Tremendous innovations in technology allow those who sacrificed independence to reclaim it once more.Advancements in smart phones, applications, smart houses, tele-monitoring, and easily accessible services create an opportunity for many people to remain in their homes for longer periods of time. Will senior living providers suffer occupancy decline due to these new capabilities? I venture “no,” on two counts, as we can respond by both embracing the changes and adapting to them.
If seniors and their adult children are resourceful enough to utilize technological advancements in their current homes, shouldn’t providers incorporate them into independent living apartments, cottages, villas and other senior living residences? Yes! It is a tremendous undertaking to upgrade a home to be both universal in design and automated in function. Many families do not possess the resources – whether that means time, access to knowledgeable vendors, money or expertise – to renovate an older adult’s home in this manner. However, senior living providers have such expertise and can choose to invest both time and money into these advancements.
Consider all of the ways that senior communities might integrate multiple technologies into their organizations: A concierge might augment in-house transportation with the use of Uber and/or adopt a transport allowance similar to a meal allowance within the monthly fee; automatic pill dispensers filled weekly by trained personnel can increase the length of time a resident resides in independent living; medical alert systems issue signals when someone’s position changes (such as during a fall) and will provide location and audio transmission to increase safety while a resident remains on campus. Universal design should be a consideration when expanding or renovating an existing community, as well as when building a new one.
Be adventurous.Twin Lake Community in Burlington, NC collaborated with architects, designers and technology innovators to build an award-winning Synergy home on their independent living campus. The home is attractive and includes smart appliances, ADA or Universal Design features and home automation. According to Twin Lakes staff, “Our goal is to …enable older adults to not only age in place, but to thrive in place.”
Intentional programming can assist those new to the tech world.In order to encourage seniors and their families to take advantage of new systems, communities could offer seminars to educate attendees about the availability of these gadgets or services and how to use them. Refresher courses could be an ongoing educational offering on the independent living calendar. The tech savvy resident could even be trained to be a trainer.
BE READY FOR CHANGE
As senior living providers, we should remain aware of evolving trends and ready ourselves, our services, and our organizations to adapt to change. The change is here. As a result of older adults being healthier into their eighties, along with the proliferation of multiple community resources and technological advances, we must recognize that often, new residents are not seeking out our communities until their eighties. “In reality, the median age of entry for independent living is about 83.7 years, and the median age of entry for assisted living is about 84.8 years, according to a study conducted by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College in 2012.” (seniorhousingnews.com) Note that the age of entry for both assisted living and independent living have almost coalesced. I suggest that residents in those two levels of care are similar in age but not in functioning ability.Were we to have smart housing, could that same resident live in an independent living home?
Recognize changes and adapt. Be sure that your independent living residences and your community as a whole are ready for the savvy, 80+ resident. Both buildings and programming should be reassessed with this age and demographic in mind.Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives but the most adaptable.” Our communities must continually adapt and thrive.
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