Blog Masonry with Sidebar

Nursing Homes During COVID-19

woman standing next to woman riding wheelchair

More than 80 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Canada are from nursing homes or long term care facilities. Around the world, the percentage of deaths in nursing homes remains high.  In nursing homes in Australia, there have been outbreaks in 80 aged care facilities. 

Despite warnings that older adults in nursing homes are more vulnerable, older adults have been excluded from pandemic preparedness plans and have been left behind by governments. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the long standing systemic issues in the aged care sector and the lack of assistance by the government. 

Aged care staff have been exposed to COVID-19 and have been furloughed or forced to quarantine, resulting in aged care providers struggling to maintain staffing levels and basic standards of care. Healthy residents are being sent to hospitals even if they do not have COVID-19 since there is inadequate staff to support them. Aged care workers have found themselves overworked and overwhelmed. Some staff members have worked while they exhibited symptoms for COVID-19 because they could not afford to take off work. 

The aged care industry is underfunded, unsupported, and fragmented and COVID-19 reveals the importance of supporting the aged care sector to protect the health of older adults. Government officials have excluded nursing home patients from testing policies and nursing homes have been left waiting for PPE equipment. Nursing homes have had to turn to other sources to receive the PPE that they need to protect their residents. 

We cannot continue to fail older adults in nursing homes. There must be a universal pandemic plan that includes nursing homes in the conversation so we can learn their needs and struggles. 

Support For Those Living With Dementia Webinar

On July 21, 2020 Global Ageing Network, Heritage Foundation and BDU Heritage Center for Gerontology  co-hosted a webinar focused on dementia care in the midst of COVID. Four distinguished panelists each provided their perspectives based on their distinct roles and countries.

Dr Al Power, U.S.-based gerontologist, described the benefits to those living with dementia of the cohorting that has become necessary with COVID to contain the spread and, with it, consistent staff assignments. The latter allow staff to follow the rhythms of an individual resident better. With cohorting there is also less commotion and increased spacing for meals and activities which, he suggested, are important lessons for us to consider post-COVID.

Dr Power also referenced a study that is currently underway by Susan Ryan of The Green House Project and Dr. Cheryl Zimmerman looking at the experience of COVID in 254 Green House homes. Early findings suggest the cases and death rates are lower than in other nursing home settings. Preliminary conclusions: size matters (small is better),  consistent staff assignment is essential; private rooms and easy access to the outdoors are critical and the ability to “better personalize the rhythms of residents” creates a healthy environment, particularly in a pandemic.

Pavithra Gangadharan runs a private assisted living community in Hyderbad, India. She reinforced Dr Powers’ push for private rooms and consistent assignment, allowing for one on one caregiving. The operational changes she has made as a result of COVID include reducing group activities and limiting the number of ancillary staff coming into her community. In contrast, the state funded homes in India have upwards of 7 people to a room, fewer caregivers and far more cases of COVID 19.

Vincenzo Paolino, CEO of Almacaza in Switzerland is trained as a psychiatric  nurse. While COVID is, at present, under control in Switzerland, Vincenzo asserted that quality of care is the basis for quality of life. In his communities, the resident is at the center of all care and support and building trust with families and residents is critical. Fearing the effects of social isolation by the resident when COVID was at its peak, Almacaza resorted to postcard exchanges between residents and families, a seemingly old fashioned but successful solution to a present day challenge.

Emi Kiyota, architect and advocate for older adults and those living with dementia, noted that COVID didn’t create the problems of our system of supports for those living with dementia but it did expose them. In India, dementia is stigmatized and dismissed as an age-related illness. People don’t like to admit that they have a family member living with dementia and, as a result don’t ask for help and quickly get burned out. In Italy, there is a post-COVID response that favors institutionalizing older people and medicalizing their care. By doing this, Vincenzo suggested, we minimize the humanity of older adults. “There should be no difference in humanity across countries when it comes to the livelihood of older people.”

The panel spoke about the role of technology, especially in addressing social isolation. There was widespread agreement that whether a technology solution is effective is completely individualized. For some individuals it may be a solution but it will never replace caregiving.

Emi Kiyota concluded the webinar by noting that, based on her experience working in Nepal and the Philippines and listening to Pavithra talk about India, there is a sense of community that is very strong in the less developed world, particularly as it relates to the role of older adults in community. This is something that the rest of the world can learn from.

Participants included individuals involved in aged care and services from over 13 countries.

