The 21st Century Senior Living Community is a series brought to you by CDW, a provider of technology solutions and services focused exclusively on serving the healthcare marketplace. The series takes a clear-eyed look at how leading providers and their partners are creating the next generation of senior living communities by raising the bar on services, design, and technology.
Technology has become a major player in the senior living industry, so much so that even the biggest tech companies have made it a priority to get on board.
Samsung is no exception. The technology conglomerate’s health care vertical is exploring how tech can be used for the senior population to improve outcomes, quality of care, costs and efficiencies and the patient and resident experiences. The big focus with all of this is determining how to change the user experience for technology used in everyday life to better engage the senior population.
Senior Housing News recently sat down with Dr. David Rhew, chief medical officer for Samsung. In this interview, Rhew discussed how technology can serve seniors, what the company is doing to achieve its goals within the senior population and how senior living communities can adapt today and in the years ahead.
Senior Housing News: What should technology address for senior living in the 21st century?
Dr. David Rhew: We have to first look at ongoing needs and current challenges. Some of those are, how can individuals live independently and safely at home? How can seniors live healthier, happier, longer lives? How can we ensure they’re better connected and provide them with a sense of purpose?
These are all broad initiatives, and we look at them as major endeavors. Technology can be used to help connect people, to rapidly capture information and be able to send it, to provide something that people can easily and readily digest. We’re now just starting to see the ways we can impact that.
One thing we found, that among the population over age 85, only 20% will be able to readily adopt technology. Several folks are very advanced, and have been doing this for a while. But that 80% will not adopt it, not because they don’t want to, but because there’s some kind of barrier. The more we continue to propagate the idea that they’re just not ready, the less we can take advantage of the fact that we can get them more engaged and achieve some things we never thought were possible.
SHN: What are some ways Samsung is breaking down those barriers?
DR: Well, working with our partner Breezie, it was found that there are 43 configurations to change the user experience to make tablets simpler and easier to use. For example, today in health care, one of the most common use cases is the need to video conference. A senior might have a grandchild on Skype, another on Google Hangouts and a doctor on a different platform. Each will ask the user to log in, find the person and place the call. The senior then has to remember all of these logins, which can be complicated. That in itself is a barrier.
That’s why, with Breezie, instead of navigating each of these apps, there’s simply a video button next to different people’s names in the contact section and their preferred form of communication is automatically integrated. The complexity is managed on the backend of the platform.
When we brought this into the United States, we kept in mind the 80% who were traditionally not ready for technology, and in deploying it, we wanted to know if people would adopt it, and if they did, whether it could encourage them to socialize and be more active. Columbia University came in, and found that those who never used technology went from 0% to almost 90%. Some people were using it 12 hours a day. They measured activity levels, social connectedness and emotional levels. All of those metrics across the board went up. What we realized with this group who had never been exposed was that if we make adjustments, there’s a group of individuals who we may be able to provide technology for.
Breezie started with that concept, and now seeks to be connected to the entire home environment to make it safer. For many folks who are oftentimes able to care for themselves, something will happen that causes lost confidence in their ability to care for themselves. They may have left the fridge open, or left water running. But Breezie is making that easier. When you go to sleep, you can hit a button and a checklist of different things pops up to make sure the doors are locked and windows are closed. Once completed, that checklist can be sent to the individual’s loved ones so everyone knows grandma went to bed and they have that peace of mind.
SHN: What else is Samsung working on?
DR: Samsung has a portfolio of different connected devices, like lightbulbs, locks and doors, all of which are connected to our Internet of Things (IoT) home monitoring and automation kit, SmartThings. This allows us the ability to connect multiple devices. We also have Artik, which facilitates communication and data exchange between all devices. There’s a strong desire to connect multiple devices, and not just from one vendor. We feel that it’s in the best interest of the user to leverage devices they may already have. Artik can aggregate or normalize all information into one common platform, where it can interact and control different devices, from one mechanism.
We want to be able to combine this with cutting-edge wearable technologies, sensors like weight scales, blood pressure cuffs and motion sensors in rooms. We’re looking to our customer based to tell us what’s most meaningful, what they want to combine, so that it’s seamless for seniors, and we can develop a more complete solution.
SHN: What is the most important type of technology in senior living right now?
DR: There are a variety of different technologies, but the general theme is, rather than requiring seniors to adopt a new approach, it’s taking something they’re already doing and upgrading it. Instead of a normal wristwatch, swap it out for a smart watch. Show them how a tablet can be used rather than a computer. These are the types of things we know people are already doing, so we’re taking common needs and finding a way to make things easier.
We’re starting to see mini hubs, depending on use case. When one is out and about, hubs tend to be wearables or phones, and in the home, it may be appliances, like TVs and refrigerators. Move up to the bedroom, and the hub may be a nightstand with a tablet, or the bed itself. It’s all dependent on where the individual is at. There’s no one technology that does every single thing—not even [voice-activated programs], because not everyone wants to always be talking. It’s sometimes easier to type something in or click a button. There’s value in a lot of things, and there’s not a one-size-fits-all answer for every need.
Additionally, more tech-savvy folks are aging. As these groups age, there’s an increase in the percentage already adopting technology. That even increases our need to be more relevant to that group. As one ages, one loses functionality—vision or dexterity. So we accommodate for those and make adjustments. We customize the experience so we can create opportunities for people to continue to take advantage of the technology that others around them are.
SHN: What’s the overall goal with implementing technology and bringing senior living communities into the 21st century?
DR: Our goal is to improve outcomes, to find out ways that we can address the most meaningful issues, like independence, safety, loneliness and connection. The more customized solutions are to individuals’ needs, the greater the sense of independence. This is what technology can readily address, those big ticket items. If we solve those, we can make a large stride to people living longer, healthier and happier.
Interview by Kourtney Liepelt