A Change of Focus: Alleviating E

veryone knew it was a problem that could get bigger. Reports and edu- cation covered it, many discussed it,

and nearly everyone in senior living made it part of their mission to address it. But when the pandemic hit, another epidemic was re- vealed: Loneliness and social isolation. It affects health—reports put it at more

dangerous than smoking—not only of se- niors, but often of their families and loved ones during times of limited visitation. It affects quality of life. It affects even older adults living in communities, with activ- ities and neighbors built into their living experience. And it’s not a new problem: It affected older adults even before the pandemic started. An Argentum survey of Certified Direc-

tors of Assisted Living showed prevention social isolation and loneliness was the top challenge for 2020 and 2021, and the sec- ond most important in influencing move- ins, just behind safety and infection control. A survey from industry provider iN2L

showed that during the pandemic, there was an alarming 230 percent leap in the number of residents who reported they felt “always” lonely. “The pandemic has changed so much

about our daily lives,” writes Lisa Taylor, iN2L CEO. “But for residents and their communities, we suspected they were struggling with the same issues as before the pandemic but multiplied a hundred-fold. “Preventing loneliness, making social connections, engaging residents with things that are personalized and purposeful— these are much harder now than they were before.” The data iN2L presents in its report “Bridging the Loneliness Gap” (

Loneliness Becomes a Major Concern By Sara Wildberger

The small house model, seen here at Goodwin House in Alexandria, Va., brings together a small group of older adults, building in both socialization and increased pandemic protection. Photo courtesy of Sarah Mechling/ Perkins Eastman

resource/bridging-the-loneliness-gap), she writes, reveals “there are many challenges that are being exacerbated by the pandem- ic, but also some key opportunities.”

Moving toward solutions As with other challenges in senior living, such as infection prevention and control, solving the loneliness challenge demands a multi-faceted approach that changes all aspects of daily life, from culinary to admin- istration. But during the pandemic, two ar- eas showed hope and promise: Design and activities, particularly design and activities that integrated technology.

22 SENIOR LIVING EXECUTIVE JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2021 “We believe that moving forward calls for

change, fearlessness, and the desire to more broadly serve older adults with supportive, caring, and inspiring environments to call home,” says the introduction to Perkins Eastman’s “State of Senior Living Devel- opment: Moving Forward” report, available at It out- lines developer and provider perspective on the market and finds there’s optimism and willingness to innovate and change. The Perkins Eastman team itself changed

its approach this year to its report—it inter- viewed for-profit developers, when it usually surveys nonprofits.

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