Nancy Weinbeck
Nancy Weinbeck

In times of uncertainty, anxiety and fear, we are often surprised at our own abilities to not only survive but strengthen and renew. Senior living communities have cultivated incredible resilience from the start of the pandemic.

In my senior leadership role at a proudly independent nonprofit life plan community in lower Queen Anne, I see this daily among our residents and staff.

Here are 10 lessons we should learn from the pandemic:

  1. Our strength lies in being part of a community. In spite of risk, employees at Bayview and other senior living communities in Seattle show up every day. The residents are the reason we come to work. We need our essential workers to keep society functioning and safe. We are all learning to value and honor those that put themselves at risk so that others less able can remain cared for and well.
  2. We need socialization. Ever since AARP’s 2016 study on the devastating effects of isolation and loneliness as being equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, this has become part of our cultural awareness. However, the reality of it has hit home during the pandemic.
  3. We are more adaptable and resilient than we think. The senior living industry has experienced unforeseen pressures of this pandemic and its full impact on human life. We must keep informed, educated and engaged. No matter your age, the role of resilience in the face of a pandemic will prove to be one of our greatest tools.
  4. We are more unprepared than we think — as individuals, businesses, communities and as a society. Was Bayview prepared for a global pandemic? Nope. At least not in the way of having enough personal protective equipment early on or the ability to test regularly on a facility-wide scale. Our focus remains in repositioning Bayview for stabilization and recovery for the future.
  5. Technology is becoming more critical. Not only our elders but “youngers” are using Zoom and similar platforms to engage. We are all growing in our tech fluency. The aging industry has been known to lag behind in embracing technology. There is no turning back now.
  6. Innovation is key. We are trying new ways of doing old things. For example, communal dining in a community like Bayview can’t work during a pandemic. So we’re rolling out a Food Court model to increase dining variety and activity while maintaining physical distance.
  7. We must share stories of hope. There is no shortage of kindness, compassion and empathy. Bayview has leveraged social media to drown out the negative stories of senior living with positive stories.
  8. Consistent and transparent communication is key. In the age of misinformation, the time is always right to remain truthful, responsive and accountable. We are accountable in keeping our residents, staff, families and the greater community informed.
  9. We need the human touch — we are actually “feeling” how important it is in its lack, and how unsatisfying our interactions are without it. Even with socialization fortified by technology. Nothing beats the human touch.
  10. We need to appreciate people while they are still with us. We’ve learned to love more ferociously, as tomorrow is never guaranteed. This is our chance to regain a less hurried life.

— Nancy Weinbeck is the CEO of Bayview.