2020 Perspective: Lessons Learned, Part One

Most of us firmly slammed the door shut on 2020 and eagerly welcomed 2021, hoping to never again endure the challenges and heartache that resulted from COVID-19. However, at VirtuSense, we gained a lot of perspective in 2020 and we want to share what we’ve learned.

The Cost of Isolation

COVID-19 was especially brutal for those living and working in long-term care communities. Residents were confined to their quarters, leaving them isolated and lonely. Not only did this affect their mental and emotional health, it also impacted their mobility. As we previously reported, the effects of social isolation on the mental health of older adults can be devastating, leading to depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s. According to a study conducted by the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging, “the risk of Alzheimer’s nearly doubled in lonely adults, and mental decline was faster. This could be because isolated older people have less stimulation, or because their symptoms are less likely to be reported before the disease has progressed.”

Social isolation also contributes to health risks such as heart disease and strokes. In addition to anxiety-induced ailments, these factors are compounded in quarantine by a poor diet and inactivity leading to rapid physical decline among older adults, which contributes to falls. Fall prevention programs are so important to keep residents safe during the pandemic.

To help communities facilitate exercise programs with their residents, we’ve made VSTBalance portable so you can bring the program to their rooms or right outside their rooms and test them regularly to ensure they’re not declining. VSTBalance exercise programs are designed to build endurance, improve flexibility and balance, and boost cognition. Best of all, integrating VSTBalance exercises into residents’ routines, breaks the cycle of isolation and loneliness.

Designing Better Senior Living Spaces

Prior to the pandemic, senior living care providers were focused on upgrading the resident experience, targeting hospitality-based design and amenities to appeal to the incoming baby boomer generation. Accommodating the new norm, will require a new way of thinking about the design of senior living communities.

New things to consider include onsite clinics that provide health screenings and wayfinding protocols that give residents, visitors, and staff the space they need to move around, as well as PPE donning and doffing stations and visible sanitation areas. Selecting durable furnishings that can withstand repeated cleaning and sanitation procedures will also be a big factor in these spaces.

In our second part of our Lessons Learned series, we’ll focus on healthcare workers.