By Susan Saldibar
I recently had the pleasure of tuning into a lively, fun webinar introducing a new resident engagement tool from Touchtown (a Senior Living Foresight partner) called Activity Management. The webinar was hosted by Lindsay Evans, director of product management, and Mark Totten, manager of learning development at Touchtown. First, I have to give kudos to Lindsay and Mark. They made the content pop with their informal, engaging style.
And the content itself was pretty cool, too. So much so that, only a week after the webinar, 300 residents had registered for 600 activities. This must be a dream come true for anyone who has ever lived in a senior living community as well as activity directors and community relations directors. Because we all know what activity/event sign-ups and attendance workflows look like. In case you need a reminder, here’s an example:
- Residents must sign their names on a physical paper at the concierge.
- Residents must remember they have signed up for the event.
- Staff must keep checking to keep track of the number of sign-ups, cancellations, and deal with issues like residents crossing out names to add their own.
- Staff struggle to try to manage the paper waitlist.
- Staff run around to organize the event, spending valuable time and resources.
- Residents end up not showing up because they forget about the event altogether.
Whew, this is crazy enough, right? Now, multiply all this by multiple events and activities each month — now you have frustrated staff and residents who are still disengaged. And that’s not good. As Lindsay points out in the webinar, attendance to events has an impact on wellness and even longevity. The International Council on Active Aging did a study back in 2017, which found that people who participated in activities lived 2.6 years longer than average.
Touchtown heard that senior living providers were struggling with this process. So they decided to do something about it.
Here are just a few ways Activity Management responded to the activity workflow problem:
- Residents (or staff) can access and sign up for all events using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
- Residents and staff can see, at any time, who has already signed up. This is great for residents to check to see if their friends are going. This can encourage greater participation.
- Residents can easily cancel participation. And the menu even asks “why?” So, if someone is ill, staff can check on them; “I notice you cancelled due to illness. Are you okay? How can I help?”
- Staff can set the cutoff on number of sign-ups and create an automatic waitlist they can manage.
- If a space frees up, staff can quickly get in touch with the next person on the waitlist. As Mark explains, “Staff can click to talk to the first person on the waitlist, ‘Do you still want to attend?’” Pretty cool.
- Staff can lengthen or shorten the period of time to register for time-sensitive registration.
- The system automatically reminds residents of their upcoming registered events to increase attendance.
- Staff can easily check off the names of each person attending as they enter the room or board the bus, right on their smartphones.
- The sign-up list can be printed.
- Staff can generate reports about participation to help spot trends and better allocate resources for future event planning.
The feature helps give staff their time back so they can spend more of it with residents. “You simply put [event] information in once and it flows everywhere; summaries, calendars, digital “flyers,” and so on,” Lindsay explains. “Now each activity has a way to add a checkmark to enable people to register.”
As you might imagine, the app is already pretty popular throughout the Touchtown client communities. “Trekking to the front desk and flipping through our big book to register for events is not ideal. It’s wonderful to have the option to use the app instead,” remarked Anne Ducanis, a resident at Longwood at Oakmont and a Touchtown app user.
What’s great about this feature is that it’s included with Touchtown’s Complete Community App product, which is a robust, custom mobile app geared specifically to senior living.
Good move, Touchtown. You’ve streamlined a tricky workflow and are helping to engage more residents.
You can check out a preview of the feature here.
For more information about Touchtown, visit their website.
In a CCRC, for independent living residents, hopefully this tool permits residents themselves to access the wait list to find a substitute. This is very helpful for weekend or evening outings when the only staff involved is the driver, checking off those who board. There have been too many times when a resident, with a ticket having been purchased, has to cancel at the last minute. Often it’s so last minute that the resident is just looking for someone to go in his/her place so that the ticket doesn’t go to waste. If the Wait List is accessible only to staff, and staff can’t be reached, the resident has to call around without knowing who is on the wait list. This creates the potential for a non-wait listed person going, irritating those who were on the list.
Unfortunately “senior living” (the generic term used by this website) still has LOTS of residents who wouldn’t touch a computer or an i-pad with a 10-foot pole. Until the day comes when all residents are technically savvy, there will have to be a “low tech” way to include them.
Good observation, Jenny. I checked back with the foks at Touchtown who tell me that residents are indeed able to view and contact waitlist participants. I should have made that clear in the article. And you are correct that there will always be residents who will not go near a computer or smartphone. I think senior living communities realize this. What’s great about automation is that it gives more time for staff to assist those residents who prefer not to use it. Thanks again for your comment!
Hey all! Morgan from Touchtown here. Just wanted to chime in to confirm that residents do have access to event waitlists so they can facilitate ticket transfers, etc. if they can’t make an event and want to find a replacement. Admins just have some additional power to “promote” people automatically to attend in whatever situations are applicable. As we’ve activated this feature with communities, we’ve found that each uses the software to solve for their community’s unique needs and preferences.
Definitely agree with you on the need for “low tech” and other considerations, Jenny. Everyone starts somewhere. We’re seeing less and less resistance to learning new technology from older adults in senior living settings as the technology becomes more compelling to use. Regardless, every acuity deserves the ability to connect on their own terms. For residents who don’t have a mobile device or might be more comfortable with information from a TV, we typically advise for communities to offer apps on a community kiosk, share info via signs and in-room TV, or even just enable them to easily print the info they input to the Touchtown system. Those same solutions actually translate well to rural communities where every resident might not have WiFi. Have you come across any other good low tech solutions? It’s always great to get as much discussion going as possible so we can address the endless hurdles and considerations that come up in the pursuit to improve living for our older population.