There are many benefits to adding technology in senior living facilities, and it’s important to embrace the positive impacts it can have on your community. In fact, 85% of baby boomers use the internet, and nearly two-thirds of people 74-91 are online. When best utilized, technology improves quality of life for seniors and increases satisfaction for residents, families, and staff. Let’s examine the specific benefits of technology for seniors and how you can integrate it into your facility.
Telemedicine & Health Education
Telehealth services have steadily grown in popularity over the last few years, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, as they offer safe, easy access to healthcare. Telemedicine removes several major barriers to care, including (but not limited to):
- Excessive distance between provider and patient
- Lack of available providers due to geographic location
- Care fragmentation due to time gaps
- Inability to access transportation to care
While they can benefit anyone, telehealth services are especially useful for seniors, both at home and in retirement communities. For starters, online doctor visits reduce the costs of providing healthcare to older adults by nearly 20%. Teleconsultations are also proven to limit the number of trips seniors take to the emergency room. Plus, there’s no chance of catching new diseases in crowded waiting rooms.
It’s important to note that telemedicine should supplement traditional healthcare, not replace it. Remote patient monitoring gives seniors greater transparency into their overall health, but that doesn’t reduce the importance of in-person care.
Along with telehealth services, many providers offer senior health education seminars and classes via videoconference. This safe option allows doctors to speak directly to residents from the comfort of their own home. Educational programs also encourage seniors to learn more about healthy lifestyles through online research.
Electronic Medical Records (EMRs)
Many senior living communities have incorporated electronic medical records (EMRs) and digital point-of-care systems into their everyday operations. These have a variety of benefits for both residents and staff, including:
- Enhanced security for senior medical records
- Improved efficiency across management and front-line staff
- More accurately-documented care and eliminated paper inefficiencies
- Reduced operating costs via enhanced documentation/monitoring
- Additional time for staff to spend with residents
Electronic medical records also provide information in a variety of new formats that were previously unavailable with paper charts. These can include interactive graphs, scrollable data, hyperlinks to online content, and more. EMRs also offer improved access to lab data, drug interaction information, and physician notes.
Another benefit of using technology in senior living facilities is promoting healthier physical and mental lifestyles. We’ll take a closer look at each of these below.
Video game consoles like Microsoft Kinect for Xbox One and Nintendo Wii offer games that are fun, low-impact ways to get seniors moving. Residents go through the motions of games like bowling, tennis, and baseball without having to move too much. Senior living technology like this can help improve balance, thereby reducing the chance of falls.
Seniors can also opt to wear fitness trackers like Fitbit, Apple Watch, and Garmin vivofit to count steps and compete in challenges. These devices offer personalized workouts that can help them work towards specific fitness goals. Residents can also enroll in fitness programs or watch videos online via their laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
There are also a host of mental benefits associated with adding technology in senior living facilities. It’s crucial that seniors remain mentally engaged in order to preserve their long-term mental health. Your residents can use personal technology to do things like:
- Watch video content
- Read magazines and books
- Participate in therapy sessions
- Play games
- Take quizzes
- Solve puzzles
Another way for seniors to stay sharp mentally is by playing educational video games. Research shows senior living technology has the potential to slow or prevent mild cognitive impairments. Plus, games can boost mental focus and improve hand-eye coordination.
Connection to Friends & Family
Depending on your location, your residents may have restricted access to visitors or not be allowed visitors at all. Unfortunately, a lack of personal interaction with the outside world can leave seniors feeling isolated and unhappy.
Video calls allow friends and family to “visit” with residents in a more intimate way than traditional phone calls. You may consider designating a team member who is responsible for helping seniors learn new technology, like video chatting.
There are many apps (Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, etc.) and devices (Amazon Echo Show, Portal from Facebook, Google Nest Hub, etc.) available to connect residents with the outside world. These technologies allow seniors to share in exciting milestones, such as weddings, graduations, birthdays, and more. They can also use video calls to participate in virtual events, bringing them in closer contact with the local community.
Internet of Things (IoT)
The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of Internet-connected physical devices that send and receive data. They make spaces “smart” and are designed to make everyday tasks more convenient. The IoT can empower your residents by allowing them to control their physical environment. Smart devices on the IoT include (but are not limited to):
- Personal assistants
- Pressure pads
Technology in senior living facilities — specifically the IoT — is particularly beneficial for older adults due to its emphasis on convenience and safety. Smart technology is often voice-activated, reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls while attempting to get to and operate objects. And personal assistants like Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Home provide important information in a flash.
Smart technology also benefits seniors due to its ability to gather data that helps caregivers attend to resident needs. For example, you might provide “smart” pads that monitor a senior’s movement to detect activity or inactivity. The options are nearly endless and can be customized to each resident’s specific needs.
Wearables connect to the Internet of Things and are a great way for residents to maintain high levels of independence. Personal emergency response systems (PERS) often come in the form of a pendant or bracelet. While the most basic models simply feature a distress button, others have built-in location and communication technologies.
PERS can often be connected to apps that allow caregivers an extra level of insight into resident activity and health. Remote care monitoring facilitates more proactive management of chronic conditions and can even support elopement prevention. Wearables can also monitor activities of daily living, vitals, sleep patterns, falls, and much more.