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Posted by Positive Aging Community on 07/08/2020

Positive Aging in the Age of Coronavirus

Positive Aging in the Age of Coronavirus

COVID-19 changed everything. The impact on the senior living industry has been profound, and it will be felt for decades—if not forever. While trying to protect a vulnerable population, the industry has had to navigate changing regulations and expectations, staffing and equipment shortages, and negative media coverage. 

There is no denying that this crisis highlighted areas where the industry can—and should—be improved. However, it is also important to celebrate the many successes derived from duress—from a smile or a laugh broadcast through cyberspace to a connection fortified during socially distant activities. Senior living employees at every level have worked tirelessly to keep a generation safe—and to generate happiness in the midst of a crisis. 

As we take the first steps toward a new normal, Positive Aging Sourcebook wants to take this opportunity to celebrate the senior living industry. While the crisis is not yet over, this industry has already overcome many challenges. There is a way to age positively in the age of coronavirus. Let’s find it together.

Enormous Impact

  • 107,389 confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in U.S. nursing homes. ((As of June 7, 2020, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service)
  • 29,497 Deaths (Covid-19 related fatalities among nursing home residents as of June 7, 2020 (CMS).* )


  • 325,000 Medicare beneficiaries had a COVID-19 diagnosis.(January 1 - May 16, 2020)
  • 110,000 Medicare beneficiaries hospitalized with COVID-19 related treatment.
    (January 1 - May 16, 2020)
  • 4X The rate at which black Medicare beneficiaries were hospitalized with COVID-19 compared with white Medicare beneficiaries. Recipients of both Medicaid and Medicare have a higher infection rate from COVID-19 and a higher hospitalization rate.

High Risk

Senior living residents generally: 

  •  are older adults
  •  have underlying medical conditions
  •  live in close contact with their peers

All these factors increase risk. Senior living residents are at a high risk for infection, serious, illness and death from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Asymptomatic Cases

40-45% The potential number of asymptomatic COVID-19 infections, according to an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The article called the virus, “tragically lethal in some persons and surprisingly benign in others.”

Presymptomatic Cases

Evidence suggests that presymptomatic patients—individuals who have COVID-19 but do not yet have symptoms—may be MOST infectious.SOURCE: Harvard Global Health Institute

Impressive Response

Locking Down

Senior living communities throughout the country began shutting down as COVID-19 started spreading through their communities. Communities:

  •  Stopped all visitors.
  •  Eliminated group activities.
  •  Increased hand hygiene for staff and residents.
  •  Began using personal protective equipment for staff and facemasks for residents.
  •  Isolated symptomatic residents and sent symptomatic staff home.
  •  Increased sanitation and disinfection.
  •  Created barriers and designated separate COVID care units.
  •  Communicated with residents, families, local authorities, and staff.
  •  Worked to keep residents connected and mentally healthy during a crisis.

88% of nursing homes certified by Medicare and Medicaid had reported required data to the CDC as of May 31, 2020. That includes about 13,600 nursing homes out of the approximately 15,400 homes in the U.S.

Digital Connections

Senior living communities have quickly adopted digital technologies in the face of the pandemic. An industry that had previously been slow to use technology, realized the need and seized the opportunity.

Residents are using Facetime, Skype, Zoom and other platforms to keep in touch with family and friends. Activity staff members dedicate time and resources to helping residents stay connected.


In addition to the other infection prevention and control measures they are taking, senior living communities are also performing COVID-19 testing. Many communities performed wholesale testing of all residents and staff. Others are testing symptomatic patients only unless there is a confirmed case in the building. All are working to improve testing availability and capacity.


During COVID-19, Medicare expanded access to telehealth services. This includes common office visits, mental health counseling, and preventive screenings.

Reporting Requirements

CMS is requiring nursing homes to report COVID-19 facility data to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to residents, their representatives, and families of residents in facilities. The National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) system is available for facilities to report data. 

NHSN requires information on:

  • Resident Impact
  •  Facility Capacity
  •  Staff & Personnel
  •  Supplies & Personal Protective Equipment
  •  Ventilator Capacity

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