As I knock around North America visiting senior housing communities and talking with operators there is a common theme that runs through almost every conversation.      

“Senior Housing is Behind the Times”

  We as an industry are behind the times in at least these areas:

  1. Sales and Marketing – Hardly changed at all in  . . . well forever.
  2. Webpage Design – For the most part you could toss all senior housing webpages in one basket and the community names in another; then randomly grab a webpage from one basket and a community name from another, merge the two and no one would know the difference.
  3. Building Designs – There has been some creative thinking in the area of memory care, but I am not sure any of it has been radical or disruptive.
  4. Programmatically – There have been some fairly significant tweaks in this area including a lot of buzz about  person centered care, but ultimately you will find almost every activity program anchored with bingo, birthday celebrations and Bible study.
  5. Technology –  This fifth area is where I will focus the balance of this article.

Technology in Senior Housing

I am a bit of a technology junkie and while I have a number of business relationships with related to Senior Housing Forum, my closest connection is with Vigil Health Solutions a senior housing technology company that today provides high capability emergency call systems and call systems is one area that has experienced radical technology growth. We are also seeing communities install community wide wifi and big screen TV/Internet systems.  There are several reasons technology in senior housing is behind the curve:

  1. There is a perception that seniors and care givers are technophobic.  I have a sense that often, those providing care and managing senior communities are more technology resistant than the residents.
  2. Technology development is expensive and the market is relatively small.  Even if a company came out with the zoomiest cool technology gadget that every senior in independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing just had to have, they would sell maybe a million units compared to the hot new smart phone that will sell millions of devices in a few months.  As a result devices are much more expensive.
  3. New Technology requires early adopters.  People who are willing to take a chance on new technology when it is not fully flushed out, when it is rough, which means it will not work perfectly.  Kari Olsen, president of Front Porch Center for Technology Innovation and Wellbeing is one of those people but we need more of them.

Looking Forward

Last week I published an article about the Marcus Evans High Roller Summits.  The other player in this space is Lincoln Healthcare with their LTC and Senior Living LINK Conferences.  They are an organization that has totally embraced the idea that Senior Housing Technology is way behind the curve and is doing something about it.  In part two that will publish on Thursday I will lay out what they are doing to change this. But as a tease . . . You can come be a part of the LINKTANK action by getting a chance to hear pitches from innovators, asking questions of the innovators and voting on their ideas.  Details to come on Thursday.  Finally if you are someone who has a great idea and want’s to pitch it, I will talk about how you can play in the Thursday post.   My question to you readers: How would you complete this sentence? I wish someone would figure out a way to __________________________________ (of course in the context of senior housing). You can now read part 2:  Help Discover the Next Great Senior Living Technology     Steve Moran