Sustainable Retirement & Aged Care Communities in a COVID-19 age

Peter Eising shares his thoughts

An emerging dialogue has developed on whether Governments (world-wide, and now particularly NZ), should be focussing more on the mental health and wellbeing of the working communities where higher levels of anxiety and stress is becoming very prevalent, rather than focussing on the most vulnerable, our aged communities. Commercial and financial pressures are creating increasing levels of unemployment, insecurity and social limitations for the majority.

The wider approach to date in dealing with Covid-19 has, by default, been a worldwide experiment in many ways that we are all learning from. Some countries approach has been in support of the majority, rather than the total closedown and variations of it, that NZ and many other have taken to protect their most vulnerable. Could not taking care of the majority - the working and younger age-groups, have far greater devastation than Covid-19 on our aged communities?

Is there a compromise -a hybrid approach, that will assist everyone, rather than one over the other? Justice, human dignity and right to life are all inherent in our cultural fabric and should not be limited to one group at the expense of another, but through good solutions provide a balance with uncompromised outcomes.

If the ideal that supports the majority is to open the economy more, what are the solutions that would benefit the aged, particularly in aged communities?

Retirement villages have the benefit of locking down at the gate, becoming an island, isolated from the wider community, if the workers and their necessary support personnel practice social distancing and protection. Once in, we saw Covid-19 unleash on the most vulnerable with distressing effect. Social connection with family and friends from the outside is an imperative, along with the ability to continue specialists’ visits.

Is it as simple as making spaces and technology available where family visits are made in comfortable environments on the edge of the community, where conversations and emotions flow naturally, where spaces are easily cleaned - would this meet the greater needs?

The next question is can we live without the closeness of hugs and physical connection that we’ve lived with all our lives, or is there something more we must let go for the greater good?

This post is intended to create robust dialogue to generate feedback to give/gain greater insights and understandings about what the ideal solution(s) might be? Will a hybrid ‘compromise’ really work at all levels of supporting ourselves and our loved ones? Good design is always about degrees of compromise that we can all live with that eventually become a natural part of our lives.