Bonita Springs, Fla. – August 28, 2020 (Source: McKnight’s Senior Living)

Discovery Senior Living has launched a program, “Near & Dear – Bringing Families Together,” to allow more “closeness and intimacy” during family visits with residents, enabling families to “physically touch and embrace their loved ones following months of virus-mandated separation.”

The Bonita Springs, FL, senior living provider, which owns and operates 51 communities in 13 states, says it is one of the first senior living providers in the country to reinstate up close and personal visitation between assisted living and memory care residents and their families in outdoor meeting spaces.

In accordance with state and federal laws, we are allowing family members to once again enjoy up-close visits, with direct contact and even the sharing of affection — much like we could pre-pandemic — in a dedicated and comfortable space,” Vice President of Marketing Heidi Miller told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Family members can make an appointment to meet in the community’s private, outdoor family connection space, which provides enhanced safety protocols — including temperature checks, sanitation and personal protection equipment such as masks and hand sanitizer. They also must fill out a visitor screening questionnaire and take a rapid-results COVID-19 test. All testing is being paid for privately by Discovery, so no families, residents or communities will need to pay for testing, Miller said.

Operators in seniors housing have been working on developing solutions to satisfy resident and customer needs by creating spaces where they can meet and be socially distanced, but we’ve taken it a step further,” Discovery CEO Richard J. Hutchinson said. “FaceTime and socially distanced visits are better than not having any interactions, but our program is much more than that. It’s about helping our residents and families to re-experience the feeling of a warm embrace, a kiss on the cheek, and sharing love and laughter up close the way they once could pre-pandemic.”

The Near & Dear program already is underway in communities in states that are moving forward with reopening plans. The senior living provider will continue offering face-to-face, socially distanced visitation, as well as virtual visits, in restricted counties and states. Discovery also is continuing socially distanced activities and events in its facilities to keep residents active and connected.

We look forward to helping orchestrate so many long-awaited reunions between residents and their families,” Hutchinson said. “This program’s value goes beyond virtual visitations and seeing loved ones from a distance. It’s a way to overcome the negative impacts of separation and meaningfully enrich the lives of our residents despite the still-significant threat of COVID-19.