Fresh food truck visits, bus trips to supermarkets and mobile book and film libraries are just some of the ways that retirement and lifestyle communities across Australia are helping their residents beat the virus crisis.
These communities are also seeking to ensure there are regular welfare checks on housebound and vulnerable residents, including those who are self-isolating.
Downsizing.com.au has collected information about how retirement and lifestyle community operators are providing additional services in response to the global coronavirus menace.
Victorian-based Lifestyle Communities has begun to roll out new initiatives, including organised shopping trips, virtual wellness and exercise programs, a mobile book and film library and providing home essentials such as toilet paper and soap.
It is also working on a “home challenge program”, including puzzles and new recipes, to keep its residents “engaged and mentally challenged”.
Lifestyle Communities CEO James Kelly said “One of the strengths of our business is our focus on the community and I have been really pleased to see this community spirit come to bear during this difficult time.”
“Our team has been thinking laterally about ways to deliver a modified virtual wellness program and utilise the services of local businesses as we provide support to the most vulnerable within our communities.
“We are conscious that mental health will be a big factor as people may face extended periods of isolation and we are actively working on creative ways to keep our communities engaged.”
At the Lifestyle Chelsea Heights community, three residents are preparing small posies of flowers and lollies to deliver to housebound and vulnerable homeowners. Meanwhile, at Lifestyle Lyndarum, one resident posted friendly letters to her neighbours.
The Palm Lake Group, operator of retirement and lifestyle communities in NSW and Queensland, has been organising takeaway meals from kitchens, early morning bus shopping trips and providing limited stock of some essential items for residents.
The operators of the Living Choice Glenhaven retirement village in Sydney’s north-west have organised for a fresh fruit and vegetable truck to visit the village and deliveries from a local deli and grocery store.
In an online post, Harry Kensell, president of the village residents’ committee, stated: “Would we be better off if we were living somewhere else?”
“A strong argument can be made that we are fortunate, in this drastic set of circumstances, that we are living in a well-organised retirement village.”
Queensland-based retirement village operator Aura Holdings issued a statement which said that “if a resident needs to self-isolate in their apartment they are in a fortunate position living in one of our villages”.
“Self-isolation does not mean they are alone,” the statement said. “As part of living within a retirement community our residents can be confident they will be well supported. Village managers will ensure residents’ immediate needs are met and that they have regular communications and welfare checks, even if in the extreme position of needing to self-isolate within their apartment.
“As a resident in isolation, they will have someone who can shop for them or groceries can be delivered to the door. Several of our residents already order pre-prepared meal services that arrive at the village reception desk.
“They are also surrounded by supportive, kind-hearted neighbours who will be more than willing to bring meals to them – even if it involves ringing a doorbell and leaving them at their door. Our own village version of Meals on Wheels!
“Many older Australians living in their own homes in suburbs or towns are feeling isolated and unsure about what the coming weeks may hold for them but our residents can be assured of being well supported in a community of like-minded residents with staff on hand.”
Queensland-based residential land lease community operator Halcyon, as an initial response, is using a software tool to help residents to communicate, including helping neighbours shop and cook for each other and do library book runs.
A spokesman for Lendlease, which has 72 retirement villages across Australia, said: "To support residents during this unprecedented situation, we’re stocking essential supplies that residents can access in emergencies, and our staff are helping residents order their groceries online."
"Residents are proactively staying socially connected while maintaining physical distances, through activities such as street yoga, ‘Grannies on Trikes’ groups, walking groups, book swaps, resident welfare groups, and ‘Bring a Cuppa’ in their driveways.
"We’re also exploring initiatives that can provide residents access to free education, fitness and wellbeing programs, and easy ways for residents to stay informed and connected.”
Villages forced to shut down activities and visits
The Retirement Living Council has advised its retirement village members to request village residents to:
- Limit visits to a short duration and to a maximum of two immediate social supports (family members, close friends) or professional service or advocacy at one time, per day
- Ensure visits are conducted in a residence or outdoors, rather than community areas
- Only allow children aged under 16 years to visit in special circumstances
- Practise social distancing where possible, including maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres
- Consider using phone or video calls to enable regular communication with family members and friends
In addition, the council has asked its members to close all community facilities.
In an interview with Downsizing.com.au, Retirement Living Council CEO Ben Myers said: “I think what you’ve got are operators who are taking very seriously the concerns about the older population, and really looking at what they can do to try and protect their residents.”
“We are working with our members on the options to assist residents with grocery supplies, and working through a whole range of issues that arise when people are asked to self-isolate.
“Our operators already have a duty of care to residents, that depends on what they offered to residents in the first place.
“But I don’t know one operator who says this is where our responsibility stops and starts, they are saying we are in it together with our residents, and we will try to protect them at this time.”
Mr Myers said his members had also reported an increase in consumer enquiries.