By Susan Saldibar
Over this last year, while senior living communities were scrambling to protect residents and staff from COVID, resident octogenarians were doing something pretty amazing: picking up tablets and engaging with family.
Lisa Taylor, CEO of iN2L (a Foresight partner) saw it coming, but even she admits being surprised at how rapidly it took hold.
And then again, maybe not so surprising. Lisa recently reported that 41% of the residents they surveyed said they had more access to community-owned devices since the pandemic. And, 60% more of those in leadership positions in the communities now believe that engagement technology is “extremely important”, compared to before the pandemic.
That’s good progress. And it can be seen in the increase of requests from operators to outfit their communities, Lisa tells me — one for each resident. “This is a real departure from a year ago when we would see most communities using one or two systems to support large groups of residents,” Lisa says. Of course, it helps that iN2L tablets are delivered ready-to-go with single-button access to favorite contacts, easy connection tools, and more than a thousand apps that can be organized and favorited based on an individual’s personal preference. “That pre-programming is key,” Lisa says. “The fact it’s so simple has made it even easier to adopt.”
Residents to Operators: “We Want This, We Need This.”
The rapid embrace of technology by people in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s seems astounding. But it didn’t happen in a vacuum, Lisa notes. It began almost as an act of desperation to remove barriers and maintain human-to-human connection at a time it is needed most.
It is a welcome silver lining to a horrific year that challenged senior living on all levels. And yet, according to Lisa, some operators are still hesitating to act. While leadership knows providing engagement technology is important, there are those not yet considering digital engagement vital. It’s shortsightedness that may hurt them in the long run.
Not Just “Technology”, It’s a Connection Enabler
Part of the key, Lisa believes, is to look at these tablets as an “enabler”, not just a piece of technology. “They have proved to us that they will use it,” she says. “In many cases, even the staff were skeptical at first. But now they are picking up the tablets and connecting. We’ve learned how critical this piece of technology has become.”
How Will Your Residents Connect During the Next Crisis?
Of course, the elephant in the room is how to deal with the hit to occupancy. It is part of the harsh aftermath of the crisis.
And it is an issue Lisa is eager to address. In the wake of the worst pandemic in modern history, the need for instant connection between family members has become a must-have. How providers address this need may make the difference in how quickly they can get move-ins.
Lisa believes communities offering individual engagement devices as a perk of residency will set themselves apart. “There is this worry about having to undergo another painful period of disconnection,” Lisa says. “Senior living providers need to be able to answer questions about how their loved one will access the outside world in the event of another pandemic, or even just the seasonal flu,” she says. She believes that being able to give instant access upon move-in to a senior-friendly tablet could become a ‘new normal’ occurrence. “Older adults get it now. They picked up smartphones; now they’re picking up tablets. And they’re not putting them down,” she says.
What Will You Offer?
How are you tackling this in your community? As we dig out from under this year, it makes sense to look at what you’re doing with tablets. Are you leaving it to residents? Are you offering off-the-shelf iPads? Or are you offering purpose-built, pre-programmed tablets that, upon opening say, “Hello Mr. Jones. What would you like to do today?”
What will you offer? Mr. Jones and his family want to know.