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Coronavirus: Staying Informed for Your Customers—and Your Business

Jess Stonefield March 12, 2020
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As the pandemic continues to grow in the U.S., the longevity market should stay aware and vigilant.

As news reports continue to pour in regarding Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, it’s essential for businesses in the longevity industry to understand implications of the virus on both their customers—older people—and their businesses.

Health risks associated with coronavirus increase at age 60 and are highest for those 80+. So for companies working with primarily people in these age brackets, it is necessary to know how to prevent spreading the virus among your clients and customers. As we have seen with the recent cancellation of the $350 million event SXSW, the implications of the virus are not solely health-related—they are financial as well. For all these reasons, it’s important to be proactive in keeping your employees and customers safe as you keep your businesses running.

Numerous aging nonprofits, associations, senior services organizations and longevity businesses are working hard to provide ongoing updates. Keep in mind the situation is changing daily, so be sure to visit sites relevant to your business regularly to ensure that you are operating with the most up-to-date information.

In addition to the links below, longevity professionals can visit the Centers for Disease Control daily for updates. The site also features the White House Coronavirus Task Force report: Keeping Workplaces, Schools, or Commercial Establishments Safe. Updated numbers on those affected by the virus will be updated Monday through Friday at 4 p.m.

Support and Activity from the Field of Aging

Following are just a few of the resources being created and updated—for consumers, aging services providers and businesses—from across the field of aging.

Aging Nonprofits and Associations

  • Family Caregiver Alliance: FCA is gathering updated information from trusted sources, offering links to coronavirus-related resources and articles that will be of interest to caregivers and those in their care.
  • AARP The AARP coronavirus page naturally focuses on prevention in older adults. As of 3/10/2020, it also includes information on changing health insurance regulations surrounding coronavirus testing and care, which may be helpful for care providers.
  • National Council on Aging NCOA is sticking to CDC recommendations that older people at risk for Covid-19 stay home as much as possible, avoid large crowds, and maintain access to several weeks of food and medication at all times. The organization’s dedicated coronavirus page also includes information to help older people avoid scams related to the outbreak, as well as organizations serving aging populations.
  • American Society on Aging Notably, ASA recently canceled its annual Aging in America conference due to concerns regarding coronavirus outbreak. This is important because less than a week before the cancellation, ASA published a statement that it did not plan to cancel the meeting due to potential outbreak. Clearly, things are changing quickly when it comes to coronavirus. Again: check sites daily for the most up-to-date information.

Senior Housing & Congregate Living

  • Argentum Argentum’s Coronavirus Preparation and Response Toolkit is a tool specifically for senior living communities. Not only does the organization provide a Covid-19 prep webinar (posted 3/9/2020), but they also have links for businesses supporting people at higher risk for Covid-19, Medicare billing, employment law and materials organized by member communities.
  • LeadingAge LeadingAge is also gathering relevant tools for aging services organizations preparing for an outbreak. They are adding links and resources on an ongoing basis, including its own templates for communicating with housing providers and employees, advice for maintaining calm, and information on working with healthcare providers.
  • American Healthcare Association (AHCA) and National Council on Assisted Living (NCAL) AHCA and NCAL are focusing their efforts on prevention and preparation in care facilities and communities like nursing homes. Its lengthy list of resources includes, among others, guidelines for screening, visitor restrictions, and Medicare coverage and payment.
Considerations for Longevity Market Businesses

While we focus on the most imminent task of keeping older people safe, it’s also paramount to recognize the employment and financial implications surrounding Covid-19.

Mary Furlong, a leading authority on the longevity marketplace whose company helps produce the What’s Next Longevity Business Summit, is currently managing workarounds for upcoming events to keep participants and their families safe. In the larger longevity space, she says, financial implications could be large. Business deals may get pushed out two or three months due to the outbreak, she says, and some entrepreneurs may have a difficult time finding funding for their next phase of growth.

Still, Furlong says, the issue may force some positive changes in the industry, as well. For instance, she says, there’s been an increase in sharing and creating best practices and other resources, and new issues are being brought to the surface. Many companies will also be forced to upskill technologically, learning to work remotely and hold events online.

For companies working in longevity, it’s imperative to keep common sense and good business practice at the top of the list. As noted above, stay informed by visiting the Centers for Disease Control website daily, and share that information with employees so they know you’re on top of it. And when merited, take steps to limit (or eliminate) travel and allow nonessential team members to work remotely to decrease chances of acquiring or spreading the virus. Businesses also might take time to understand the ramifications of decreasing a portion of your contingent workforce for the time being

If your business math isn’t adding up, consider picking up new services to keep older people safe (and your company) afloat. For instance, Furlong says, there is a 27-hour wait for meal delivery in San Francisco right now. Could your company offer patchwork meal delivery services to improve current wait times or offer alternative transportation services to pick up the slack for overworked Lyft and Uber workers?

Lastly, while it’s important to remain calm in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, it’s also necessary to be realistic. In Germany, it’s now estimated that 2/3 of the country will be infected with the virus. Especially in an industry where our clients and customers are the facing the highest risk, it’s not just good business practice to plan for the worst-case scenario—it’s our responsibility.

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Jess Stonefield

Jess Stonefield is a contributing writer on aging, mental health and the greater longevity economy for publications such as Changing Aging, The Mighty and Next Avenue. She is passionate about impact investing and the greater concept of “equitable equity”—spreading wealth to all levels of our society. She is a communications expert for Senior Living Fund.

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