By Samantha Reddoch for Northern Colorado Life
Shopping for a senior living community has never been easy because the transition into a senior living community from living independently of others is fraught with unavoidable and dramatic change. The arrival and failed departure of COVID-19 has undoubtedly made shopping for a senior living community more stressful—now, in addition to a community’s aesthetics, activities, food quality, and general campus culture, folks need to worry about infection control, social distancing, visitation, and self-isolation protocols. Many people are probably wondering how resident morale and daily life has been effected; like, would it be a drag to move to The Villages nowadays?
Surprisingly, what COVID-19 hasn’t done is totally overcomplicate the process of looking for a senior living community. And, as paradoxical as it sounds, what residents have lost in socialization, they’ve gained in communication, especially at Good Samaritan—Loveland Village in Loveland.
Holly Turner has a soft voice that sounds like it might be heard reading books to children in a library, but instead it gently rings through the halls of Loveland Village where the staff and residents are described as being like a family: “[We’ve] always had a culture of wellbeing, and a strong sense of community. We have community wide events with all of the residents and their family members, and all of the staff and their family members” all things, according to Turner, that create a welcoming atmosphere of connectivity.
Even during times of social distancing and self-isolation, Turner and her staff do everything they can to ensure that residents stay socially connected because “one thing [Loveland Village has] learned more than anything through this pandemic is how to increase communication.” One example of increased communication is the Zoom Social Hour which gives residents a chance to convers
e virtually with one another; in fact, some residents choose to eat their supper during this time so that they can socialize during their meal. Additionally, in-person activities are still available (though class sizes are limited), and virtual activities have been implemented as well. One of Turner’s residents reports that “she loves [virtual classes] because she can attend them in her pajamas while in bed.”
Dining rooms all over the world facilitate togetherness, and the dining room at Loveland Village is no exception. Turner says of it, “Dining in our dining room has always been a very social event. And with COVID, our dining room is currently at one quarter of its capacity.” While that may not sound ideal, there is hope, especially now that 99% of the residents at Loveland Village have been vaccinated for COVID-19 with their second round already scheduled for the last days of January.
“The hope we have at Loveland Village is that [the vaccine] will give us the opportunity to reopen some of our activities, get those fitness classes going, get our Sunday church services going again, open up the dining room a little bit more. It gives us hope that we can get back to the culture and community that we once had.”
Turner, like everyone, knows that getting back to the pre-COVID culture and community requires infection control, and Loveland Village has been diligent about following local and state guidelines as well as its own. Currently, all staff members, and the residents in the skilled nursing and assisted living facilities are required to be tested twice weekly. Independent living residents may go into the wider community of Loveland for testing. If a resident or staff member tests positive, they are required to self-isolate for at least 14 days. Residents are asked to have only two visitors at a time unless the visit takes place out-of-doors, and all visitors are required to participate in a COVID-19 screening.
Life at Greeley Place, a Holiday Retirement community in Greeley, doesn’t look much different than life at Loveland Village. Jason Wade explains that they, too, are following state and local guidelines: “we’ve asked that residents restrict their visits to two visitors, and everyone is screened at the front door upon entry.” Staff and residents who show COVID-19 symptoms are required to be tested; if someone tests positive, they’re asked to self-isolate for the CDC recommended amount of time which is 10 days. Additionally, “all of the staff have signed a [COVID] pledge to be mindful of what we’re doing outside of these walls and away from work so that we’re not endangering residents.”
Greeley Place is also limiting its dining room capacity, and dining “is limited to invitation only so we can promote social distancing. The invitations are on a rotation so everyone gets a chance to join.” Activities are similar, but rather than wait for an invitation, residents choose classes from a schedule and then call the front desk to see if there’s availability. When asked if Greeley Place offers strictly virtual activities, Wade replied, “not currently, but it’s a good idea.”
Both Loveland Village and Greeley Place understand that shopping for a senior living community is stressful enough without COVID, so they’re doing their best to keep the process as simple as possible for potential new residents. Each campus offers virtual tours, and they do still offer in-person tours for those seriously interested, and they require that new residents either provide a negative COVID
-19 test or agree to self-isolate after moving in. While Turner and Wade would both agree that it’s challenging to give potential new residents a true idea of campus culture, the staff at Loveland Village strive to build “that connection with the potential person and their families, we try to [have] as much contact as possible. [It works] because we have some people that are moving in from California that have never stepped foot on our campus.”