The retirement community sector is working hard to keep seniors safe. However, retirement communities did not experience the same outcomes as Ontario’s long-term care homes. The number of retirement communities that went into outbreak, the number of residents infected with COVID-19 and the incidence rate was significantly less than what was experienced in long-term care. All while retirement communities were required to follow the same Directives and guidance from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Many changes were brought into homes to help protect our seniors but also making life seem more challenging for many. The use of masks is one new difficult change for seniors. Many seniors already struggle with hearing difficulties and now they are unable to read lips and find carrying on a conversation to be challenging. Unfortunately the only way around this is to help educate everyone. The discussion should include the fact that wearing a mask provides protection to droplets being expelled from an individual’s mouth or nose. As an added bonus, a mask can also be a barrier to prevent you from touching your mouth or nose with unclean hands, while out and about in the community.

But what about social distancing? Seniors need companionship and that is one of the most vital components of living within a closed community. A safe neighbourhood for our loved ones is what we all want. We are working hard to ensure residents are getting the social interaction they need and enjoy as part of living in a retirement community – seniors are never alone. They are able to participate in abridged, socially distanced activities and meals to ensure a sense of community and social connection. Our home, Woodhall Park Retirement Village and other retirement homes have done this because we all take the heightened risk of COVID-19 to our residents as their highest responsibility.

An iron ring has effectively been established around retirement communities, protecting residents, staff, and family members. For many months it was necessary to close the doors to all visitors. This was rough on everyone. Staff were upset to see families and residents separated and families struggled to know if their loved one was safe. Residents often could not understand where everyone went. Even now with numbers down from the first wave, visitation of family members is very limited and protected but safety and health is vital to our vulnerable.

How long will all these new normal changes be in place? The answer is probably a very long time. We cannot predict the future or how long before Covid-19 is under control, but we do know if these protective methods keep our seniors happy and healthy, we will continue to practice them. The world is changing for everyone in every walk of life and the “new normal” will have to adjust with the times.