By Susan Saldibar

A while back, the New York Times published a cartoon showing the stereotypical “old guy” sitting in a chair alone, isolated by COVID. Maybe you saw it. It says a lot about where we are today — an entire population of seniors sitting in isolation, waiting for COVID to end and/or for their vaccinations to kick in. 

And, as we’re reading in the news, the wait may be killing them. Isolation and loneliness are associated with a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia, a 32 percent increased risk of stroke, and a nearly fourfold increased risk of death among heart failure patients (National Academies).

Sarah Hoit, CEO of Connected Living (a Foresight partner) reminded me about that cartoon during a recent call. “It doesn’t have to be this way,” she told me.

Breaking the Loneliness Barrier

Sarah’s goal is to convince leadership that technology can be used to efficiently connect residents to families while allowing staff to continue focusing on keeping residents safe. It’s what Connected Living has been doing for years and they know it works: from one-click video chat sessions with family, to virtual events through a digitized activity calendar, to instant Zoom sessions and instant access to community information, to robots that bring telehealth into residents’ rooms.

“Breaking the loneliness barrier is what we do and have been doing for over a decade. This is really about bringing loved ones together,” Sarah says.

The good news is that senior living operators seem to now understand the role technology can play in breaking that loneliness barrier. And yet, these days the amount of focus they are able to put on it depends on their latest tabulations of outbreaks. It’s a problem Sarah understands. “Senior living community staff is maxed out, between keeping the environment germ free, testing employees, and reassuring family members who call daily to find out if any new cases have occurred,” she says.

She also understands the sheer exhaustion of those who work and live inside senior living communities. “That’s why, as a technology solution provider we are committed to taking as much off the plates of the heroic employees who work in senior living communities as possible. That’s why we’re releasing an integrated video chat system into our platform,” she adds. 

Connected to Family, Healthcare, and More

Connected Living has long been dedicated to giving residents the next best experience to physically being with their loved ones. Their ecosystem of connection points, including a mobile app – delivered to tablets, LED displays, or their TEMI robot – instantly connects residents to family members, staff, physicians, and an assortment of activities and content. Lifestyle Directors can easily host virtual activities for residents with just a click on the calendar event to join. 

It’s hard to ignore the value here. The Psychiatric Times, in a recent article, speaks to the need for this technology. “Regular video chats with family members facilitated by social work and/or therapeutic programming staff are essential.” And they urge the use of telehealth. “Regular telehealth visits should be provided by doctors and other therapists.”

But Sarah acknowledges that the last thing senior living community leadership needs is an extra burden on staff. “We want senior living communities to know that we’ve got you covered with technology to bring your families to your residents,” she says. 

Easy as 1, 2, 3 . . . Connected

I asked her how quickly they could get a community up and running on their platform. “It shouldn’t take longer than a couple of weeks,” she says. “It’s really as simple as creating a community code, a simple download, pressing the button and you’re off and running.”

So no more excuses. 

You can start now. Learn how to get your community and families connected here.

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