Is senior living a safe option right now? This is a question you might have asked yourself recently amid concerns about Covid-19. 

Our host of Senior Living LIVE, Melissa Lee, sits down with Wanda Moen, vice president for sales and marketing at The Arbor Company, to answer this question and more.

Click the video below to listen to the full interview, and learn more as Moen offers her personal insight on how the senior living experience has adapted and changed during the pandemic. 


Video Transcript

- Hello everyone, and welcome into Senior Living LIVE. My name is Melissa, and as always, it is fantastic to see you. One question we've been getting a lot lately, as we all settle into our new coronavirus normal, it's a fair question, is senior living a safe option, right now? I've invited Wanda Moen, the Vice President for Sales and Marketing for the Arbor Company, to help us answer that question today. She has actually been living in a senior living community the last couple of months and has some great insight on how the senior living experience has adapted and changed during the pandemic. Here's our conversation. Wanda Moen joins me now. The Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Arbor Company. Wanda, hello, how are you?

- I'm good, Melissa. It's nice to see you again.

- Nice to see you as well as always. Well, you have been with the Arbor Company coming up on your fifth year anniversary. Congratulations.

- Thank you.

- You have worn many hats during your time with the Arbor Company, but how has your role changed over the last four months?

- Well, I would say my role has changed just like most of our community sales folks. And I have transitioned over to supporting our communities in their efforts to keep our residents safe, happy, and engaged. The pandemic hit and I was home for about three weeks, and I thought I have to, I have to jump in. I have to go help. And so I packed up and I moved into one of our communities. It's about a thousand miles away from home, and I have been living here, supporting this community and their efforts against COVID-19. We're fightin' this good fight and we're winnin'.

- That is fantastic. Good that you're winning the fight, but maybe not so good that you're so far away from home, but obviously a lot of people have had to really pitch in and help in any way that they can during these really uncertain times. Many of us can certainly understand the impact of the coronavirus on our seniors. They're in a high risk category, as you know, Wanda. Many seniors over the age of 65, they actually had to shelter in place in some states longer than the rest of us. And when you start to think about that, you have to start believing that at a point isolation could start to set in for our seniors. What are you seeing that is actually leading people now to seek out senior living in the middle of a pandemic?

- Well, you know, the shelter in place order was originally two weeks and then it was 30 days and then it's 60 days and now we're in 90 days, and the world is changing and the cases are growing. And so this shelter in place order seems to be getting longer and longer, and what you see, just like everybody else, our routines are so important to us. And when a senior's routine is changed, you start to see a depression set in. And with that depression comes a physical and also mentally there's some strain and you start to see a cognitive decline. And so what we've really noticed with seniors that are living alone and not able to continue in their routines, we've seen a huge decline in their stability.

- So you're seeing that decline in stability. So if you imagine that the shelter in place orders for somebody who may be living in their home, how does that look different from somebody living in their own apartment or their own house, as opposed to somebody who is living in a senior living community? Well, you know, if you think about someone who lives in their own home and the thought of having to grocery stop or learn how to do groceries online, it's kinda challenging. So you think about what are they eating? So we've seen many families reach out to us because they've either seen an extreme weight loss or extreme weight gain because what are they eating? Are they not eating or are they choosing poor choices. In a community setting, you really find that seniors have somebody delivering them healthy meals three times a day. There's snack carts and beverage carts that go around multiple times a day. There's somebody to remind them to, hey, it's time to take a shower, because you know, as depression starts to set in, you start physically not taking care of yourself very well. And so there's somebody there to help you. And you know, just like we like to go shopping, we go to stores, we go to church, we get to see our friends, have social engagements. a lot of that has stopped outside the communities, but inside the communities, they're still happening. There's still socially distanced activities going on in hallways. There are still happy hours happening on a cart that go around, and you should see some of these carts. They're so decorated. And the teams have done such a great job of high energy coming down the hallways as they knock on your door. You know, you're still even able to socialize with your neighbors. 'Cause you can come to your front door in your hallway and put a chair there and talk to your neighbor across the hallway. You're still able to paint because somebody's bringing in the arts and crafts, and they're disinfecting the items before they come into the community to protect you from this virus. It's not you going out and about shopping and touching items and mingling with folks that might be asymptomatic to this virus.

- Well, that is certainly good news for engagement and in terms of getting meals taken care of, really eliminating all of those extra trips outside of their apartment or outside of your home. And one thing that we haven't touched on yet, but I think is also really important during this time is the fear of going to the hospital or going to see your general practitioner at this time, going to the doctor's office. Again, limiting that exposure. So how does senior living help on that end? You know, the good thing about senior living and the Arbor Company is that our doctors make house calls, they come into the community. And one of the things that we've done is that we've been testing our staff on a routine basis. And we've also asked all our third party providers to join in that testing. So if our doctors are coming to the community, we've requested them to test. But for those that their doctors aren't coming in the community, they're not doing house calls and visits, you have somebody on staff here to help you with telemed. So most of them have set up telemed. So we have staff that will take the computers in and they'll set 'em up for you so you can have that doctor's visit and be able to see your doctor. Also think about when you go out to the doctor and you're going into a waiting room where other people are. Here the doctors are coming to you. They're being screened before they come in with their temperature and if they have any signs or symptoms, they're not let into the building. It's another thing, too, when you think about the staff and the nurses that you engage when you go into a doctor's office, and here, the staff are tested, they're screened as well. And the Arbor Company has set up a call what's called the Arbor Cares Act. And what that means is, is we wanna take care of our employees so that they can in return take care of your loved ones and our residents. So Arbor Cares simply is, is that if you are not feeling well, cause you know, the team members really rely on coming to work and getting that paycheck so that they can meet ends meet. So we wanna make sure that if you're not feeling well, and you're just not up to coming into work that day, you might have some body aches, you might have a headache, you might be running a slight fever, we want you to be honest about that and we wanna take care of you, so if you call in and you're really not feeling well, then you know, you're going to get paid if you're out of work, which is really important these days, and you wanna make sure that communities offer that.

