For seniors living alone during COVID-19, these can be especially challenging times. Buying groceries, staying in touch with loved ones and maintaining physical and mental health can be particularly hard. Adding to that stress is the fact that older adults are at higher risk of complications from novel coronavirus.
As stay-at-home and physical distancing measures continue, seniors might be considering alternative living arrangements. In a time when long-term care homes across Canada have been hit hard by COVID-19 outbreaks, many independent retirement communities are proving to be safe havens. Already following stringent standards and fully prepared to adapt as situations arise, places like independent living residences offer sanctuary and support during a crisis.
Here’s why independent living makes for a smart choice during a global pandemic.
At the best of times, seniors alone at home might still 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 same worry can go into overdrive.
On the other hand, seniors living in an independent retirement community feel more secure, knowing they’re protected by a few layers of defence. PARC Retirement Living, for example, provides an onsite wellness nurse, 24-hour staff support, high safety and sanitization protocols, and adaptable social, fitness and dining programs at each of its five residences. In terms of unforeseen circumstances, PARC’s emergency preparedness plan is designed to handle potential flu and other outbreaks. And being privately owned, PARC has the flexibility to quickly respond and adapt early on. 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.
For starters, PARC immediately began to discourage travel among its employees and shift individual roles to assist where most needed (including transitioning drivers to in-house positions). And by increasing hours and paying all staff a living wage, PARC continues to make sure workers like health care providers aren’t shared across multiple properties. All of which has helped to flatten the curve – and provided peace of mind to residents and their families. 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 already stressful, but more so when trying to physical distance while being afraid of contracting an illness. Extended family members also share in that stress, helping out where they can but still worrying about their loved one’s well-being.
Part of the appeal of independent senior living is having most daily tasks done for you. Cooking and cleaning, as well as 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 grocer and prepare a meal in their suite’s full kitchen. During a crisis though, having access to help and support can be particularly comforting. Additionally, PARC has opened new in-house marketplaces stocked with essentials at several communities – further taking away the worry of grocery store shopping during virus season. All reasons why seniors in independent living settings tend to feel less isolated and family members can relax knowing they’re part of an overall 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.
That said, independent living providers take pride in creating flavourful menus designed with senior nutrition in mind. Chef-prepared dishes are served up daily in dining spaces modified to follow COVID-19 physical distancing protocols. At PARC, residents can still enjoy each other’s company by observing two-person and four-person limits at small and large tables respectively. Commenting on executive chef Bob Fortin 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. Self-isolating seniors who live alone are particularly vulnerable to loss of meaningful 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. And to date, all five of the company’s Lower Mainland properties remain COVID-19-free. PARC’s successful response to the crisis shows that all residences are able and ready to take on future challenges – exactly where healthy, active seniors would want to be if another pandemic were to strike.
Would you like to learn more about PARC’s independent senior living lifestyle? Contact us for more information.