The pandemic has proven to be a major threat to one of the pillars of senior living communities: group social interaction. With social distancing and periods of enforced isolation now part of the new normal, many seniors in these settings have experienced physical and mental decline. Cut off from peers, family, and friends during the pandemic, many have been unable to benefit from the meaningful social connections they need to thrive.
Experiencing periods of isolation can be just as deadly as the virus. But unlike the novel coronavirus, this situation is not new. The American Psychological Association cites recent research indicating the prevalence of loneliness among seniors and the need to take action to mitigate it.
For too long, the group activities model has been the gold standard for community programming. Now, the pandemic has prompted forward-thinking senior living operators to take a different approach. They have made strategic investments in person-centered resident engagement technology platforms to enhance the overall community experience and help attract and retain residents. In their communities, residents use tablets and easy-to-see, large format touch screen systems to access enriching, personalized digital experiences and to connect with friends and family whenever they wish. These senior care technology platforms have served as a lifeline, keeping residents connected and engaged in a joyful life as they ride out the pandemic. Nothing replaces in-person human contact, but strategically deployed engagement technology can be a good substitute and enhancement.
Here are three reasons cutting-edge senior living operators are reaping benefits from their investments in engagement technology.
1. A Strong Engagement Technology Solution Improves the Resident Experience
Many senior living operators have transformed standard group activities programs with technology-enabled experiences. These initiatives provide business value because they boost the health and wellness of residents by helping them develop a sense of purpose that makes their lives more enjoyable. As a result, residents are less likely to suffer loneliness and depression and more likely to have positive health outcomes.
The key to success is to take an approach that focuses on personalization. This requires that the community gather each resident’s unique preferences—what motivates them, what they enjoy, what they would like to share with or contribute to the community. Staff can use that information to anticipate residents’ needs and create a customized, technology-enabled community experience for each resident. For example, a resident with a passion for music can pursue that interest individually through digital content resources, or he can be connected with other residents who share the same interest to enjoy immersive, interactive experiences together.
Technology-enabled engagement platforms are most effective when they provide access to a content library that is curated specifically for seniors and that is easy for both staff and residents to intuitively navigate. With a comprehensive engagement program in place, residents can enjoy both group activities (such as trivia games or exercise classes) and individual experiences, such as virtual classes, religious services, and other online opportunities.
When residents are empowered to pursue their passions and interests and share them with others, they are more likely to stay healthy. Also, when they feel happy and fulfilled in their community, they often become advocates, bringing referrals who can potentially help boost the occupancy rates.
2. Engagement Technology Keeps Families Connected and Increases Peace of Mind
Many families have recently faced challenges in visiting and connecting with their relatives in senior living communities, some of which were understaffed and could not always facilitate phone calls or video chats between residents and loved ones. Families worried about the well-being of their family member and were left feeling frustrated that they couldn’t do more.
Senior living communities with engagement technology already deployed had the tablets, content, and applications that enabled residents to not only continue pursuing their interests but also to reach out to loved ones outside the facility, such as children and grandchildren. By having technology already integrated into the resident experience, these communities adapted to precautionary isolation and visitor restrictions better and more quickly than those organizations without this advantage.
At times when safety protocols require isolation, families want to know that their loved one is fine, and residents want the freedom to connect with their family at any time. With a dynamic engagement technology solution, it’s possible for special moments to continue. Residents can “virtually visit” family members when they wish; they can share meaningful videos and photos that spark even more conversations. An easy-to-use video chat application can mean the world to a senior who is unable to have in-person visits. In fact, older adults who use video chat are 50% less likely to exhibit symptoms of depression.
As you consider requirements for a resident engagement solution for your community, be sure to include the following in your specifications:
- Easy-to-use, on-demand video chat and messaging: Invest in a system that supports simple video chat, easy photo sharing, and messaging to foster loving family connections that help combat the effects of social isolation.
- Security: Implement security protocols to protect seniors from scams, phishing, viruses, and hacks.
3. Engagement Technology Helps Senior Living Communities Address Market Preferences and Achieve Business Goals
Due to recent events, prospective residents and their families understand the impact of prolonged isolation and the need to proactively address and mitigate loneliness.
When evaluating senior living residences, elders and their families are not only looking at housing design and staffing; they are also considering and demanding technology-driven engagement solutions that connect loved ones, family, and friends and empower residents to enjoy immersive, enriching experiences as they continue to lead purposeful lives.
By implementing a resident engagement solution, senior living community operators not only meet this demand but also differentiate their facility in their markets. These systems can attract new residents, shorten sales cycles, support the health and welfare of the community, and increase resident retention.
As you roll out your integrated engagement technology solution, be sure to share success stories and testimonials to prospective residents. On tours, give families demos so they can see the platform in action. In fact, let prospective residents try the technology themselves—and see how their perception of your community changes.
Adapt to the New Normal and Get Ready for Growth
It’s clear that interruptions to community activities and reductions in meaningful social interaction with family and friends put seniors’ health and happiness at risk. Senior living communities need a comprehensive, technology-enabled engagement strategy to better serve residents and meet evolving market demands.
In fact, our recent study shows that 73% of senior living operators believe engagement technology differentiates their community and the experience they offer residents and families. If your community does not have a technology-enabled resident engagement solution, now is the time to consider one.
For more insights that can help support your efforts to implement an engagement technology solution at your senior living community, download our white paper, Connection Is the Key to Occupancy: How Engagement Technology Meets the Demands of Potential Residents and Families.