We all know someone who is shy or seems to want to be left alone. But the truth is that all of us, including seniors, are wired with a need for connection. In fact, loneliness is a risk factor for functional decline and early death in adults over 60, according to a University of California, San Francisco study. Chronic loneliness is also associated with health issues like high blood pressure, depression, diminished immune response, and dementia.
As humans, we not only crave relationships, but we benefit emotionally and physiologically from connection, regardless of the source. For some seniors, moving into a senior living community is a welcome change from living alone. Yet for many, entering senior living means moving away from well-established comforts of home and family and the concern that connections will be slowed, lost or severed altogether. That’s where certain technologies can come in to strengthen social connections for seniors that are important to maintain their health and wellbeing long after move-in day.
What does connection through technology look like?
The technologies strengthening senior engagement and bolstering relationships are the same ones many of us use to engage with the world everyday. Intuitive devices like smartphones, tablets and senior-friendly television are all becoming an integral part of a senior’s life and social circle.
Senior Television Services
Unlike standard television service, senior-specific television can make it easier for older adults to navigate to find their favorite shows, and can offer an interactive experience. They can sign up for social events right from their rooms or a community kiosk, order movies on demand, or be alerted to emergencies or severe weather. It’s no secret that many residents expect and enjoy television service. Though to avoid isolation and keep interaction ongoing, consider hosting a monthly community movie night in a shared space to bring residents together.
Tablets and Computers
With social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, what used to be a one-sided experience between man and machine has become a multi-party conversation. With tablets and computers, seniors can follow the lives of their children, join a conversation, or even start their own blog. It’s truly limitless what having easy access to a computer can do to generate interest and engagement. Some communities offer senior-friendly computers for their ease-of-use features like touch-screen displays, “text-to-speech” capabilities (allowing the computer to “read” an email out loud), video chat and pre-installed apps. To encourage a vibrant, collaborative environment for residents, designating a community “tech” room or computer lab, where seniors can use communal desktops or laptops to video chat with family or research news, is a great way to foster connections.
Modern Phone Services
One amenity that undoubtedly provides a path for connection in a senior living community is telephone service. Whether residents use their smartphone or rely on their community’s equipment, it’s essential that they can make calls inside and outside of the community easily. One trend leading the way in senior living is “resort-style” phone service, similar to phone services you might find in a hotel setting. This can include room-to-room calling and one-touch dialing, both of which require fewer numbers to remember to reach a friend or a resident service (like housekeeping) quickly.
Opening the door to more connection
Adapting to new technology isn’t easy for everyone. In a recent Pew Research study, just 18% of older adults would feel comfortable learning to use a new technology device such as a smartphone or tablet on their own, while 77% say they would prefer having someone walk them through it.
That’s why the presence of senior support at your community can’t be understated. Whether you employ existing staff or bring in tech support professionals, having a specific point-person to work with one-on-one is invaluable for meeting residents’ tech requests. To tackle this need in-house, communities might consider designating a team to take on senior tech support and provide training on handling the most frequently asked tech questions. For outside assistance, providers should look for senior telecom services that include on-site assistance as a built-in feature to lower costs.
Whether your senior living community is integrating select modern technology solutions, or is undergoing a major tech overhaul, the need to meet residents’ needs through technology is growing. From entertainment and telecom services to life safety devices, technology designed specifically around seniors is leading the way in the senior housing industry.
About the Author
As CEO and President of ESCO Technologies, LLC, Jerry Grove guides his company as the leading nationwide provider of modern technology and amenities for seniors and the senior housing industry. He helps senior living communities streamline their communication and entertainment technology while providing the opportunity to generate additional income.
ESCO Technologies delivers the ultimate telecommunications solution for seniors, including senior TV service, telephone service and high-speed Internet for seniors as well as life safety technology such as wireless call systems. ESCO Technologies’ exclusive CareConnect managed program not only improves resident satisfaction, but can also produce internal revenue streams for senior living communities. Learn more about revenue-generating amenities for senior living communities by ESCO Technologies at www.esco-tech.net.