Seniors Housing Business

MAY-JUN 2018

Seniors Housing Business is the magazine that helps you navigate the evolution of the seniors housing industry.

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24 Seniors Housing Business n May-June 2018 than non-depressed individuals, according to a 2003 study. Inquisitive audience As someone who regularly gives speeches on technology to resi- dents at independent and assisted living communities, I see firsthand the hunger that the elderly have to understand and use the latest tech tools. Residents come to my talks armed with their smartphones and tablets. They're eager to ask basic but essential operating questions, and learn the best ways to safely access the Internet and apps. While the questions are often elementary, they illustrate a yearn- ing to be "with it," to be as con- nected as they see their children and grandchildren. "Most seniors housing resi- dents were born between 1937 and 1945," notes Kramer of NIC. "They're more like Baby Boom- ers in their use of technology than they are like the Greatest Generation." There are four "must haves" for every senior living commu- nity, emphasizes Mary Furlong, founder of Mary Furlong & Asso- ciates, a San Francisco-based strat- egy, business development and marketing firm specializing in the Baby Boomer, senior and caregiver markets. "Today's communities need to have good food, easy access to transportation, lots of social clubs and easy Internet access," notes Furlong. Ideally, a community should also employ an in-house tech person to help with any prob- lems, she adds. Still, when it comes to wiring a senior community for Internet access, it's not as simple as calling the cable company and buying a few Wi-Fi routers at Best Buy. As Internet access becomes a necessity, always-on connectiv- ity with no down time will be key. Wi-Fi access must be ubiquitous, with no dead zones. Internet data speeds must be high enough to operate with mul- tiple users, many of whom will simultaneously be streaming vid- eos and music. The proper use of the system needs to be understood by staff and residents and be eas- ily upgradable if technology stan- dards improve. There are also internal chal- lenges. The lack of interoperability among electronic medical records providers means that one's data collection system may not be able to be accessed by another prod- uct used by a doctor's office or hospital. Staff members, many of whom do not have a high educational level, may not want to adapt to new systems. With senior living communities experiencing high staff turnover, executives may be wary about introducing new work systems that could upset employees. Costs versus benefits Administrators may not see the point of adding extra costs to operating margins that are already slim. According to one supplier, monthly Internet access can typically cost about $30 per unit. Given its unproven return on investment (ROI), senior liv- ing community owners may wish to invest money on more visually obvious benefits, such as a large swimming pool. There's no doubt that provid- ing ubiquitous Internet access to senior living residents remains a challenge. Brookdale Senior Liv- ing, the nation's largest seniors housing operator, has not found a profitable way to do so, says Andrew Smith, the company's senior director of innovation and growth strategies. (As of March 31, Brookdale operated 1,010 commu- nities in 46 states with the ability to serve 99,000 residents.) Instead, it is up to Brookdale residents to individually subscribe to the local cable provider if they want Internet access. While there is a guest Wi-Fi network in all common areas of its residences, thick concrete walls and older con- struction make the availability of robust, ubiquitous Wi-Fi through- out a community cost prohibitive, says Smith. Still, the company understands that the Internet is already a major factor in residents' lives. Every Brookdale community offers iPads and iPad classes. "We see people's eyes light up when they realize that they can access every song ever written," says Smith. Total immersion required Incorporating technology into a residence requires a multi-step approach, advises Majd Alwan, senior vice president of technology and executive director of the Lead- ingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies. Technology must be integrated into a seniors housing commu- nity's strategic thinking, notes

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