Heritage Senior Living to Test AI, Robots, Telehealth Through University Partnership

Heritage Senior Living is trying out some cutting-edge technology by working with a university—exemplifying an industry trend that has seen other providers do the same.

The West Allis, Wisconsin-based senior living provider is partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Partners for Health to bring to its residents virtual reality, a new therapy mat, telehealth programs and a social companion robot called Jibo. Under the new partnership, five of the university’s nursing students will work more than 480 hours during a two-semester practicum and residency at five of Heritage’s 15 Wisconsin communities.

Participating residents will be evaluated while using the new technology, on a program schedule slated to last about 6 months at a time. Each school year, Heritage also plans to expand its partnership by including other interdisciplinary members of a health care initiative such as social work and Ph.D. students.


The arrangement represents a win-win for both the university and for the senior living operator, and a shift away from the hospitality operating model that some industry players have embraced in recent years.

“At Heritage Senior Living, we’re always looking for ways to lead the health care industry and efforts to move away from a social model to a medicyal model of care in senior living communities,” stated Heritage Senior Living’s Vice President of Quality and Clinical Operations, Jaime Schwingel, in a press release. “The research will help drive future technological initiatives for Heritage Senior Living and encourage nursing and therapy students to consider careers working with the nation’s largest growing population, people over age 65.”

The push toward a more medical operating model is grounded in the idea that assisted living residents are moving into communities with greater clinical needs.


“The assisted living industry [today] is tomorrow’s nursing home industry,” Schwingel told Senior Housing News. “Focusing more on a medical model versus a social model allows us to implement nursing standards that allow for clinical oversight and monitoring of our residents. It is through this medical model that we are preventative and proactive of our resident’s health care needs.”

Heritage has in recent months cast a wide net for new, innovative ideas. Late last year, the provider announced a $500,000 technology push aided by Pierre Verger, a former executive with Orpea, one of the largest long-term care and senior care providers in Europe. Heritage first hired Verger in 2016 as a vice president of operations, then promoted him to the role of COO earlier this year.

The Wisconsin senior living provider isn’t the only industry player experimenting with cutting-edge technology. Ascension Living, the senior services arm of St. Louis-based health system Ascension, is ramping up its use of Amazon’s Echo devices. And Senior Star, is brainstorming new ways to implement technology like the Jibo robot into its communities as well, according to the company’s CEO, Anja Rogers.

Written by Tim Regan

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