. And it’s more affordable than you might think.
Most recently, PARC has been working hard to keep residents, their families and employees safe. PARC’s successful response to this crisis proves our residences are able and ready to take on future challenges – and they’re exactly where healthy, active seniors would want to be if another pandemic struck.
Would you like to learn more about PARC’s independent senior living lifestyle? Contact us for more information.