By Katie Smith Sloan

Executive Director, Global Ageing Network 

Nursing Home Staff During COVID-19

Dr. Kathy McGilton is a Senior scientist at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute University Health Network and a professor at the Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto. She is an active presenter for The Global Ageing Network, and her most recent work with GAN includes speaking at the 2019 Global Ageing conference and in recent webinar on July 7 with the Heritage Foundation. In her article, she discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the devaluation of nursing home staff which furthers staffing challenges in the sector and puts older adults at risk. Read her article here

University Health Network (@UHN) | Twitter

July 8th Day of Remembrance Reflection

On this day of remembrance, I have an image of a candle vivid in my mind. On its own, a candle brings a small flicker of light, yet it is a source that shines even stronger the darker it is. No matter where you live in this world, a candle is a universal symbol. It universally brings feelings of somber reflection, gratitude and of course, HOPE and STRENGTH.  It is that hope that gives us strength, now as we move forward in a new world where COVID-19 is very much a part of our society and of the aging field. 

We have all experienced loss during this time. As we reflect on the Elders who lost their battle with COVID, we grieve that this came so fast and furious and was, in a way, so unexpected. 

We are confronted with the fact that only limited numbers of family members could be by the side of their loved ones in their very last moments. In some cases, the only people by their side were our amazing staff.

I hurt alongside all of you when I think of the mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, husbands and wives who lost their fight with this silent enemy. Yet I am also comforted by the fact that there were many moments of joy and tearful goodbyes that were still able to happen virtually. 

I am thankful for the day and time we live in where we have the technology to allow virtual connection to happen. We are humbled by the many family members who have paid tribute to their loved ones and it brings us hope knowing that their legacies will live on.

We also mourn with the caregivers who tirelessly and courageously dedicated so much in taking care of those who needed care the most during this time, but in many instances, also lost their battle with COVID.

A candle often provides direction. These caregivers provided direction and guidance and were an unwavering, solid presence in the lives of those they tended to. 

As the time passes, these candles will be extinguished, their light will not go out. It lives eternally, as their memories will never be forgotten.

Although we come from many diverse backgrounds and are meeting virtually, today our individual candles combined make us a strong force. We are a force that will demand better resolutions, treatments, and resources. We are a presence of light that will forge forward hoping that tomorrow there will be more answers and solutions than questions and uncertainties and together we will not stop until that becomes a reality.  

We will let our past shape us to be better – to be better as an industry, in our organizations and as people. 

We now cherish the moments we otherwise would have taken for granted. This candlelight is a representation of strength – even a little can go a long way. Let it inspire us to go a long way in forging a future that is informed by our past in honor of those we lost. Light will prevail against the darkness and hope will shine again. 

By Roberto Muniz 

Heritage Foundation and GAN Webinar Series

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing untold fear and suffering for older people across the world. Less visible but no less worrisome are the broader effects – health care denied for conditions unrelated to COVID-19; neglect and abuse; an increase in poverty and unemployment; the dramatic impact on well-being and mental health; and the trauma of stigma and discrimination.  

Although all age groups are at risk of contracting COVID-19, older persons are at a significantly higher risk of mortality and severe disability following infection. An estimated 66% of people aged 70 and over have at least one underlying condition, placing them at increased risk of severe impact from COVID-19. Those over 80 years old are dying at five times the rate of the general population.

Some older adults face additional vulnerabilities at this time. The spread of COVID-19 in care homes and institutions results in homes being closed to visitors, resulting in social isolation and isolation and, in some instances, mistreatment. In many situations, mental well-being is increasingly at risk. 

The virus is also threatening social networks, the safety of carers, access to health services, jobs and pensions. It is critical that we understand the impact of the virus on older adults around the world and identify ways to preserve their rights, dignity, health and well-being at this time.

Heritage Foundation, India and the Global Ageing Network are sponsoring this webinar series to: 


  1. Understand the role and challenges of care providers in preventing illness and death
  2. Understand the successful practices in institutional and home-based care
  3. Identify measures to cope with the lingering impact of COVID on individual lives and communities

Proposed Dates: Dates: July: 7th & 21st, August 4th & 18th & September 1st & 15th

Ageism During COVID-19


Older adults are disproportionally affected by COVID-19. Adults above the age of 65 are more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19. With the development of COVID-19, ageism has resurged, contributing to false beliefs and prejudices about older adults.

Dialogue surrounding older adults has painted older adults as unworthy and a strain on the health care system. Older adults are depicted as “sitting ducks” who are vulnerable and helpless against COVID-19 and their deaths are seen as a normal outcome during the pandemic. The hashtag #BoomerRemover operates under the presumption that COVID-19 only affects older adults. Not only is this incorrect, it is incredibly offensive, hinting that older adults are not worthy of life based on the mere fact that they are old.

