By Steve Moran

It was so exciting when we heard the Covid-19 vaccine was in a rapid testing phase. And then on December 11, 2020, the FDA announced emergency approval of the first Covid vaccine. Senior living was near the top of the list for receiving the vaccine – workers and residents.

There was hope that this Covid monster was rapidly on its way to being tamed.

Now we are in a second wave that is easily more discouraging than the first. Some things are better, the vaccine is providing protection and significantly reducing infections, severity, and deaths, in those who have taken it. It continues to do serious damage to the skeptics. And because of the large swaths of unvaccinated people, it continues to mutate and kill.

9 Challenges

There are 9 huge challenges in this second wave:

  1. Discouragement – People are legitimately burned out and bummed out. The added burden of Covid precautions is exhausting and time-consuming.
  2. Fear – People are rightfully afraid of this vaccine. They know logically the vaccine protects but most people are still not getting infected and most people who are infected won’t die or have long-lasting effects. But some are getting really sick, some are having long-lasting effects and some are dying. The fear is very real.
  3. Political fault lines – While most senior living leaders have embraced the vaccine not all have. And both sides have dug in their heels and are angry at the other side. Many frontline workers continue to be afraid of the vaccine. These fault lines hurt morale and lead to unnecessary fear and anger.
  4. Confusion – We think the more data the better, but there is so much data being pumped out every day. And some of it is conflicting and confusing. And some is not real data at all but lies. There is legitimately a lot we still don’t know about the disease and how to best protect ourselves, our teams, and our residents.
  5. Staffing – The world of employment is completely upside down. There are not enough workers, pay rates for frontline workers are going up, and a lot of those workers have better choices in terms of working conditions and pay.
  6. Excellence – Excellence has never been harder to achieve. Not having enough staff makes it hard. Working with masks and other protocols makes it hard. Limitation on visitors makes it hard.
  7. Marketing – Marketing has changed. People are doing a lot of research online, getting smarter, and have higher expectations.
  8. Sales – Sales has changed, there are more virtual tours, masks during tours make it harder to read prospects. Covid protocols make it harder for residents to connect with each other making senior living less appealing.
  9. The Path Forward – There seems to be a near-universal belief that senior living will never be the same again. But what that next generation of senior living will look like is murky at best. What will boomers want? What will they be able to afford? How will we staff it? What will programming look like?

Ultimately senior living will survive and there will be many thrivers, but also some failures. The thrivers will be nimble, willing to embrace change, to try new things to fail forward. It is an exciting time. We at Senior Living Foresight will continue to talk about excellence, new ideas, and new ways to lead, to program, to do senior living.