Elderly man sitting on couch with pet

How Silvercrests are preparing seniors for coronavirus

By Hillary Jackson–

The CDC reports older adults are at a higher risk of contracting Coronavirus–they’re also the primary population of The Salvation Army’s Silvercrest facilities, apartment-style communities for low-income seniors.

Throughout the west, Silvercrest managers are monitoring their local health agencies for information to share with residents, Silvercrest Executive Director Susan Lawrence said. 

“We are concerned because we know our residents are potentially in the high risk categories,” Lawrence said. “We are educating our residents about the virus and asking them to practice safe interactions including replacing handshakes and kisses with non contact greetings. We’ve increased our cleaning protocols for the common areas and touch points throughout the Silvercrests. We’ve eliminated open food, offering instead individually wrapped snacks and drinks.” 

At the Santa Rosa (California) Silvercrest, managers are working hard to make sure residents feel calm and have posted the latest CDC information at eye level so information is available. 

“If I encounter someone who asks me, ‘What do you think of this?’ and they are wide eyed, I deescalate them immediately,” said Service Coordinator Stephanie Hopkins, who then refers them to the CDC information of which she keeps updated.

While Silvercrest is an apartment community, not a care facility, residents are reminded their personal safety is their responsibility. Staff at the residence are working overtime to keep communal areas clean, and have ample supplies of tissue, cleaning products, hand sanitizer and soap for use in those areas. 

“Right now we are just being vigilant about strangers in the building,” said Property Manager Sharon King, noting that it is already part of Silvercrest’s protocol. “We are delaying apartment inspections to minimize traffic in and out of the residences.”

As of March 13, there are no new cases of coronavirus in Sonoma County, California, King said. Still, Silvercrest staff is urging residents to be aware and careful of what they touch and to act similarly to how they would during flu season. 

“It could get very stressful coming up,” King said. “Right now it’s not, and we’re not going to allow it to be more stressful than it is. We are going to deal with the situation rationally as it unfolds. I fully expect COVID-19 to hit our building. I fully expect to go into quarantine. It’s just the nature of the…virus and the season. We’re trying to slow down the risk and mitigate it when it occurs.” 

Some of the exercise groups that come in from outside have stopped their services, and the 

Santa Rosa Silvercrest’s booth at the local senior fair has been postponed until later in the year. Hopkins said many of the residents have offered to lead classes within the building that will mitigate loneliness during their current “mini-quarantine.”

“We have quite a few educated people here over 62, who are very hands on, who are willing to create these activities inside the building,” Hopkins said. “They are already self-selecting and making plans. It’s a very close community.”

And the community is diverse. Many of the residents are Chinese, Korean and Philipino. King said staff are staying vigilant to make sure misinformation spread about COVID-19 doesn’t impact relationships within the building.

“We cannot discriminate against anyone and we are actively looking out for discriminatory behavior so that no group is stigmatized,” she said. “We have a very diverse group and many people in this building are from Asia…we are making sure our residents don’t discriminate against each other.”



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