As the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. heads into August, senior living communities have begun to get a clearer picture of how Covid-19 has affected communities and most importantly, how it has affected each level of living. If you are considering a move into a community, the data in the chart on the next page of this article is important.

Senior living generally has four levels of care available: Independent living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing (nursing home) and Memory Care.  Some communities offer all levels, many only one. You can find out more about the different levels of care in this article titled “Making Sense of Senior Living Options.”

As I think most are aware, the coronavirus has hit nursing homes especially hard. A recent article in the New York Times stated that 40% of all U.S. deaths have been linked to nursing home or ‘other long term care facilities.’ That’s a big number and one that should concern anyone considering a move, especially into a nursing home. However, If you or a loved one is considering a move into a retirement community and in a level other than a nursing home, a strong argument can be made as to why this move may be better (or no worse) than staying home.

A survey performed by the senior living industry association the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC), has shed some valuable light about infection rates and testing at a specific care levels in senior living. The report from NIC has the results of a survey of 105 senior housing and skilled nursing operators from across the nation between May 9 and June 21.

The survey inquired about both testing rates and infections rates at communities.  The results of the survey showed that testing for Covid-19 varied by care segment, from 9.8% among independent living communities to 34.2% for skilled nursing facilities. Confirmed and suspected positive cases also vary by segment, from 0.3% for independent living to 6.7% for skilled nursing.

This data is important, as it helps illustrate the risk of contracting Covid-19 for residents and potential residents depending on the care level. The media has lumped all retirement communities into one entity being affected, when in fact, the data clearly shows Covid-19 has affected each level of care differently.

What stood out in the survey is that if you compare infection rates in retirement communities with the population as a whole, infection rates are actually lower in senior living through two levels of care and only slightly higher in a nursing or memory care setting. For the purposes of comparison, we used data from the state of Maryland, which tested 12% of its population at the time of this article. Although this is a small sample size, the state of Maryland is a good barometer as it has been on the forefront of testing in the U.S.

The data shows the following:

Care Level Percent Tested Percent Tested Positive
Independent Living 9.80% 0.20%
Assisted Living 21.90% 1.20%
Memory Care 17.60% 3.70%
Nursing Care 34.20% 4.30%
State of Maryland Total Population

(2019 data)


(July 2020)

3.48% (age 35+)

(July 2020)


The percentages may be slightly higher or lower once more data is collected from more communities and more states, but for now, this data is a positive statement to how senior living providers have handled this crisis to date.

This data shows that if you are considering a move to either independent living or assisted living, your risk of moving to a community does not appear to be increased compared to living at home. Why is this?  Mostly due to the protocols put into place by many senior living providers.  These communities have been enforcing the wearing of masks, social distancing, hand washing and many other preventative measures long before it was required.

A negative to moving perceived by many is the inability to see visitors at the community. And although communities have also been restricting guests, which on the surface appears overly restrictive, it is a policy every older adult should be following regardless of where they call home.

If you or your loved one required either memory care of nursing care, in the opinion of many, it is probably best to stay put.  Unfortunately, if you or a loved one requires this type of high-level care, staying home may not be an option. Check out the article “Making the Right Senior Living Decision in the Time of COVID-19” for a better understanding of how to determine what is best for your situation.

For additional information on a variety of subjects for those 60 and older, check out the National Association of Senior Advocates,  There you will find valuable resources as well as vetted professionals who are available to help in a variety of areas, from senior living, real estate, financial planning, home improvement and more.

© 2020 National Association of Senior Advocates