Survey: Independent Living Residents, Staff Feel Safe During Pandemic

SOUTHFIELD, Mich., and CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A national survey of independent living community residents, staff and prospective residents showed that those in the community overwhelmingly felt safe so far during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, respondents said they were confident that communities had taken appropriate precautions to keep them safe.

Plante Moran Living Forward, the Southfield-based senior living development consulting division of Plante Moran Cresa and an affiliated entity of Plante Moran, partnered with Retirement Dynamics, a Charlotte-based senior living consulting firm, to complete the research. In June and July of this year the companies surveyed more than 23,000 residents and staff at senior living communities across the country, along with prospective future residents.

While prospects worried about social isolation, shopping and other daily tasks when living in their own homes, survey results showed only a slight decrease in their likelihood to move into an independent living community as a result of the pandemic.

The survey also revealed:

  • 92 percent of staff felt the community where they worked responded well to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 93 percent of residents felt their community took all precautions to keep them safe.
  • 85 percent of staff agreed residents “are safer in their community than in their previous homes.”
  • 77 percent of residents said they were “glad to be living in a community during the pandemic,” with 86 percent affirming they were glad they made the decision to move.
  • Both prospective residents (61 percent) and residents (68 percent) felt socially isolated during shelter-in-place orders.
  • 74 percent of prospective residents reported their timeframe for a move has been unchanged by the pandemic.

While independent living communities received high marks from seniors on cleanliness, sanitation and communications, they didn’t fare so well in other areas. Residents generally gave their communities low remarks on alternative recreation and activities offered during shelter-in-place orders, as well as the variety and quality of food and dining options and technology. The survey did not include assisted living or skilled nursing facilities.

“Our goal in conducting this survey was to gauge the sentiments of those living in, working in and thinking about moving to a senior living community,” says Dana Wollschlager, a Chicago-based partner who leads Plante Moran Living Forward. “We wanted to move beyond the overriding focus on nursing homes to take the pulse of other types of senior living communities.”

“We wanted to understand the gravity of the social isolation we knew was taking place. We asked questions about how they were feeling, what they were worried about, the effectiveness of the communications they were receiving and more,” says Bobby Summer, president of Retirement Dynamics. “As we prepare to move into autumn and the upcoming flu season, we have identified 10 strategies backed by data that providers should consider to improve conditions for their current residents and teams — and improve outreach to those considering making a move.”

To view the full survey results, click here.