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Welcome to The Future of Elder Care

An introduction to our 2021 series — and a call for your stories

By Grace Birnstengel

It's no secret: Nursing homes and other long-term care centers were wholly unprepared for what 2020 brought. As of Jan. 12, 2021, at least 136,000 of the nation's COVID-19 deaths were care facility residents or employees.

Older adult in long-term care facility, Next Avenue
Credit: Getty

That's 36% of all U.S. COVID-19 fatalities.

But anyone who is shocked by the volume of devastation happening in the facilities shouldn't be.

How Did We Get Here?

There's a reason we have negative associations with facilities that care for elders. Experts, advocates, residents and their families have long revealed patterns of poor care and neglect at nursing homes — stemming from funding models and policies that don't prioritize the health of residents or the treatment of workers.

So how did we get here? And where do we go from here? These are just two of the big-picture questions I'll be exploring over the course of the year, in a new initiative called The Future of Elder Care.

Long-term care will be a necessity for most Americans at some point in their lives. How it is delivered and experienced, however, is far from a given. The COVID-19 pandemic is providing an opportunity — a mandate, really — to reimagine how care can be delivered in America in ways that are effective, sustainable and humane.

Together we'll learn how our nation came to this crisis and engage in conversations around real potential for change.

Our Approach

Our reporting will be grounded in lived experiences. We'll center the voices of those most affected by this crisis: the residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities, their families and care partners, and staff. We'll share their stories and hear their ideas for how our country could do things differently.


Hearing from long-term care experts, doctors, policymakers and advocates is always important, and their viewpoints will be crucial to this storytelling as well. Many leaders in health care and aging are calling for a entire reimagining of nursing homes and long-term care. We'll highlight and explore the most viable options for innovation.

We Need Your Help

Next Avenue's readers are at the heart of everything we do, and this is no different. We're looking to our audience to share their thoughts, their experiences and perspectives to inform this special series. Here's how you can help.

If you:

  • Have a family member or friend in a nursing home, assisted living facility or other long-term care residence — currently or in the past
  • Are a resident of one of those facilities yourself
  • Work at a nursing home or long-term care facility

We'd really like to hear from you via the form below.

Let us know what's on your mind, what your experience has been or just that you're interested in learning more about the series. Nothing you share will end up in a story without your explicit permission.

Editor’s note: This story is part of The Future of Elder Care, a Next Avenue initiative with support from The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Grace Birnstengel
Grace Birnstengel was an editor, reporter and writer for Next Avenue. She focused on in-depth storytelling and the intersections of identity and aging. Read More
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