Young adults also tend to take fewer precautions for COVID-19 due to the assumption that only older adults are affected by COVID-19. This can be seen as young adults continued to travel during spring break despite public health recommendations. As a young adult myself, I have noticed this. Young adults have begun to treat COVID-19 as a thing of the past and have continued to live their lives normally. But it is important to continue social distancing and to wear masks to protect vulnerable populations like older adults.

There is also an assumption that older adults are equally at risk for developing COVID-19 because they are all frail. This is not the case. Not all older adults are frail and weak, many older adults remain active, maintain good health, and continue to have productive lives. Older adults are more at risk not because of their age but due to greater risk of chronic diseases and co-morbidities.

COVID-19 efforts have also patronized older adults by enforcing stricter restrictions on older adults. In Canada, older adults have been encouraged to register for the “vulnerable person registry.” COVID-19 efforts to protect older adults should emphasize their self-efficacy and acknowledge their capability to live independently and make their own decisions to protect their health. 

Even though older adults are the most at risk for COVID-19, older adults in nursing homes have found themselves with little protection. Nursing home facilities lack PPE equipment and adequate supplies. They require more funding to regularly test their residents and staff. Most COVID-19 deaths are from nursing homes, yet there are very few news stories reporting how many older adults are dying in nursing homes. The lack of media coverage on deaths in nursing homes is ageist. Older adults living in nursing homes have vibrant lives and their deaths are tragic.

We must understand that older adults are a diverse population, and must not operate under the assumption that all older adults are frail and incapable of fending for themselves. We should not ascribe value to older adults on their productiveness or accomplishments. They are worthy of living the rest of their lives happily and safely. And in order for this to happen, we must continue to take necessary precautions to combat COVID-19 and continue to social distance.

By Randhika Aturaliya

GAN Statement in Response to Protests


Dear Global Ageing Network colleagues and friends

Our challenging times have become even more challenging. In countries around the world, we are faced with a pandemic that has taken far too many lives. The response from governments in many countries has been wholly inadequate in supporting older adults and providers. Given events in the U.S. in the last week, what is crystal clear is that “we are also living in a racism pandemic,” as the American Psychological Association declared. That fact is as disconcerting as it is a challenge to each of us, individually and collectively. Only by confronting the systemic racism in our countries can we ever achieve understanding and justice. I believe this with every beat of my heart.

The terrible events in Minneapolis, Minnesota – and so many others that have occurred around the U.S. – are more than heartbreaking. What we are witnessing reflects blithe indifference to racism and casual acceptance of the violence directed at people of color. For many at LeadingAge and in the Global Ageing Network, the string of killings is deeply personal and painful beyond belief. Some of us don’t know what fear in our daily lives is really like. But we do know that the victims of violence could be one of us, one of our friends, or one of our colleagues. While we can’t walk in anyone else’s shoes, we can try to empathize with what it feels like to be black or brown or Asian, and we must stand with them.  

COVID-19, the coronavirus that we are all fighting, robs people of their health, instills fear, and, in many cases, ends lives. Racism, bigotry and hatred do the same — robbing lives while instilling fear and anger. What is taking place across the U.S. right now, shines a spotlight on people who have to live their lives being afraid, angry, and hurting. It shines an intense light on what many of you face daily.

The Global Ageing Network is our community. Our values – of acceptance, respect, justice, and inclusion – are what set us apart. We have worked hard to build a community that nurtures belonging and compassion for one another. I am heartened by the outpouring of peaceful protests in countries around the world, visible expressions of solidarity with these values. It gives me great hope. So, in this time of grievous social injustice, let us reach out, comfort each other, and respond as friends and colleagues who care deeply about each other. Let us also use this incredible moment in history to ask the hard questions, to challenge the easy answers, to engage in the fierce conversations that will lead towards a full-throated acceptance of our diversity, our unique strengths, and our power to change the course of history. In our community. At this moment.  

Global Ageing Network will continue to be a community that continually strives to be free from discrimination and striving for inclusion. A community that practices the value of respect and encourages each of us to accept and embrace each other, knowing that while we may differ, we are all bound to each other in our humanity. A community that values every person’s voice, no matter how different the opinion, striving for greater understanding overall.

My heart goes out to all. I hope that we can come together, in our communities, to do our best to beat this disease, to defeat the hatred, racism, bigotry and divisiveness we see around us and to raise awareness of the social injustices in our societies.  

