In the upcoming years, savvy building operators will increasingly rely on cutting-edge technologies not only to boost the bottom line, but also, and perhaps more importantly, to improve the quality of life of residents.

Katy Fike co-founder of Aging2.0 will be the opening session keynote speaker at the NIC 2015 CAPITAL & BUSINESS STRATEGIES FORUM that runs from March 31 to April 2, 2015 in San Diego. This interview was conducted by NIC.

Key Takeaways

  • Consumers want transparency, connectivity
  • Technological changes won’t slow
  • Now is the time to embrace new approaches

In the upcoming years, savvy building operators will increasingly rely on cutting-edge technologies, not only to boost the bottom line but also, and perhaps more importantly, to improve the quality of life of residents.

“We need to think about bridging the gap between technology and housing . . . The next wave of consumers will expect connectivity and transparency.” – Katy Fike

Technology will play a transformative role in the seniors housing industry, says Fike, a Ph.D. gerontologist and co-founder of Aging 2.0, a consortium that aims to promote new technologies to help care for and improve the outcomes of our nation’s large and increasingly frail population of seniors.

Fike will speak April 1 at the opening general session of the NIC Forum. In a preview of her remarks, Fike notes that technology can be used to collect and chart data on resident health in order to spot a decline before a crisis occurs. “Technology allows us to be proactive, rather than reactive,” says Fike. The need for the transparency of data will be increasingly important too, she adds, as families demand day-by-day progress updates.

Where to Start

While the quickly growing array of technology-based offerings can easily overwhelm building owners and managers, Fike recommends a simple first step, such as installing Wi-Fi throughout the community. Nurses and assistants can provide information about the resident on a wireless device in real time that families can access through an internet portal. Residents can be taught how to use tablets to communicate with their family and staff.

Other promising technologies Fike plans to highlight at the NIC Forum include:

  • Wearables – Products worn by residents that count steps, gauge activity, provide location information, and act as an emergency call system.
  • High-tech concierge – A device that gives verbal reminders and also takes verbal requests from the resident to order transportation, call a relative, or get help.
  • Avatars – One product, for example, features a dog avatar shown on an iPad that provides remote companionship by speaking to the resident. The dog’s voice is translated from text created by a single caregiver who can converse with as many as 12 residents.
  • Robots – Though expensive and impersonal, they could be preferred by residents for some caregiving duties, such as incontinence help.

Fike will also discuss how building operators can defray some of the costs of new technology by creating new revenues streams. She’ll encourage attendees to “dive in and start trying things.” The pace of technological advances won’t slow, she says. It’s better to get involved early in the process and even volunteer to be part of product pilots.

As a gerontologist, Fike feels those who work with seniors have been too concerned about having everything figured out before introducing new technologies to residents. But she’s found that older adults like being part of the development phase of a program and providing feedback. “It draws them in,” she says. “We don’t have to have all the answers to get started.”