Communities have vibrant, active, accomplished residents who are happy to contribute to the success of the enterprise that houses them.

By Jack Cumming

Most of the press coverage of senior housing, particularly CCRCs, sometimes called Life Plan Communities, focuses on the benefits that providers innovate and deliver to residents. Most often this is true, but some communities have vibrant, active, accomplished residents who are happy to contribute to the success of the enterprise that houses them.

Residents Abilities Vary

It’s a fact that not all residents are the same, just as not all senior housing ventures are the same. Experienced industry hands are sometimes quoted as saying, “If you’ve seen one CCRC, you’ve only seen one CCRC.” CCRCs vary in contracts, in luxury, and in many other factors. CCRCs also vary widely in the capabilities of residents. Some communities have very active residents while others grade more toward assisted living and resident dependency.

This is particularly true when it comes to the adoption of technology. Dependent residents are unlikely to welcome new technologies. Younger residents, though, expect the kind of technological connectivity that they’ve had in their lives before moving in. Wise organizations welcome thoughtful input from residents. An example is the growing presence of voice recognition devices, notably the Amazon Echo products, of which the Echo Spot and Echo Show offer video and touchscreen interoperability.  

A Positive Example

Recently, Front Porch’s technology chief, Kari Olsen, spoke of her employer’s openness to resident initiatives. Front Porch and Ms. Olsen are prominent at senior housing technology conferences. In an interview, Ms. Olsen spoke of her immediate recognition, when the Echo was first introduced, that the Echo provided an opportunity for senior housing. Her efforts were facilitated by Front Porch residents – particularly at Carlsbad by the Sea – who shared her vision. That early insight resulted in a pilot, which confirmed the vision. The benefits of Echo connectivity are now being deployed to other Front Porch communities.

Extending Capabilities

The potential of voice recognition, which continues to center primarily around Amazon Echo devices, remains strong. We’ve recounted in other articles how even a centenarian living in assisted living took readily to the voice interaction capabilities of the Echo. More promising is the arrival of community-centered applications. On January 30, 2018, Touchtown, a leader in resident and staff communications software, released its first Alexa skill (skill is the Amazon term for an app). When activated, the Touchtown skill allows a user to ask questions like, “Alexa, ask My Community what’s for dinner today”, “Alexa, ask My Community what’s for breakfast tomorrow”, and “Alexa, ask My Community what’s happening on Friday.” Others like Senior Portal have an Alexa focus, and we can anticipate that as companies like PointClickCare and MatrixCare, a Senior Housing Forum partner, develop their own Alexa skills, voice recognition will help facilitate care records and other reporting mandates.  

Happening Now

Another example of how resident enthusiasm can give providers insight is Johnson & Johnson’s 7 Minute Workout App. This app is catching on quickly with those residents who are intimidated by buff, youthful fitness instructors pushing them in their workouts. It’s also popular with residents who find hour-long classes too much for them.

There are many residents who want to exercise, and who seek direction, but who are embarrassed by group classes, and who want to be able to proceed at their own pace while heeding pushback from their bodies. The J&J 7 Minute app appeals to them. They especially like the J&J apps “Watch It. Do It.” logic, which lets them follow a video instructor after a short demonstration. The tracking feature, too, provides an incentive to maintain a fitness-improving program over the long term. Providers seeking to improve the well-being and health of their residents will find the 7 Minute Workout app a blessing.

Looking Ahead

So far both consumer enthusiasm and the Front Porch pilot study suggest that residents (and employees) welcome voice recognition, whether combined with touchscreen interactivity or not. This is an instance in which those providers who are fortunate enough to have contributing residents can help shape a rapidly emerging technology. Residents can also help test whether other emerging technologies like the 7 Minute Workout are likely to find acceptance. Technology is clearly coming to senior housing, and the voice recognition revolution seems to be arriving sooner rather than later.