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Senior Living Technology: Truth Bombs from 2018

The end of each year always brings reflection on the past and anticipation for the future. Oneview Healthcare recently gathered executives from companies like Sunrise Senior Living, Retirement Center Management and Wellspring Healthcare to talk openly about what communities are experiencing, what tools they need most and how they see technology changing in the coming year.

The roundtable, called “Innovation and Technology with Thought Leaders in Senior Living” hosted executives who were attending the NIC Fall Conference in Chicago, bringing great minds together to talk all things senior living solutions. Lydia K. Manning, PhD, Program Faculty Leader for Gerontology at Concordia University Chicago moderated the discussion. Not surprisingly, a lot of communities in the industry have similar pain points and have learned similar lessons in the past year. As Times Square drops the ball on 2018, senior living execs drop the truth on the hottest topics in senior living technology:

Truth bomb 1: Technology needs the right buy-in, training and consideration.

One chief financial officer began the roundtable discussion by noting that some senior living companies started implementing multiple technologies without investing enough time to account for strategy planning and training. Now, communities have invested money in a number of different technologies, and they aren’t working the way they need. Plus, users don’t have time to undergo the multiple training programs required to use them optimally. Communities have learned from that experience. They know that gaining buy-in from stakeholders and end users during the acquisition period makes for better change management and better technology adoption.

Instead of investing in several technologies that each replace one particular workflow, communities are investing in unifying systems together, getting systems to talk to each other in real time, and making their tools work together in new ways. Each community wants to see hard ROI, but learning and adjusting to multiple tools takes time and slows down operations. Communities now want a frictionless experience – using one interface to access all their systems, integrating data points from multiple sources, and visualizing data to make better decisions and experience better ROI.

Truth bomb 2: Relationships and empathy matter most, period.

One panel participant emphasized that everyone’s job in senior living is about relationships. He shared a personal anecdote – even though his own mother lives with 100 other people in a community, she sometimes feels alone. But technology helps her feel more connected. The industry has moved beyond the antiquated idea that seniors are resistant to technology. Software and devices have evolved to become better for seniors, giving them a more personal experience. Seniors now enjoy fewer clicks to get to the information and services they want most, allowing them to shape their own experience to their own unique preferences. Outside the walls of the community, families get more information about their loved ones in a convenient way that works best for everyone. Apps will let families pay community statements, send gifts from the community directly to residents, share photos, video chat with residents family members, receive real-time care updates, and create a more seamless experience for everyone.

A chief marketing officer on the panel stressed the importance of making a good first impression on prospective residents and making a community feel more like home. The ability to personalize an experience goes a long way to create an immersive, impressive and comforting environment.

A business development executive who participated in the discussion said that using technology to not only connect residents to family, but also to foster community socialization will be the ultimate win. Relationship building significantly reduces feelings of loneliness and depression. Technology can open communication lines between residents and families, and can even streamline staff’s workflows so they can spend more time on the important things – face time with residents for better relationships.

Truth bomb 3: It’s time to stop saying seniors aren’t ready for intuitive technologies.

Newer technologies meet people where they are in relation to their  own ability levels. One panelist described that he’d noticed residents adopting technology in their own preferred ways. For example, a resident might want all the capability and independence that an iPhone provides, but doesn’t want to use an iPhone specifically. Technology makes that possible. Integrated solutions and immersive technology-enabled resident rooms let residents use a smart TV or other tools as their preferred point of communication or interface.

The consumer market has known for a long time that technology provides independence. People use smartphones to book travel, find great restaurants, get a ride or order food directly to their doors. Seniors are ready to adopt that concept to elevate independence in communities, especially since technology is ready to adopt them – with new socially and age appropriate interfaces and design.

It’s an exciting time for new innovative technologies! The past headaches of implementing older technologies have taught us valuable lessons. Senior living providers are ready to unify their electronic tools to provide more specific levels of data, maximize ROI and usher in a new era of a more communicative customer experience for residents, families and staff.

The executives who participated in this roundtable discussion have nearly 100 years of combined experience in senior living. Based on your experience, what’s your biggest truth bomb of 2018? Share your thoughts on social media using #sltech19.


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