Letter to the Editor: Yes, it is safe for seniors at Standish Village

To the Editor:

As a senior living professional, I have been getting a lot of questions lately about whether it is safe to move an elderly relative into supportive communal living in the middle of a pandemic.

My answer is unequivocal: Yes! An assisted living community offers a safe alternative to living at home alone, isolated, and lonely. Research has shown that prolonged loneliness is more dangerous to a person’s health than lack of physical activity, obesity, or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. On the flip side, the wide-ranging benefits for seniors of interacting with people daily, having a social life, and being engaged in meaningful activities have been well documented.

Seniors who have toured our Standish Village community recently were thrilled that we had resumed daily programs and restaurant style dining. They had no idea! Their families were mostly concerned with safety. Here are my answers to their most common questions related to assisted living and Covid:

• Yes, assisted living is a safe, secure, and highly controlled environment. We have strict safety, sanitizing, screening and testing protocols in place to keep residents, staff, and visitors safe. We are prepared for any potential Covid-19 cases.

• Yes, we remain a vibrant community. Everything you need is right here. Friends, support services, gourmet dining, fitness classes, social groups, religious services, fun activities and entertainment, salon services, and your morning cup of coffee are always just a few steps away.

• Yes, we have numerous innovative and meaningful daily events for fitness, recreation, socializing, and entertainment. Many seniors make the move to assisted living for support, companionship, and recreational opportunities that aren’t available to them living at home alone – this year more than ever. It has certainly been a challenge to safely plan some of the events we took for granted before the pandemic, but we are managing it with clever scheduling, appropriate physical distancing, and the enthusiastic assistance of our wonderful residents.

• Creative small group programming allows for safe engagement, and we offer unique and interactive virtual programming.

• Yes, we have resumed restaurant style-dining. Enjoying meals with others is an important part of living in a community. In order to maintain physical distance, we have limited capacity in our dining room and offer several seatings at each meal. We also continue to follow all state guidelines, cleaning and disinfecting all tables, chairs, and surfaces between seatings.

• Yes, we have systems in place to ensure sufficient, clean air flow. Filters are changed regularly on HVAC systems to maintain air quality, and vacuums have HEPA filters. We also have an ERE makeup air system, which takes fresh air from outside and brings it inside the building to ensure proper air circulation.

• Yes, we continue to adhere to a stringent deep cleaning and disinfection regimen throughout our building and our staff are fully trained in universal infection control practices.

• Yes, we are accepting new residents. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition into our community with clear move-in guidelines and generous family visiting protocols. We also offer short-term stays for those who might want to move back home when things return to normal after the vaccine is widely available.

Making the move to a senior community can have its challenges, but in this past year it has also been a real comfort for many families knowing their Mom or Dad is in a supportive and social living environment. Other families can also benefit from this option, especially if they are seeing their elderly relatives struggling, not just with the typical loneliness or depression related to Covid, but with the physical or cognitive decline that often accompanies prolonged isolation.

Julie Williamson
Executive Director
Standish Village, Dorchester