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Pandemic upshot: Seniors are having second thoughts about where to live

September 17, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

An elderly residents walks inside deserted John Knox Village, a retirement community in Pompano Beach, Florida on March 21, 2020. - Almost one billion people were confined to their homes worldwide as the global coronavirus death toll topped 12,000 and US states rolled out stay-at-home measures already imposed across swathes of Europe. More than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of virtual lockdown -- including in the US's three biggest cities of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- with more states expected to ramp up restrictions. (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP) (Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images)

With over 70,000 residents and staff members at nursing homes and assisted living facilities dying of Covid-19, and others under strict quarantine rules, the elderly are facing down concerns that living in a communal facility could be dangerous.

Some people who planned to move to senior housing are now choosing to live independently rather than communally.

More than 70,000 residents and staff members in nursing homes and assisted living facilities had died of Covid-19 by mid-August, according to the latest count from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Nor is data reported for people living independently in senior housing.

Nervousness about senior living has spread as a result, and in July, the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care reported the lowest occupancy rates since the research organization started tracking data 14 years ago.

In a separate NIC survey of senior housing executives in August, 74% said families had voiced concerns about moving in as Covid cases spiked in many parts of the country.

(While states have started to allow visits outside at nursing homes and assisted living centers, most facilities don't yet allow visits inside — a situation that will increase frustration when the weather turns cold. )

Mary Kazlusky, 76, resides in independent living at Heron's Key, a continuing care retirement community in Gig Harbor, Washington, which is doing all this and more with a sister facility, Emerald Heights in Redmond, Washington.

It calls on operators to institute a host of changes, including establishing safe visiting areas for families both inside and outside; providing high-speed internet services throughout communities; and ensuring adequate supplies of masks and other forms of personal protective equipment for residents and staff, among other recommendations.

More than half of middle-income seniors — nearly 8 million older adults — can't afford independent living or assisted living communities, according to a 2019 study.

"Properties with occupancy rates of 90% or higher are going to be able to withstand the pressures of Covid-19 significantly more than properties with occupancy below 80%, in my opinion," said Mace of the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care.

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