With gratitude, appreciation and in solidarity,

Katie Smith Sloan, 

Executive Director, Global Ageing Network 

Global Economic Policy Reactions to COVID-19

Countries across the globe are changing economic policy to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Today’s emergency response will specifically impact the world’s aged, and how people will age in the future. For example, the International Monetary Fund reports that in Jordan, as of March 23, the country is allocating 50 percent of its maternity insurance revenues (JD 16 million) to material assistance for the elderly and the sick. As of April 2, Mexico is advancing pension plans to the elderly. Hong Kong offered 1.3 billion dollars for vulnerable populations, including programs targeting the elderly.

These responses are coming at great cost in all countries. As of March 26, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted a decrease in GDP of at least 15% for the majority of the world’s largest developed countries. Higher- income countries like the United States are feeling institutional impacts of the coronavirus, without clear future standards yet in place. Some hospitals in the United States opted out of offering elective surgeries, and are now feeling the monetary impact of that decision. At a time when staff is needed, hospital funding sources are questionable. 

 LeadingAge recently educated its provider network on the U.S. “Paycheck Protection Program” to maintain and restore payroll for health care workers throughout the pandemic. Without care workers, there is no care. But in the fog of crisis, immediate responses from localities are being made sooner without considering than long-term policy issues.

Regardless of any country’s wealth, every city has its rich and poor. Many wealthier parts of cities can rely on digital solutions for social distancing in a way that those without access to basic needs cannot. COVID-19 knows no class system, so countries are developing policies to find relief for the majority of citizens, like suspending rent payments. Bratislava, Slovakia, developed a free phone line for seniors to access their basic needs like food and medication. Lima, Peru, has a voluntary register for elders and a program for bonus income. Yokohama, Japan, distributed 500,000 free face masks to elder care institutions.

With cities in higher income countries strapped, how can we put in perspective what that looks like for countries who entered the crisis without the same capital?

Oxfam highlights that while developed countries’ health systems are overwhelmed, low-income countries’ systems are devastated. Italy has one doctor for every 243 people. Compare that to Zambia’s one doctor for every 10,000 people. In refugee camps globally, there is one doctor for an estimated 25,000 people. Mali has 3 ventilators for every million people. Oxfam released a report suggesting solutions for how the globe should react to build a long-term worldwide response. Oxfam recommends doubling funding to 85 of the world’s poorest countries. That funding could hire 10 million workers, affecting the health of 3.7 billion people. We know how quickly the COVID-19 virus spreads, so preventing coronavirus in 3.7 billion people can change world history.

Asking high-income countries for aid in a time of severe economic downturn may seem impossible. However, recontamination after travel bans are lifted seems worse. One country’s inequitable health care system is another country’s second wave contamination. The World Economic Forum suggests forgiving country debt in combination with Oxfam’s aid proposal. It also suggests that nations must follow Spain’s lead and requisite items from private health care centers. Free testing and treatment must be made immediately to all. The World Economic Forum says that these solutions are doable: “One hundred and sixty billion dollars sounds like a lot. It’s entirely possible. It’s less than 10% of the U.S. fiscal stimulus to tackle coronavirus.”

While nations around the globe seek a clear way forward, there are solid policy recommendations that should be implemented on both local action and international scales. If you have suggestions, please email your innovative global policy recommendations to us at

By Beth Brodsky

Ageism During a Pandemic

The Coronavirus shines a bright light on what those of us committed to the well-being of our world’s elders have known for a  long time: We have long undervalued, underfunded, and largely ignored the plight of older adults. As the virus rages through communities and countries, older adults are disproportionately impacted. We knew, at the outset, that older adults, those with underlying health conditions, and members of specific ethnic and racial groups were most at risk. We had a chance to target resources to prevent unnecessary deaths. We are losing our elders not just because they are most susceptible to this vicious virus but because we have failed to protect them.

Ageism is at the root of this. As nations, we invest in what we value most. The impact of this virus is a stark reminder that we have—as societies—failed our older adults. We have failed those who have built our communities, fought in our wars, contributed to our economies, and brought creative talent, scientific mastery, grit, and compassion to our daily lives. Older adults are integral to the strength and humanity of our societies. And yet, we have failed them.

Ageism is evident in the lack of prioritization of PPE, testing and support. It is evident in prioritizing hospitals over aged care homes. It is evident in how quick we are to blame dedicated care providers for some failing on their part. In truth, the pandemic is the enemy. We are dealing with an uncharted pandemic. It takes no prisoners. It is invisible. The response needs to target those most at risk, focus on the hot spots, and take advice from the scientists and public health experts around testing and physical distancing. Not just for some people, but for ALL people, regardless of age.

The Global Ageing Network is witnessing the impact of the pandemic through the eyes of providers and others in more than 60 countries.  We are seeing deep commitment, fortitude, and compassion that is nothing short of inspiring. Our elders deserve this. And, we are seeing institutional and attitudinal barriers that stand in the way of progress.

