Tech Support: The Biggest Missed Opportunity in Senior Housing

Implementing and improving technology capabilities has become a focus for some senior housing operators, but for the most part, they’re still missing a major opportunity.

Expectations of tech-savvy residents has increased the push for campuswide wifi and more Internet-focused programming, but many communities aren’t equipped for future residents who will demand more from senior housing, industry experts say.

“We are in a world today where it’s BYOT — bring your own technology,” says Laurie Orlov, founder of Aging In Place Technology Watch and technology industry analyst. “When you move into senior housing, you’re increasingly likely to bring in something that you wish to be supported in terms of its connectivity [and] troubleshooting. It’s an opportunity to create a job in the senior housing industry, like tech support.”

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This tech position is missing in most senior housing organizations, says Orlov, who spoke at a webinar Tuesday hosted by Independa, Inc., which offers senior care providers technology solutions.

In fact, in a 2013 survey of 670 senior living professionals across more than 280 operators, only 40% of respondents reported having a chief information officer within the organization who is tasked specifically with implementing technology.

“Forty percent of senior housing organizations have somebody who is head of [technology] — that means 60% percent of them don’t,” Orlov says, referencing the study “The State of Senior Care Technology & Investment,” conducted by Healthsense and Senior Housing News. “I find it hard to imagine that a technology would be widely deployed without a person who’s in charge of deploying it.”

By having someone who is responsible for rolling out and evaluating new technology solutions, a community can better benefit from that product or service.

For example, Orlov says she recently visited a new senior housing community whose wireless access was only available by standing in a certain position in the hallway. While that community may tout its wifi capabilities, the technology is ultimately useless without proper support and access.

As a result, new or developing senior housing properties may have an advantage over existing communities, as they can design their buildings with technology in mind.

In addition to tech support, communities should engage with technology partners early on in the design and construction process in order to get the most out of their tech services, says Amanda Clardy, chief marketing and product officer at Independa.

“If you understand exactly what you want to achieve with your community, they can help refine their program or platform for you,” she said during the webinar. “And for any type of technology that you also need to implement, you can choose to do that with the right technology partner.”

Using these partners and creating a position for a tech support staff member will ultimately help senior housing communities maximize their use of technology and their ability to provide tech services to all residents.

But having a tech director or technology support staff won’t fix the entire problem. Orlov says its up to the entire senior housing community to foster an environment that’s technology-enabled and technology literate.

“Boosting the use of technology is everyone’s job — value must be demonstrated and reinforced,” she says. “We are entering a world of greater, not lesser, complexity and a greater variety of technology. The question is: What are we all going to do to get seniors connected?”

Written by Emily Study

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