Retirement Home Technologies to Fight COVID

March 2021

COVID has had its greatest impact on seniors and their housing.  Retirement homes are looking at new technologies for protecting residents.  Condominium and high-rise communities, which also house large numbers of people, can benefit from these same technologies.

Institutions have taken a closer look at the most basic measures.  While hand sanitizer is helpful, it is better when hand push pumps are not required.  Some systems automatically dispense while others are controlled by a foot pedal.  More sophisticated technologies include skins and mats that can turn high traffic and public touchpoints into continuously self-cleaning surfaces. These systems are powered by light and crystals that bond to a surface to create an oxidation reaction to continually clean organic contaminants.

Solutions for protecting residents include improvements in cleaning systems, use of germicides and disinfectants, and installation of materials and surfaces designed to destroy viruses.  Investing in better HVAC and ventilation systems prevent virus transmission in buildings.

Infrared scanning can detect individuals with higher body temperature and fever, and who should be isolating themselves to protect others.

One approach being looked at is to organize living arrangements into smaller “pods” that enable physical distancing while facilitating some level of social interaction and mitigating virus spread.  Community common areas and some hallway spaces could be reorganized in a similar manner to facilitate recreation, socialization and working.

Virtual care, allowing specialists to communicate with residents by computer, can reduce the need for health care workers in high-rise communities with quality internet and wi-fi capabilities.

Building layouts can be reconfigured to offer more recreation, seating and working spaces more physically distanced from others.

There will always be physical limitations.  Hallways and elevators are not designed for physical separation which is why enhanced cleaning procedures remain necessary.  Touchless technologies, and new wireless technologies such as calling the elevator and selecting its destination by mobile phone may become increasingly popular.  Ultraviolet light to kill viruses is attracting greater interest.

Technology and cleaning procedures are only part of the arsenal for fighting against COVID.  Retirement homes and long-term care facilities have recognized that closing off common areas and social activities cause problems worse than the disease.  They have found ways to safely maintain social interaction without closing common areas and cancelling all social activities.