Commonwealth Senior Living at The Ballentine employees in Norfolk, VA, move patio furniture from outside to inside the building to prepare for Hurricane Florence.

As peak hurricane season — and Hurricane Florence, specifically — loomed, Commonwealth Senior Living shared hurricane preparedness tips with local older adults who still live at home, their families and first responders.

The graphic indicated that the checklist was “compliments of Commonwealth Senior Living” but took a light touch in mentioning senior living. Only one tip, the last of eight, mentioned it. (“Hurricanes can leave communities without power or running water for weeks,” the item stated. “Consider your safety first by choosing to stay in a senior living community or with a loved one before a storm hits.” See below for the complete list.)

“The safety and care of seniors extends far beyond our four walls,” Commonwealth Vice President of Maintenance and Capital Programs Walter Spence told me. “We pride ourselves on being a part of the local communities in which we have a presence and seek out new opportunities to share our collective knowledge with citizens so that they are better informed about the issues seniors face.”

Commonwealth has 21 communities offering independent living, assisted living and/or memory care in Virginia. Fortunately, Spence said, a major weather incident never has affected one of them.

And that lucky streak continued with Hurricane Florence. Unlike other communities where evacuation was necessary, because the storm changed course and was reduced to a Category Two storm, and none of Commonwealth’s communities experienced more than light rain.

But the company has a plan if major weather does become a factor. In part, for instance, when Florence threatened, one of the actions employees took was to bring patio furniture inside the building.

“Every community is outfitted with several layers of emergency features, including generators, lighting, medical devices and more,” Spence said. “We work diligently to protect the safety of our residents and associates at all times, and our team members are well-trained if a weather event were to ever impact a community.”

Commonwealth’s checklist for its communities, by necessity, is more comprehensive and detailed than the one it provided homeowners, he said, explaining that the organization’s “procedures have been designed and rigorously tested in order to protect the well-being of our residents and associates.”

But as the dissemination of the list proves, sometimes being a good neighbor is simple.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers. Email her at

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