The real value in communication.

By Steve Moran

A couple days ago, I published an article by Laurie Orlov — “When Information Transparency Is An ‘Innovation’ in Senior Housing and Home Care”   where Laurie suggests that senior living and homecare companies are missing the boat by not providing resident portals or some other way of providing regular updates on how residents are doing day-to-day.

This seems like a no brainer at first blush, but I am actually not so sure it has that much value.  

Five years ago, around the time I started Senior Housing Forum, there were perhaps a dozen companies/organizations — including AARP — that had developed dumbed down tablets for seniors. The big idea was that seniors were not capable of using these “easy to use” devices in their native form. In my view, the idea that senior weren’t smart enough or capable was and is clearly aegist . . . sorry to you folks who are still traveling this road.

The Resident Information Portal Fallacy

There are at least 4 reasons this is not as cool as you might think:

  1. There are a number of studies that have been done — of mostly younger seniors — living in senior living communities that show they actually do not want their children babysitting them; which means they do not want their children getting daily-weekly-monthly reports on “how they are doing”.

  1. When a technology company proposes a resident portal or similar technology to a senior living operator, the tech companies sees their cool, great technology. What the senior living company sees is when a technology vendor comes calling, they are going to reduce the bottom line by charging them money and increase the workload of people who are already working at or near capacity.   

    It is possible that even with an outflow of cash and an increase in workload the benefits would be enough to justify the purchase, but those benefits need to be very significant.

  1. It actually does not make as much sense as you might think. Imagine for a moment it is your loved one in the community. You get an email, log on to a website or access an app, and it says “Mom had a great day” or “Dad played bingo”. After a week or so of what is really trivial information (think posting food photos on Facebook) you realize you are seeing the same thing — day after day, week after week — and at some point you will quit paying attention.

    It Gets Worse Though . . .

  2. If your mom or dad has a bad day or a disaster, do you really want to first find out about that disaster via an app on your mobile device?  Nope, me neither. I want . . . I expect . . . someone to call me up, talk to me about the problem, and help me understand the options.

The Brass Ring

The interesting dilemma is something Laurie touched on. I do think the idea of a resident portal would be appealing to family members when looking at senior options, even though they would — in actuality — find it to be less useful than they thought at first.   

And yet . . . it is clear that it is not an entirely bad idea.  In fact we are particularly big fans of the work that Senior Housing Forum partner Lifeshare Technologies is doing to serve communities, residents and families.