Home Tech: The New Competitive Edge for Senior Living?

Technology platforms and products are expected to increase people’s abilities to age in place in private residences, and senior living providers who want to stay ahead of the game—and potentially disruptive newcomers—may want to explore building brand loyalty through in-home service line extensions.

Providers are mostly split in two camps when it comes to the tech-enhanced age in place approach: embrace it, or avoid it. But those that don’t seek out new technology will be disrupted by others that do, says Louis Burns, CEO of Intel-GE Care Innovations.

Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Borders—all well-recognized, one-time leaders in their respective fields, and all of them bankrupt—got a taste of disruptive technology from the wrong side of the equation.

“Ten years ago, if someone were to say those companies wouldn’t exist [10 years from now], they would’ve been laughed out of the building,” Burns, who was the lead panelist and a judge at the 2013 LTC LinkTank senior care innovation competition, said. “You need to be your own disruptor. If you’re not, someone else will be trying to disrupt your business.”

That mindset is in Care Innovation’s DNA, Burns told SHN, adding that it keeps everyone “hungry and focused.” Senior living should approach the virtual retirement living trend as an opportunity, not direct competition, he says.

“It’s not either/or. It’s in addition to,” he says. “If you’re in a senior living facility, you absolutely have to be in that facility. You need that help, and that’s not going to change.”

Some senior living providers fear virtual assisted living provided in a person’s home will eliminate the need for bricks-and-mortar communities. It won’t, he says.

“It will supplement [traditional communities],” Burns says. “Right now, you see the beginnings of operators running bricks-and-mortars, but also reaching into the community. They’re providing services and capabilities and it’s a great on-ramp. It’s an extension of the business, it’s not a replacement.”

There will be ways to keep people in their homes longer, and more safely, he says. But when considering virtual versus traditional communities, he says, neither is the “winner”—seniors are, because they have options.

A potential direction Burns sees the industry headed toward is for families of seniors to contract part-time care out to big brands, a trend that is starting to materialize among major industry players.

Two of the nation’s largest senior living providers, Brookdale Senior Living and Emeritus Senior Living, have both identified community outreach as an area to explore, evidenced by a growing ancillary services platform and home health agency acquisitions, respectively.

Tech giant Philips recently launched a new service facilitating providers’ reach into seniors’ private residences with the introduction of Community Without Walls, a service package senior living operators can offer to seniors on a subscription basis.

Providers can tailor their CWW service offerings to fit the needs of individual subscribers and are in charge of installing the equipment—ranging from personal emergency response services to medication dispensing services and telehealth solutions—and operating it, with Philips providing back-end support and training.

That concept similar to not-for-profits senior living providers’ CCRC-without-walls model along with other services that offer care to those still living at home.

“‘Mom’ becomes used to that assistance; it’s brand building,” says Burns. “And if they do a good job, she’ll go with what’s been helping her [with things like] light housekeeping, light assistance [with activities of daily living]. She’ll know people at the community and be familiar with it.”

Not many people go into assisted living happily, he points out, as it’s usually a reactive move in response to a life-changing event such as a fall, or adult children moving away and no longer being able to provide caregiving. But building that brand loyalty prior to a move can help.

Care Innovations’ role in all of this is to build the technologies, services, and solutions that enable that, according to Burns.

“At the end of the day, I have a strong belief that if we listen hard, work hard, do our ‘magic’ technology, that we can improve the lives of people along the way,” he says. “It’s not just for the elder, but also for the caregivers.”

Caregiving is incredibly stressful, Burns says, citing research of the impact it can have on caregivers.

“The data of the impact on caregivers is off the charts,” he says. “If we facilitate them and ‘Mom’ it’s a really cool thing for us. It’s not being done very well, and I think we can contribute to that. And it will enhance the business of operators.”

Seniors are going to be staying at home longer in upcoming years, in large part because the next generation is more technologically savvy and more informed.

“If you’re a big senior living operator, is it better to take the chance to lead in going into the home, as an on-ramp, versus denying it?” Burns asks. “For the whole next generation—who will be the competitor who provides that? It’s about building brand loyalty.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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  1. says

    Great article. We are doing exactly that. For example, we are allowing senior to keep more of their entertainment dollars by providing Internet, unlimited local and long distance phone, satellite TV and video-conferencing for $50/month. This allow seniors to keep over $100 per month to do other things. We can add a Personal Health Record and total health monitoring on top of that, if needed. Technology can significantly improve the quality of life for seniors with breaking the bank.

  2. GrandCare Systems says

    I couldn't agree more with Louis Burns' comments and wisdom. I appreciate the blockbuster analogy, as I think it is spot on in the notion that if we continue to provide aging services in the exact delivery model that we currently deploy, we will run out of brick and mortar, caregivers and money. Our disruptive aging demographic is living longer and expecting care and services to be brought to them. They will want to self engage in wellness, they will want to remain connected to family and friends and they will want to stay at home for as long as possible. These technology tools are only one piece in the puzzle of care, but are a critical piece that can act as a caregiving platform enabling omniscient caregiving, super power caregivers and virtual communication between family, providers and the one being cared for.

    Thanks for this article. Reposting!

    Laura Mitchell
    GrandCare Systems

  3. Guest says

    IT folks have been trying to crack this market for the past decade with Apps, etc. Unfortunatley there is little interaction with the ultimate end user so much of the stuff out there goes nowhere. Seniors I have talked to are extremely concerned about privacy and that issue alone keeps them from participating. Value added is what they want and are not getting. There are no stats on even PERS useage, which is pretty basic.

  4. Yasmin says

    Technology has a really a big impact into our lives. I hope that technology would continue to evolve as time passes by because as of now it really helps the lives of many people in many ways.

  5. says

    Fantastic write-up. We are performing specifically that will. For instance, were enabling older and keep additional with their amusement us dollars by giving World-wide-web, limitless regional and also international calls cell phone, satellite tv and also video-conferencing with regard to $50/month.

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