Tech-Savvy Providers Eye Geotracking, Manage Bandwidth Battles

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 is a necessary aspect of senior living communities, but some leaders in the industry are going beyond must-haves to tech’s new frontiers—and trying to solve some of the dilemmas that arise from a more wired community.

These executives with senior living operators, as well as other tech experts, revealed strategies they are using—and hoping to use—during the 21st Century Senior Housing panel at the Senior Housing News Summit in Washington D.C., last week.



Wearables are picking up traction in health care and are starting to make an impact in senior housing. One way to utilize the technology is to track residents who are at risk of wandering, said Mike Summers, chief information officer at Sunrise Senior Living. McLean, Virginia-based Sunrise is one of the largest providers nationally and provides the full continuum of care.

“Currently, we provide wander tags and they set off an alarm if one of our wander-risk residents in an AL [assisted living] community goes through an egress door,” he said. “We are working with some partners out there to take that one step further. When a resident does walk out the door, typically we don’t  know where that resident went. Being able to set up geotracking capabilities and a geofence so we actually know where that resident went and we can actually locate that resident can help alleviate a potential disaster.”


Though Sunrise isn’t there yet with geotracking, it is investing significantly in all of its wireless access protocols to use Bluetooth beaconing, which can help set the stage for future technologies like geotracking, Summers added.

Bandwidth Troubles

Millennials aren’t the only ones streaming the most popular Netflix series these days, and senior living providers are struggling with bandwidth and how to properly regulate it in order to serve all residents.

“Netflix is a killer for us because people stream it all over the place, all the time. Whatever kind of bandwidth you put up, they’re going to consume it,” said Moulay Elalamy, vice president of information technology at Benchmark Senior Living.

Benchmark is based in Waltham, Massachusetts, and operates communities in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Senior living provider Five Star Senior Living (Nasdaq: FVE) is also feeling the bandwidth pressures.

“We are providing bandwidth at the same level a hotel is providing it to their guests,” explained Greg Swope, chief information officer at Five Star. “It’s about having to understand those demands and what you choose to throttle. Do you limit everyone who wants to stream to a certain bandwidth, or do you allow the first five people to get as much bandwidth as possible and give less to those after?”

It comes down to finding the right kind of infrastructure for a particular community, Gina Baik, strategic business development executive at CDW Healthcare, said during the panel.

“There is what I call the concept of taking a horse gun to a mosquito, and sometimes you have to find the balance of what is the right kind of infrastructure to do it,” she said. “What you have to find is one that is flexible for the community’s needs.”

Digital Concierge Services

In hospitality industries, customer satisfaction is essential and every dollar saved is precious. Tech options such as the concierge services offered by his company can help in the senior living arena, Ted Teele, CEO at Touchtown, explained.

Touchtown provides various technology to senior living providers including community apps, digital signage, in-house television and data content management.

“Not every resident wants the same sort of technology, but a significant percentage wanted digital concierge services—something at their fingertips to enable them to be able to get whatever they need without calling somebody at the front desk,” Teele said. “The nice thing about that is it saves money because every time a resident answers a question for themselves…that saves money for the community. That’s going to be very important in this time when there’s going to be a lot of turnover.”

Providers agree that there should be a variety of technologies for residents who may want different things.

Benchmark originally went in with the idea of making technology that every resident would like, but that wasn’t entirely possible.

“We realized through the initial pilots and testing that not everybody wants to use the same thing,” Elalamy said. “Some people are more interesting in collaboration, others are more interested in their own safety or care directly…Not everybody wants the same thing out of their technology.”

Written by Alana Stramowski

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