Dan Levitt, MSc., CHE, is a Gerontologist, TEDx International Speaker, and the Executive Director of Tabor Village. Levitt was inspired to get into the senior care industry at a young age, as he grew up watching his father run a facility in Vancouver, CA and wanted to follow in his footsteps. He believes that right now in the industry, our job is to protect the value of seniors lives by crushing ageism, stereotypes, and transforming the definition and execution of senior care.
If there is anything the pandemic has shown us, Levitt stresses that the ideas and constructs around senior living needs to adapt. Design, technology, infection control, and cleaning protocols are all things that need to shift and develop as the industry continues to move forward. Levitt adds that “we should be looking at materials, ventilation systems, negative air pressure, things that are standard in hospital systems, yet are often missing in senior living.”
More customizable and personal options for living may be at the forefront of development within the industry. Levitt urges people to navigate away from the narrative that all seniors are the same because each individual has different needs. Levitt predicts senior living communities may become smaller and more self-sufficient, steering away from traditional cafeteria style dining experiences and shared living spaces. “Infection control is paramount,” Levitt says, “infections are controlled through applications of materials, air circulation, and overall general lifestyle and care practices.” Having technology at the fingertips of both staff and residents is also instrumental in creating transformative care and adapting to person centered care.
Besides structural and technology needs, Levitt expresses the importance of combating loneliness and isolation. It is crucial for the older population to connect with the outside world. Levitt encourages operators to support and execute care models that give their senior residents their lives back. Person centered care and more robust programing can help reinvent what life is like inside senior care facilities. “Seniors have done nothing wrong besides getting older,” Levitt says, “not all of them understand why they are stuck in isolation, it can feel like a punishment.” Some solutions to combat this issue are allowing ample outdoor time, access to therapy, resources for religious practices, music therapy, and allowing socially distant interactions.
Though the pandemic has been challenging for seniors and senior living communities, Levitt believes it has opened up an important narrative about aging. “Before, there was always a youth centered culture. Seniors and their lives weren’t valued as much. But the pandemic has heightened the importance and value of senior lives and care. People are refocusing on how important seniors are in society and protecting them, rather than just tossing them away.”
While the industry strives to improve, Levitt believes that crushing ageism and the stereotypes surrounding it plays an important role in creating a better future. “Ageism starts with us,” he says, “we have a fear of growing old and a fear of old people, we spend so much energy and money on anti-aging products, but we shouldn’t hide our aging, we should celebrate it and encourage others to as well.”
By shifting the narrative around aging, it reincorporates the older population into society and assures that no one gets left behind. Levitt is an advocate for resources for seniors, whether it be through government funding or laws, and protecting seniors overall and assuring that they don’t slip through the cracks. With the elder population being at the center of concern amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Levitt hopes that it will bring attention and support to the community and its needs.