While the emerging role of technology in senior living has been gaining traction among industry leaders, the now-largest senior living provider in the nation is rolling out a pilot program to evaluate the benefit of iPad use among residents.
Brookdale Senior Living Inc. (NYSE:BKD) is partnering with a research team at its Emeritus at Fremont community in Fremont, Calif. to study iPad use among 20 seniors. In addition, a control group of 20 other residents without iPads will also be studied so that the results of the two groups can be compared.
“Rather than giving everyone an iPad we really want to compare and contrast to see the overall impact,” says Ginna Baik, national director of innovation and resident technology with the life enrichment team at Emeritus, now Brookdale. “We want to understand the benefits of being connected, the impact on quality of life. Will depression improve?”
Brookdale and Emeritus Senior Living Corp. (NYSE: ESC) recently announced the completion of the merger between the two companies. As part of the merger, Emeritus communities will be reflagged under the Brookdale name.
Baik reached out to TJ McCallum, associate professor of psychology with Case Western Reserve University, Ph.D., and chief gerontechnologist for brain health start-up MemVu, to lead the research effort. Case Western is indirectly supporting the study, and a graduate and undergraduate student will assist McCallum as well. MemVu is not involved.
Study measurements will focus on quality of life, which will be gleaned through survey questions. Both Baik and McCallum say they are eager to see whether residents who are part of the iPad-using group will see quality of life improvements.
“The selection was a little mixed,” McCallum says of both groups of research participants from the Emeritus at Fremont community. “Some were interested in iPads, and some were not. After they have them for six weeks or a couple of months we want to see if that changed.”
Participants with iPads are able to access their mobile tablet devices 24/7, and will attend iPad education classes led by the community’s enrichment director twice a week during the length of the study.
Residents with the iPads will use a social communication platform called LivWell Health, which will showcase menus, events and allow them to RSVP to community activities, and more. In addition, Baik introduced 15 apps which are related to entertainment, brain games and information sites.
The iPads will also be used to video chat with family members and friends, using programs like Skype or Apple’s FaceTime. They will also be able to do online banking, shopping and make doctor’s appointments.
Various technology partners, including CDW Healthcare, are also contributing to the iPad study. CDW Healthcare programmed the iPads for resident use, assisted with wireless technology and more.
“By assisting with the implementation and deployment of the resident technology platform at Emeritus, we look to gain expanded insight about the long-term care community, how technology can impact resident/patient outcomes and health, and how technology can enhance the senior living experience,” says CDW Healthcare Vice President Bob Rossi in an email to SHN.
In April 2012 the Pew Research Center found for the first time that more than half of older adults ages 65 or older were Internet users. Today, 59% of seniors report they go online—a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year—and 47% say they have a high-speed broadband connection at home, according to Pew’s 2014 report Older Adults and Technology Use.
“Once seniors join the online world, digital technology becomes an integral part of their daily lives, and long-term care organizations are working to maintain that connectivity standard as its residents transition to continuing care, independent living, assisted living and long-term care services,” Rossi says.
However, McCallum notes that some older Americans are still weary about trying new technology.
“There were some participants who thought [using an iPad] would be very difficult,” McCallum says.
Understanding older adults’ views of technology, and how an iPad program can impact that view, is at the heart of McCallum’s research.
“Technology is a fancy word for tool,” McCallum says. “After a couple of months, were they able to use [that iPad] as a tool? Will this change people’s views about what they can do, and personally empower them with technology?”
The final results of the study are slated to be published between six months to a year from now. Because of the merger, it’s unclear how the study will impact other Brookdale communities at this time, Baik says, noting that both companies encourage technology use among its residents.
Written by Cassandra Dowell