For the first time since last summer, the percentage of adults ages 65+ hospitalized with COVID-19 is lower than the percentage of those ages 26 to 45. An AARP update cited the CDC in saying this is a sign the coronavirus vaccines are working.
As our nation breathes a collective sigh of relief, the vaccine impact on senior living communities is also being felt. Doors are reopening. Residents are starting to gather and socialize in small groups again. And now that spring has sprung, many seniors are ready to get back into group exercise or resume their favorite social activities. But the impact of the virus will linger for some time to come.
Vaccine Clinics are Ongoing
It’s likely that most senior living communities will complete the initial phases of vaccinations for their residents and staff this year. Many retirement communities were able to obtain and distribute the vaccine to their residents and staff, and several are still in the process of setting up vaccination clinics for this purpose.
As a Life Care Services community, Newcastle Place has priority access to the vaccine. Our partnership with CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens allows us to set up vaccine clinics on our campus. This makes it very convenient for residents to schedule and receive their shot, and removes the need for them to venture out in public and risk infection. Our residents and staff were among the first in the country to be able to get the vaccine, and by the time you read this article, everyone in our community should be fully vaccinated.
Social Distancing Will Remain a Factor for Some
The extended isolation that we all experienced in the last year hasn’t been good for our health. As humans, it’s important to our emotional and mental well-being that we can see our loved ones and friends in person, hug them and spend time with them. But even as vaccinations become more available, and strict visitor bans are being lifted, social distancing may still be needed. This is because while seniors have priority for vaccines, and may already have been immunized, their family members and other visitors may not be receiving the vaccine for a while. If you or someone you know is in this situation, remember to nurture those social connections, using technology or other means.
Group Activities are Resuming
Staff members at senior living communities have spent the last year creating safe ways to keep residents connected, active and engaged. Now residents and their family members and friends are slowly being reunited in person. At Newcastle Place, residents continued to safely participate in activities throughout the pandemic. With spacious common areas and 52 acres of lush, landscaped ground and walking paths, there are myriad opportunities to safely participate in groups while socially distancing.
Safety Measures Will Remain in Place
The coronavirus is still spreading, and variants continue to be reported. Until a significant portion — 75 to 80% — of the population is vaccinated, and we achieve herd immunity, it’s likely that safety measures such as social distancing and mask wearing will remain in place at most senior living communities. Even if you’ve been fully vaccinated, you should still bear the following in mind:
- Keep wearing a mask. The virus is still circulating, and it continues to mutate into new and contagious variants. Wearing a mask and social distancing will protect you until we reach herd immunity.
- Continue to be vigilant. The authorized vaccines have been tested and found to be highly effective, but they won’t completely prevent infection or its side effects. You can still catch COVID-19 and become sick, even if you don’t end up in hospital.
- Be aware you may be asymptomatic. Even though you’ve been vaccinated, there’s a chance you can carry the virus and not realize it. Take precautions not to infect someone who hasn’t yet been vaccinated.
- Be selective about visits. Once you’ve been fully vaccinated, you can spend time with other fully vaccinated people. You may also gather with unvaccinated people from one household as long as no one is at high risk.
- Get tested if you feel sick. If you develop a cough, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea or other symptoms of COVID-19, see your doctor and get tested right away.
- Keep your vaccine record with you. Some seniors are laminating their cards, others are taking a photo and storing it on their phone.
- Stay put for now. More people are traveling, but from experience we know a surge in cases follows a surge in travel. Wait to hear it’s fully safe before making plans.
- Be prepared for a booster shot. There’s still no data on how long this batch of vaccine immunity will last. We may end up needing a yearly COVID-19 shot, like the flu shot.
Strong Partnerships Make the Difference
The vaccine impact on senior living communities has been positive. A recent survey conducted since the COVID-19 vaccination rollout shows more than 60% of senior living organizations are upbeat about their future growth and expansion plans, remain financially sound, and are optimistic they’ll be welcoming new residents soon.
Our partnership with Life Care Services, the nation’s senior living leader, provided us with expert guidance, resources and programs to weather the storm. An example of this is EverSafe 360°™, an innovative program developed in response to the pandemic. It raises the bar in overall safety throughout our community, ensuring residents continue to safely enjoy the services, amenities, activities and wellness programs they deserve.
Learn how we’re focusing on the future at Newcastle Place, and how being a part of our community can help you gear up for better times ahead. Contact us today at (262) 387-8800.