Senior Living Foresight conducted a constructive virtual summit recently which provided excellent insight on a variety of topics. Active Living International had some valuable takeaways for those in the senior living space. If you are interested in the full line up of webinars go to Senior Living Foresight Virtual Summit.

A World View—What is Happening with COVID-19 and Aging?

Speaker: Jered Markoff
Blog post: July 14, 2020

Jered Markoff is the Chief Technology Officer of the HQ Emergency Operations Center at the World Health Organization. The WHO plays a role in 194 countries, similar to the role of the CDC in the US. During emergencies like the current COVID-19 outbreak, smaller countries struggle to obtain adequate provisions for all their citizens and front line workers, and struggle to manage the crisis. WHO has a hand in making sure no countries are forgotten during this dramatic turn of events.

It has been frequently discussed in the media that other countries are having more success in flattening the curve of COVID-19 cases faster than the United States. WHO has a closer perspective on what these countries are doing differently. Among the countries with quick turnaround from the initial wave of infection is South Korea. They had a similar outbreak about five years ago and as a result had an office in charge of contact tracing, drive-thru testing centers, and requirements for social distancing as well as a requirement to download an app that monitors citizen locations ready to go immediately when the COVID-19 virus hit.

Although it may seem like an impossible task to make it a legal requirement for U.S. citizens to install an app that will alert authorities to their location if they have traveled or are supposed to be isolating, it’s important to look at this example because South Korea kept most businesses open, including restaurants. Our business shutdown in America was devastating and will not be sustainable for long. Countries with strong healthcare systems like Germany are thriving while countries with weak healthcare systems like Belgium are being hit hard. In the U.S; we are close to 6% of COVID cases being fatal.

Mr. Markoff believes that the number of confirmed cases will flare up again, and we must continue with caution while spreading prevention practices as businesses reopen. While the notion there are antibodies in existence that can fight the virus is somewhat comforting, testing to see if you have these antibodies will not be widely available for some time. There is still no proof that having these antibodies makes one immune to COVID-19.

What’s next? The virus will change the way we live our lives and how we do business, even after it is completely contained. It’s easy to say we have to get testing, but the challenges of implementing this are difficult: privacy, liberty, technology advancement, and organization—just to name a few. A detailed plan for how our communities will move forward with these challenges in relation to the new post-COVID-19 operational policies is key. It is impossible for anyone to know exactly what the “new normal” will look like, but we do know that we will need to implement new policies and tools into our day-to-day lives, using what we do now to build onto our desired future outcomes.

Services and tools we can likely expect to become commonplace post-COVID-19 include drive-thru testing and a drastic change in the way we travel with viral tests approved for specific countries (probably organized by an international body, like WHO).

It is essential that post-COVID-19, we begin to recognize that dollars spent, how we treat people and provide care, and new regulations and policies are all intertwining. When we make this connection and bridge the gap, fostering a community with focus on both care and quality of life becomes more attainable. The virus, if handled properly, will be a well-learned lesson to our sector in how we plan and prepare for crises.