Senior Living Residents, Prospects Weigh in On Post-Pandemic Community Design, Construction

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By KERRY SMITH, EDITOR, ST. LOUIS CONSTRUCTION NEWS AND REVIEW MAGAZINE

Construction Manager PARIC Corp. and other industry partners recently completed a survey of senior living residents, prospects and staff about the impacts of COVID-19 and facility-related needs that builders are addressing now and into the future.

PARIC and fellow survey co-sponsors received feedback from 5,002 respondents nationwide – a 21 percent response rate. The survey, entitled “COVID-19 Sentiment Report: A Survey of Independent Living Desirability & Safety,” solicited input from independent living community residents, those on a waiting list to consider moving into such a community and senior living facilities staff. The survey was conducted in June and July.

What survey sponsors learned, according to PARIC Vice President/Senior Living Market Leader Todd Goodrich, included individual write-in comments from more than 7,000 persons about ways senior living communities can minimize the isolation that occurs during a pandemic.

“We were extremely happy with the level of participation in this survey,” said Goodrich. “This year has certainly been very difficult in many respects. We’re proud to be on a team that is creating, assembling, disseminating and distributing the information to our clients in hopes of making the future a little easier.”

Eighty-six percent of residents who responded indicated they were glad they moved to an independent senior community, with 77 percent responding that they were glad to be living in one. Seventy-four percent of prospects reported that their time frame for a move to independent senior living has not changed in light of the pandemic. Sixty-one percent of resident respondents said they felt safer in the senior community than in they would have in their homes.  Some 68 percent of independent living resident respondents reported feeling socially isolated during shelter-in-place orders, while 61 percent of prospects said they felt socially isolated. A total of 72 percent of independent living community staff requested a technology platform to streamline communications to families during the pandemic. Forty-seven percent of residents reported that their living community has used technology effectively to communicate with them and their loved ones, affording them opportunities for greater external engagement and connectivity.

Surveyed residents’ suggestions specific to technology included free high-speed Wi-Fi, an internal interactive TV channel and in-house website, establishment of their community as a Nextdoor.com neighborhood, and on-site technical support and education.

Building design recommendations from residents included visitation and dining areas with barriers/space to distance, larger common areas and improved ventilation/air exchange systems. PARIC Project Executive Mark Ellerbusch said the construction management firm continues making recommendations to its senior living clientele in how to adjust design elements to adapt to a post-pandemic world.

“Our recommendations include reevaluating the current structures that affect residents such as air, water, food, light and movement,” said Ellerbusch. “Specifically, as it relates to the building infrastructure, installing air filtration systems to improve air quality and reduce airborne transmission is vital. Ventilation also works in tandem with the air filtration to ensure fresh air is diluting viral particles.” New technologies are also emerging in the ultraviolet light and bipolar ionization sectors, he added, which are now becoming a more cost-effective option to help disinfect airborne pathogens.

To access the full survey, see http://www.paric.com/covid-19-survey-results/.

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