With more than 10,000 Americans turning 65 each day, senior living is set for tremendous growth as the resident demographic moves toward the baby boomers. Those new tech-savvy prospective residents do not just want, but expect, high-speed internet access to support multiple devices, TV streaming channels, and the convenience of smart technology that they have enjoyed at home.
Even as we continue to serve the Greatest Generation during this demographic shift, technology has become the silver lining of the pandemic. And keeping residents connected and engaged never has been easier, thanks to the technology revolution in senior living.
Enabling resident independence
Tech usage is increasing among seniors, and that means we can safely rely on more solutions to deliver familiar methods of interaction. For example, one reason that families may advocate for their loved ones to move into senior living is that the older adult no longer can maintain a home environment. Technology allows residents to regain control of their living space; solutions such as big-button TV remotes or voice controls can allow them to interact easily with smart apartment features. Added benefits to resident smart apartments include fewer calls to staff members for assistance and reduced opportunities to fall, because smart apartment control is handled from a safe, seated position.
Although tech usage among older adults is increasing, to keep the technology interaction, it is crucial that solutions such as TV remote controls rely on residents’ long-term memories, because new skills may become difficult to navigate with age.
Lightening the caregiver workload
Ongoing staffing shortages are plaguing senior living as the “silver wave” hits current communities. Meeting the needs of the growing resident population requires adding innovative solutions to the long-term care equation. Technology can lighten the caregiver workload so that caregivers can focus on what they do best: provide direct care.
Many senior living communities have implemented resident engagement software to enhance communication, help residents find purpose and bring joy. Similarly, entrance safety — including automated COVID-19 screening, background checks and contactless, person-centered welcomes — allows onsite personnel to focus on activities of daily living. Those technology additions may feel minor, but they allow community staff members to prioritize true resident care.
Increasing ROI and new revenue streams
Managed television and Wi-Fi not only simplify the resident move-in experience; they also can add a new revenue stream to communities.
Historically, residents called cable and Wi-Fi providers to implement their own services. This process is cumbersome to successful transitions to a community, it’s expensive for families, and communities are giving away a built-in revenue stream. Further, individual apartment Wi-Fi signals from a variety of carriers often do not work well when there are close accommodations, creating poor network bandwidth that cannot support growing technology needs.
Implementing a simplified, hospitality-like Wi-Fi and TV experience provides community branding, an opportunity to send messaging to resident TVs, and overall improvement of the TV-viewing experience, with added cost-savings to both communities and families. Managed TV and Wi-Fi brings the true hospitality experience to senior living.
Allowing independence with dignity
It’s apparent that older adults are relying on technology. It’s one of the key tools that allows for independence with dignity at this stage of life.
In 2016, a Ph.D. candidate requested to write his thesis on technology in senior living. The university denied his topic of interest, saying it saw no value in researching the future of senior living technology. Fast forward to 2022, and senior living has an essential seat at the technology table.
Margaret DeVinney is a senior living strategist at Enseo. Before joining the company, she worked in senior living operations, home health and hospice. DeVinney serves on the board for AGE of Central TX, an adult day center and education aging resource. She is a founding member of She Thrives, AGE’s women’s summit. DeVinney has served on the board of Capital Area Parkinson’s and is a certified dementia trainer through the Alzheimer’s Association. She holds an undergraduate degreein history and political science and a master’s degree in conflict and dispute resolution, both from Southern Methodist University.
The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living guest column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.
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