This is a time for the global community committed to the well-being of older adults to come together. To raise our voices and call for an end to ageist policies and practices. It is a time to repair the economic, political and social fault lines in our societies. It is a time to reimagine how services and supports for older adults fit into our broader health systems – not as stepchildren, but as equal partners playing an essential role. It is a time to rebuild communities that have become fractured by social and physical distancing.

But most immediately, it is a time to express our deep sympathy for the thousands of lives lost. Every community has lost a part of its soul. And, to express our gratitude to the dedicated direct care workers, the nurses, the social workers, and so many others who have put their lives at risk to show up every day to support those in their care. We are grateful.

By Katie Smith Sloan

What’s Next? Global Overview of Phase 2

Common feelings around aging services providers include fatigue for working 24/7 work; sadness, feeling losses in their communities, and in the face of all that: gratitude for those who continue their work. Care providers are still trying to obtain masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and testing while doing their jobs– on top of the fear of biological threat. That is what is what many countries are calling “Phase 1.”  What are some lessons from Phase 1?

  • In the United States, the first nursing home in Seattle was a major sign of coronavirus in the country. The Center for Disease Control completed its debrief on how COVID-19 spread there.
  • Belgium’s death rate appeared higher than other countries. They’ve been counting care home deaths from the beginning, compared to many other countries that excluded care home data.
  • To procure masks for aging services providers, Australia, France, and the Netherlands have government-wide national coordination. Countries like the United States, Lebanon, and South Africa have had little or no national coordinated roll out. Aging services providers in these countries turn to private markets and homemade masks.
  • The South Africa Department of Social Development published guidelines on caring for older persons to align with their Disaster Management Act.
  • Australian and American providers have eliminated visitation or created screening checkpoints before anyone can enter care homes.
  • The United States started experiencing staffing shortages at nursing homes, so some facilities are partnering with restaurants to hire and streamline training for previously displaced staff. LeadingAge aggregated COVID-19 specific classes for aging services providers to share with staff. Separately, states are acting. The state of Maryland called upon the National Guard for “strike teams” to aid overburdened nursing homes. The New York governor added to his press briefings statistics on nursing home cases after journalists asked for statistics on the homes for days.
  • Global Ageing Network countries around the world are finding there were not enough tests available in Phase 1.

For their Phase 1, Taiwan, Iceland, Germany, and South Korea have been the Big 4 countries who have maintained the most control over COVID-19. The crux of many of their strategies was coordination on testing and contact tracing:

  • Taiwan and South Korea were the best prepared, but that didn’t happen in a vacuum. Both countries had learned from previous outbreaks. Both countries already had a culture of wearing masks.
  • Taiwan used public-private collaboration, open communication early and often, and a fact check center to ensure their citizens were receiving appropriate information.
  • Iceland tested early and aggressively, with the goal to test everybody in the population.
  • As Germany enters Phase 2, Germany will gradually scale back their lockdown while also testing for antibodies.

So, as we enter Phase 2, which countries will use these strategies? What’s next?

  • Italy’s Phase 1 sounds familiar to us now. In March, they had the second highest number of cases. They went on lockdown. Many their elderly population were heavily affected. Now what?  Italy will not move to Phase 2 until May, at the earliest. The country still has concern that reopening will overwhelm the healthcare system once again.
  • The Africa Global HelpAge International Network Statement shared upcoming plans to tailor coronavirus communications for older adults in rural areas. They emphasize protecting farmers, because many are older persons and simultaneously, protecting farmers will protect food security.
  • Ghana is experimenting with drones to deliver testing to rural areas.
  • The UK National Care Forum developed a #ringofsteel exit plan to protect against coronavirus: Including preparing an army of nursing workforce, billions of pounds in council funding, and plans for routine testing.
  • Ireland prepares for herd immunity before a second wave of the pandemic begins. As of April 20, Ireland is concerned that society’s fatigue and complacency may not lead to much needed tests.
  • Now that South Africa flattened their curve, their Phase 2 is starting to unlock places like transport hubs. However, the government continues to ask the elderly to continue lockdown and stay at home until there are vaccines or treatment. The Department of Health, as of the week of April 20, are training staff to test eldercare facilities.
  • Developing nations weigh the economic factors of reopening. Requests for freezing or writing off debts are under consideration, but none of yet to be granted.
  • Some care homes are continuing hazard pay, and plan to do so moving forward.

For aging services, phase 1 may feel longer within countries that are already moving to phase 2. Ideally, countries can apply lessons from the Big 4 countries with low case rates. If you have tips for what aging services providers could do to move into their phase 2, email

By Beth Brodsky