Brookdale Survey Pinpoints Barriers to Seniors’ Tech Use

Engaging older adults with technology may benefit senior living communities from an operational perspective, but getting resistant seniors to embrace technology may take some adjustments. At least, that’s suggested by the recently released findings from a survey sponsored by the nation’s largest senior housing provider, Brookdale Senior Living (NYSE: BKD).

Though 58% of seniors over 80 believe technology can improve communication with family and friends, 27% can be considered “virtual shut-ins,” as they do not use any technological devices, programs or apps.

These and other findings were reported in the survey titled “Rewiring Aging.”

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“I would have thought more older adults were using social media,” Brookdale Chief Medical Officer Kevin O’Neil told Senior Housing News of the findings, adding that he found it surprising that “only 5% said they were opposed to technology.”

The low uptake may be partially explained by what seniors reported as barriers to technology adoption: 47% of participants surveyed said new technologies take too much time to figure out, 46% said it is too difficult to keep up with the most recent trends and 41% said new technologies are too complicated.

The survey also found that 16% of older seniors use texting services and 7% of older seniors use video chat, despite interest in using the technologies being measured at two- and five-times higher, respectively.

According to O’Neil, things like fonts and the way colors are used are key when it comes to adapting technology for seniors. Contrast sensitivity diminishes as people age, he explained.

“Making the devices that are available easier to use is going to be important,” O’Neil added.

Brookdale’s technology-related long-term goals from an operational perspective include increasing the visit-to-move-in percentage and decreasing the number of move outs due to dissatisfaction, Sara Terry, Brookdale’s vice president of resident and family engagement, told Senior Housing News.

“We’re looking to improve program quality and variety,” Terry added, noting that Brookdale is already seeing this occurring. The company is currently developing an iPad mentor program, and has been helping seniors learn Skype and social networking technology with the InTouch computer system, according to a press release.

When asked about Brookdale’s technology program return on investment, Terry said Brookdale has invested multi-millions of dollars making its communities wireless — though she shifted the focus away from the literal price of technology programs.

“We had a resident see her new great-granddaughter within 15 minutes of her birth the other day with FaceTime,” Terry said. “It’s priceless.”

The “Rewiring Aging” survey was conducted by Kelton among 445 nationally representative adults 80 years old and older between May 21 and June 5. The Stanford Center of Longevity provided guidance on the design of the survey, in addition to analysis of the findings.

Written by Mary Kate Nelson

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