The importance of indoor air quality has been at the forefront of many people’s minds in the past few years, given the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and pollution in major cities. Proper ventilation and high-quality IAQ was a need in assisted living and memory care communities far before the pandemic, but the need for well-supported infrastructure and comprehensive building systems has become all the more crucial.
Just as COVID-19 affected everyone, so does air pollution and other airborne bacteria and hazards. The effects are much more severe in older adults, however, because those individuals are more susceptible and at greater risk for health issues relating to poor IAQ.
This is all the more reason to consider and mitigate in assisted living communities, because poor air quality can lead to, and worsen, chronic health conditions such as lung disease, asthma, pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart disease and other serious problems. Proper IAQ and ventilation, in turn, can be smart and simple strategies to implement to reduce the risk of health conditions and to support the safety and well-being of residents. Moreover, as residents and others who live or work in those communities continue to adjust their expectations and requirements in light of recent events, property owners and operators also will need to adjust accordingly.
Obstacles to good indoor air quality exist in the fragmented assisted living sector, but “clean tech,” or any process, product or service that reduces negative environmental effects, has proliferated in several fields.
In assisted living, many owners own only a small number of properties, which can make it difficult to implement systems across portfolios and have an effect in the market. Yet the need for IAQ and modern HVAC systems is vital, and as occupancy rates continue to slowly increase from pandemic lows, the need for owners to be able to meet resident expectations will be all the more important.
Systems already being implemented
Some key examples exist of how owners and operators can support the health and safety of their residents by ensuring that their building systems are as high-quality and up-to-date as possible.
For instance, Lumenant, which provides technology solutions to improve the quality of life in senior living communities, is working with the one of the largest operators of assisted living communities in the country, with 140 properties, and that operator is installing IAQ systems throughout its portfolio. Already, 17 of the organization’s communities have implemented AtmosAir’s bipolar ionization technology across North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.
In those communities, residents are more at risk to serious illnesses and air-borne viruses, such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and norovirus, which are consistent issues in memory care properties. Indoor air purification systems can help prevent contaminants in a space and have the potential to drive better health, wellness and improved care. Additionally, bipolar ionization technology can filter particulate matter and other contaminants in gaseous elements. In this way, unwanted odors are eliminated, which is of particular importance in a residential care facility. Also, the technology can drive multiple solutions and new amenities for communities while improving the resident experience.
Key component in any community
Two communities of note that already have seen dividends from bipolar ionization technology are Indigo Hall, a luxury senior living facility in Charleston, SC, and RoseCastle at Deerwood, a premium senior living community in Deerwood, FL. Those communities are indicative of a wider trend as well — namely, that along with other amenities such as state-of-the-art designs, community offerings, full-service housekeeping and retail options, IAQ, proper heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems now are of equal importance for many current and future residents.
Owners and operators who take advantage and capitalize on access to technology such as AtmosAir’s and others can support lower vacancy rates, improve health and safety for residents and drive public and stakeholder confidence across properties and portfolios. The ability of real-time monitoring for key performance indicators is invaluable for inclusion into environmental, social, and corporate governance reporting as a value-add, since both stakeholders and investors today and in the future are or will require more sustainable business practices. The recorded measurements reported also provide factual information that can be used to monitor and improve overall energy management and efficiency.