Senior Living Tech Booming, but Still Missing Big Potential


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Technology, despite a large adoption rate among the top-100 non-profit senior living providers, has yet to reach its potential in the senior housing industry, according to those in the market for and development of senior living tech.


Although more than 90% of non-profit CCRC providers offer their residents high-speed Internet access, according to the LeadingAge-Ziegler 100 Technology Adoption and Utilization Survey released in December, slow adoption stands to be a major challenge hindering technology’s growth in senior living, said Majd Alwan, senior vice president at LeadingAge and executive director of the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) during a recent webinar.

Factors such as lack of awareness, usability and computer literacy, varying degrees of evidence of value, as well as the absence of a business model to adapt the technology have all acted as barriers to greater adoption, Alwan said.

Greater willingness to adopt certain technologies could be spurred as healthcare reforms begin to take effect, forcing a strategic alignment between acute and post-acute care providers, he added.


“My favorite aspect is the hospital readmission reduction program, because it’s coming to a hospital near you,” he said. “If post-acute providers can demonstrate their ability to keep residents out of the hospital, they are going to be positioning themselves as valuable strategic partners.”

Another contributor to technology’s slow adoption could be challenges associated with marketing certain tech to members of an older generation, said Derek Dunham, vice president of client services at Varsity, a marketing and sales consulting agency focused on occupancy for senior living.

“Technology is there, it just hasn’t reached its potential in senior living,” said Dunham.

Varsity has narrowed down the senior living consumer into two groups: those excited by technology and those who are afraid of it. Consumers from both of these categories comprise a group Varsity has dubbed “The Transitionals,” which are a mix of members from the Silent Generation and early Baby Boomer populations.

Examining this group in a study called Project Looking Glass II, Varsity teamed up with major retailers like Target, Best Buy and Safeway, conducting focus groups that involved shop-alongs with Transitionals, to gain a better understanding of the consumer preferences of this group.

The study found that the acceptance of technology comes down to one question, according to Dunham, “will technology make my life better? If not, they’re not going to use it.”

Such technology includes tablet devices, eReaders or laptops where this demographic can stay in touch with their grandkids through social media like FaceBook, access entertainment like YouTube and Netflix, further their lifelong learning or even use tech for online banking.

“Transitionals are the tipping point,” said Dunham. “If you connect technology to what people are enjoying, it can ideally enhance what they enjoy doing in life,” he added.

Certain things providers can do when considering the benefits of technology within their communities, Dunham suggests, is make tech accessible and easy to use in common spaces.

“Providers need to make technology a differentiator now,” he said. “They also need to take Wi-Fi seriously. It can and will be a differentiator for occupancy.”

Written by Jason Oliva

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