As the United States gradually reopens after being locked in due to the coronavirus pandemic for nearly four months, senior living communities can draw inspiration from the operation of various businesses under the new normal.
Vendors who wish to reopen the dining room can adopt plans that reduce the restaurant’s capacity or only in the outdoor dining room with a longer social distance. Roadside services and meal delivery services can get used to allowing residents to interact with each other on themed meals and activities. The outdoor space can get rearranged into a small gathering place. Antibacterial surfaces and ultraviolet light can be used as disinfectants and protect residents.
East Coast Sharon Brooks, outgoing President Glynn Brooks, said that because the industry will suffer at least another 18 months due Covid-19. The operators waiting for the vaccine will not be prepared enough to maintain operations or to keep residents and work in the short term The safety of personnel. During the Perkins Eastman webinar, the meeting had gotten held on Tuesday.
There are four stages of the pandemic: the crisis model of the early weeks; contain the virus in April and May; management; Brooks said that the industry would be in the “next to normal” state before the vaccine is available. At present, the life of the elderly is in the management stage to ensure that as the pandemic continues, the residents will be taken care of, and the prospective immigrants and their relatives will be taken care of in senior housing. In a still turbulent situation, operators who are still busy responding to the crisis need to prioritize care and make plans.
She said: “The best scientific thinking shows that to return to normal levels, it will take 18 to 24 months, and our community simply can’t wait for 18 to 24 months.”
The first step in accepting new reality is to embrace the fear of many unknowns. The mobility of the virus and the response of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities have informed the public about the virus.
One of the biggest concerns is the reopening of dining services, which have gotten reduced to delivering meals in guest rooms in the past three months. During the pandemic, employees do not have to wait at the table, and many people will often not wear a mask when they sit down to eat.
Also, eating is mainly a social activity, and people gathered together to increase the risk of spreading the virus. Joe Hassel, head of Perkins Eastman, said service providers need to find ways to reduce the number of parties while still enhancing the social composition of catering.
The company has determined how the supplier is responsible for these situations. Providers should implement a reservation system, including phone calls or text messages to remind residents when the scheduled time is up. The host station can be relocated outside the restaurant premises so that the host can further control the aggregation process. That also allows the landlord to control the flow of people in and out of the restaurant.
He said: “The key here is to give ownership to the owner.”
Perkins Eastman’s research shows that suppliers expect a 30% to 40% increase in takeaway meals. That shows that for residents who still do not want to visit the dining room in the short term, meal delivery must still be an option. The kitchen can accommodate these residents by making a selection of takeaway meals and lunch boxes, which can get prepared in a residential unit. These theme kits can also get used to connecting residents through virtual theme nights.
Monica McAfee, chief marketing and innovation officer at John Knox Village, said happy hour also got reimagined. The Orange City, Florida, continuous care retirement community transformed its large quarterly happy hour into a “bar cart” concept by installing a golf cart in front of each building.
She said: “If you go golfing and know that someone is running around to buy things for you, residents will like it.”
Removing touchpoints, better disinfection
Another fear to overcome involves preventing residents from touching hard surfaces as much as possible. Hassel said that in the foreseeable future, high levels of handwashing and cleaning procedures would get maintained. However, these procedures will be transferred to the backstage to give residents a normal feeling.
Robert Soler, vice president of BIOS biology research and technology, said that as suppliers continue to manage through pandemics, antimicrobial coatings and films will become increasingly popular. These materials are applied to high-contact surfaces such as door handles and countertops to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
Some suppliers are distributing non-contact door openers to residents to reduce contact points. These types of devices may get used to pressing keypads and elevator buttons, and come with antibacterial materials on the endpoints, and can get used as a stylus on touch screen devices.
Another thing that providers can improve the safety of residents is to increase the ventilation of community public areas and residential units. Soler says this ensures that more exhaust fans dilute the internal air.
UV radiation has potential in future disinfection programs, but not all UV light is the same. Soler recommends using UV-C lighting, which has gotten proven to kill coronavirus in seconds without harming the skin. That has disadvantages. For ultraviolet light to work, there must be a direct line of sight. Besides, ultraviolet light degrades materials and generates ozone, and this light does not last long.
Soler believes that with the development of the industry, ultraviolet robots and robots that clean the room every night may become very common. But they are expensive, about $30,000 per unit.
However, these are not a panacea.
He said: “I think this is a combination of all the methods you should try in your own space to ensure that you are disinfecting at different levels.”
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