Opinion: Commentary: Senior Communities: Need vs. Want

Opinion: Commentary: Senior Communities: Need vs. Want

As the Coronavirus seems to have many Seniors in its crosshairs, all of our local communities are scrambling to keep residents safe. Many of them report cases of Covid, and are making enormous efforts to both care for those affected, and protect the rest of their residents. Most are on “lockdown” of one sort or another, with virtually all restricting both visitors and meal settings.

The very nature of most Senior Communities is “congregate,” meaning they are designed to promote social interaction as a health and wellness benefit. Most are designed with large activity rooms and dining halls. There are lots of staff and visitors of all sorts coming and going. When you add the fact that many residents have some sort of underlying health condition, you have a perfect storm for this type of virus.

The industry is doing its best to contain outbreaks and protect existing residents, and is working on solutions for going forward. In the meantime, however, what about older folks and their families who had been looking into communities for themselves or their loved ones? The temporary answer, it seems, depends on one’s “need.”

If someone needs help in their activities of daily living, or risks accident or injury by staying in their home, they are often being accepted into most of the communities offering Assisted Living and Memory Care. These are the “need-based” communities. However, many older folks and their families are hearing all the horror stories in the news and balking at that choice. In these circumstances, another option is to bring assistance into the home so that the negatives of “congregate living” are not in play — at least until things are more under control. We have a number of great home-care companies in our area for that alternative.

Other than the “need-based” communities, we have many that are “lifestyle,” or Active Adult/Continuing Care/Life Plan communities, where the focus is on independent living and socialization. They often have additional layers of Assisted and Memory Care to help if/when health deteriorates, but Seniors move there when they are active and independent.

Caution: Most folks would be wise to think twice about doing so in the current environment, and many/most of those communities are not accepting new “lifestyle” residents at this time.

For those making the decision to shelve “lifestyle” changes, at least for the time being, the alternative to communities has always been to downsize into condominiums that are near social and dining/shopping areas. These give people the benefit of a downsize, move them closer to resources and social opportunities, but do not have the current risk of congregate settings. Our region is blessed with an abundance of such “private” condominiums where folks can be social – or choose not to be.

In this environment, determine your “need” versus the “want” of the lifestyle option, and then do your homework. Not an easy task, but there are plenty of honest professionals locally to assist.

Pete Crouch is a Seniors Real Estate Specialist with McEnearney Associates, Realtors. Pete is also a Board Member of At Home in Alexandria, one of our local Senior Villages.