Residents moving into senior living today are different from the residents who moved in five years ago — and the technology they’re engaged with is evolving at lightning speed.
Rolling out an iPad program to meet the needs of both staff and residents is key for providers who want to position themselves at the forefront of the technology revolution, experts agreed Wednesday during Senior Housing News’ webinar “How to Launch a Successful iPad Program in Your Community.”
“The No. 1 reason seniors want to use technology is to stay connected with family and friends,” said Ginna Baik, business strategist for long term care for CDW Healthcare, adding that a growing body of research reveals that technology programs in senior living are “very brain-healthy” and promote ongoing education opportunities.
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. In 2014, 59% of seniors reported they were online—a six-percentage point increase in the course of a year—and 47% said they have a high-speed broadband connection at home, according to Pew’s 2014 report Older Adults and Technology Use.
And for those seniors and staff members less experienced with mobile technology, having the tools and support to explore the web can be life changing, said Janet Cannon, residency counselor for senior care development at The Clare, an urban Chicago continuing care retirement community (CCRC).
“From an operating standpoint, how do you leverage your dollars and time investment to increase occupancy and resident and family satisfaction?” Cannon said. “[For an iPad program launch] to be successful it has to be a culture — you want community directors, residents and families on board. It provides socialization for residents. Now they can email and Skype [or video chat] with family members who live far away.”
Prospective residents and their families are increasingly looking for communities that are plugged in, she said.
“If residents are sitting around reading the paper it gives a different effect than residents using Google maps to see new places,” she said. “You want the adult child or prospective resident to say, ‘I want that.’ They’re all looking at how your community is connecting and stimulating residents.”
The nuts and bolts of a successful iPad program
Before launching an iPad program, providers must take note of their concerns and what type of program will best meet their communities’ needs.
Some of the biggest concerns providers often have when deploying an iPad program are: cost, training for staff and residents, technology support once the program is deployed, having optimal wireless bandwidth and ensuring a secure and HIPAA-compliant wireless network, Baik said.
To deploy a successful iPad program, a community needs a high-caliber wireless network that can support a high volume of traffic. Providers should have an enterprise-grade wireless network, as opposed to consumer-grade, Baik said.
“A consumer-grade network is really meant for a few devices in a home, and is not the best solution,” she said. “And from a security perspective, our seniors are the most vulnerable population [for online hacking] and it’s our responsibility that whatever wireless we’re installing is not only protecting them but HIPAA-compliant.”
It’s also important to identify the type of mobile device that will best fit staff and residents’ needs.
For example, the iPad Air is larger than the iPad mini, and is ideal for residents for that reason, said Joe Sanchez, Apple partner specialist at CDW.
“They can see a lot more on it, and it’s easier for seniors to manipulate,” he said. “For staff, the mini might be better as it’s easier to tuck away in a pocket.”
When deploying iPads, it’s best to follow a one-on-one model for residents, and a one-to-many model for staff.
“Each resident having his or her own device gives them the opportunity to personalize it, and for staff you really only need one per floor or department,” Sanchez said.
Best practices for training programs
Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth, said Michael Potteiger, partner with Generation Connect, a Maryland-based provider of technology training services for retirement communities. Getting the “early adopters” on board with iPad training programs first can ultimately lead to community-wide adoption of an iPad program, he said.
“Training in small groups is ideal,” Potteiger said, noting that Generation Connect has found a 50/50 split between instruction and hands-on practice during workshops is most effective.
In addition, trying to cover too many topics in one session can be overwhelming, and deter program implementation efforts.
“You have to crawl before you walk, and walk before you run,” Potteiger said. “Introducing topics in a sequence sets program participants up for success.”
First topics to cover include how to turn on an iPad, the use of different buttons, and using the touch screen. Next topics include learning essential applications, such as going online, sending emails and more.
At first, getting everyone on board with a new technology program can be a challenge, and providers might hear residents and staff members say, “I can’t do this,” Baik said. But the need to push forward is greater than ever.
“We’re moving into a digital age,” she said. “If you have championing of the program going on from the family members, and staff getting the residents engaged, you will have the perfect formula for a successful program.”
Written by Cassandra Dowell