Wi-Fi Joins Location, Price as Top Housing Concern for Seniors

Seniors entering independent living and assisted living communities no longer expect Wi-Fi to be merely an option in their everyday lives — it must be part of a facility’s basic offerings. And the quality of a community’s Wi-Fi network can be the difference between a first look and a move-in.

These are two striking conclusions from a survey Xfinity Communities conducted last October on the role technology plays when considering a future residence. Xfinity, part of Philadelphia-based telecommunications company Comcast, surveyed 791 multi-dwelling unit residents and found technology ranked as the third-most important factor, behind location and price.

Among respondents age 65 and up, however, it was higher: 50% said technology was the most important factor when considering moving into multifamily communities, Xfinity Communities VP of Strategic Initiatives Adrian Adriano told Senior Housing News. This number stood out, even as the majority of respondents in the 65-plus age bracket self-reported as the slowest to embrace technology.

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Adriano believes the age group is exaggerating and, in fact, is almost as tech-savvy as their younger counterparts.

“Fifteen years ago, they wanted to learn how to connect a printer to a computer,” he said. “Now they want to know how to connect multiple devices to a printer, and which apps are best for sending their grandchildren money on their birthdays.”

The need for speed

As senior have become comfortable with technology, they are now more vocal about what they want to see from their internet/Wi-Fi service, and what they want most is speed.

Among the 65-plus respondents, 86% cited speed as one of the top two priorities for their internet service.

That extends beyond living quarters, Adriano said. Seniors expect to have full connectivity throughout a community. They want it to be easy to set up, to work everywhere and to be reliable.

“They know what a good network looks like,” he said.

The demand for speed coincides with growing popularity for streaming content and entertainment services. All age groups in the survey cited a significant interest in streaming services — 61% ranking it important in multifamily communities of 75 or more units and 53% in smaller buildings ranked it high.

Residents on larger properties have a variety of options when it comes to relaxing, working and living, so the freedom to be mobile – whether it’s watching a movie in their living rooms or catching a show while they run at the facility’s gym – is crucial to them, Adriano said.

“In the case of streaming and entertainment, these services depend on connectivity, such as Wi-Fi,” he said. “Having a wide, fast and reliable network is important to their ability to stream content and enjoy a property’s entertainment services, as well.”

Moreover, large properties provide more opportunities to gather and socialize. Amenities like lobbies/common areas, screening rooms, dining areas and fitness rooms present opportunities to stream content, and thus, the sense of community at these larger properties may be another reason as to why residents prioritize streaming and entertainment services.

As a result, senior housing providers need to account for speed and reliability, especially as more seniors become comfortable with Internet of Things devices such as thermostats, smart speakers and smart home devices.

“Is it enough to simply have modems and community Wi-Fi?” Adriano said. “Or will providers need to equip more devices in a unit for greater ease of access?”

Balancing bandwidth with costs

Determining the bandwidth necessary to accommodate the online needs of seniors can be costly, however. Those costs will only grow in line with the senior population, and operators need to strike the correct balance between excellent connectivity and cost efficiency.

Adriano suggests operators work with internet providers and engineers to determine the necessary bandwidth, as well as how to achieve the desired speeds. The most common cable modem, a Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 3.1 modem can deliver the fastest speeds on the market today.

“Speed can be delivered with different hardware,” he said. “For residents who need the speed, we will be ready.”

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