- That is great information, really, really good information.

- We had a webinar a couple of months back with an actual resident of ours named Brent Ross. He gave just a fantastic webinar of senior living in general. He's a huge proponent for it. And he actually told us that living in senior living with his wife actually saved them during this time. They were completely taken care of in all the ways that you mentioned. So it begs the question, if people were to ask, they inquire about senior living, what do you tell them right now? Is it safe?

- It's really about doing your homework. It's really about making sure that you're connecting with the folks at the community of your choice and asking them questions about their cleaning protocols, their safety procedures. Are they screening the folks that are coming into the community? Are they doing regular testing of their staff? What are their protocols for the paint they're using? The flooring that they're using? And you think about it, there seems to be a lot of controversy and fear around well I won't be able to visit my loved one. And really what we found is that these visits that people are having, whether it be a window visit where we use our Eversound headphone sets. So we sanitize the headphones, they wear it, the family outside the window has a microphone, the resident has the microphone, and they wear it and they have these great visits. And the Eversound system helps amplify. Also, if the resident is a little hard of hearing, they can hear so much better than if it was just on a regular phone. But they're able to have these visits. And these are scheduled visits. So, you know, I recently was a part of one and it almost brought me to tears because it was so much, there was so much meaning and engagement between the resident and her family members. And she said, "Oh, I just really wish "I could pet and hold my grandpup." And because her children had brought their puppy, and it wasn't really a puppy, it's grown dog, but we call them puppies, you know.

- Of course.

- So, we gloved up and we brought the puppy in and she got to love all over her puppy, and we clean up and brought the puppy back out. But it was a moment, those are moments that before this pandemic we might have taken for granted. And right now they're just such meaningful and touching moments. And some communities have social distanced outside so that you're able to like, not have that barrier, but for the ones that do have the barrier, they do have the Eversound. And it's a wonderful product. So you would want to make sure that you're gonna be able to have those visitations when you choose a senior living community. Also, what kind of PPE do they have? And are they wearing that PPE? And do they have to reuse that PPE? Or do they have enough PPE that they're changing new PPE every day? So you just wanna make sure you prepare yourself with the right questions, but I don't think people should be afraid of senior living, and making a good option, especially as we see the cases grow, and think about where is your loved one living? And I also think you should think about what contact did you have? So if you were their primary helper during this pandemic, to keep them out of the grocery store, to keep them from going to places where they might contract the virus, what is your exposure rate? Are you back to work? Like, what are you doing that might bring that virus into them? And so if you check off the boxes that say, hey, I'm kind of in a high exposure rate, and I might bring that into my loved one, what is the exposure rate they might have as a community? And does the community have all these safety protocols put into place so that their loved one's gonna be safe? You know, there are no guarantees in life. We can't guarantee that your loved one will never get the coronavirus. But what we can share with you is all the safety protocols that we've put in place as a company and share with you what we think the best practices are as you search for senior living and try to overcome some of the fears that you have about taking that next step into senior living. There are--

- Yeah, go ahead.

- I'm sorry, go ahead. I get so excited and passionate about this, Melissa. I mean I'm living it right now. I'm here, I'm living in a community, and I'm seeing residents and their families, and those folks that are inquiring and are concerned.

- It goes back to the list is already long when somebody's considering senior living of the questions and everything that goes into it. And we've just really made it longer with the coronavirus. And that's really no fault of anyone's, but it is something that now has to be taken into account, and ask those questions. So I think you did a really nice job in explaining is senior living safe right now. And it really comes down to the individual. If somebody is watching this today, a family member, perhaps, Wanda, who has seen cognitive decline in a family member, what would be the first step you would tell them to do? The first step, I would just encourage you, encourage you to get online and find a community near you and reach out to that community. And don't be afraid of the virtual visits. I think it's great that senior living is put in these safety protocols of not just letting anybody and everybody come through the communities, but don't be afraid of those virtual visits. Take a virtual visit. Ask to see an activity that's going on in the community. Ask to take a look at the different neighborhoods. Speak to the staff. See who's gonna be caring for your loved one and ask those safety questions about how they're protecting residents against coronavirus. What safety measures do they have in place? And how are they engaging? What are their meal programs? How does life still continue to happen inside that community where it might have stopped happening inside their home?

- Wanda Moen, we could hear the passion. It's absolutely there. You've not only proven it with your words, but you've proven it in action, moving a thousand miles away from your home. You've been away from home for a couple of months now and doing absolutely everything you possibly can, as well as your team to ensure the safety of all residents, living in Arbor senior living communities. And for that, we thank you. Thank you so much for your time today.

- Thank you, Melissa. It was an absolute pleasure as always.

- A lot of great advice there we hope helps you in your journey to finding the right senior living option. If this video has helped you in any way, feel free to check out the rest of our content at As always, thanks for watching, and have a great day everybody.

COVID-19 Ebook

Begin Your Senior Living Journey with Arbor

Begin Your Senior Living Journey with Arbor

Find a Community