In a competitive marketplace, senior living providers are using resident engagement to differentiate their communities. In the past, resident engagement programs have been challenging for communities to manage, given the time and communications required.
Communities are turning toward engagement technology to build community and increase resident interaction while keeping staff workload minimal.
Mary’s Woods, a CCRC in Lake Oswego, Oregon, is one of those communities. It has long been on the forefront of technology — the organization has included individual resident iPads as part of the move-in process for more than six years — but felt some of its technology platforms were starting to be out of date.
“We felt we were falling flat in terms of technology,” says Cheri Mussotto-Conyers, Mary’s Woods vice president of marketing & communications. “We had a resident portal, but it felt antiquated. We had in-house TVs, but had to wait for the information on them to scroll through.”
Mary’s Woods sought a platform to revitalize and revamp its resident engagement technology. They went with Touchtown’s community engagement software in 2018, adopting a community app, calendar and digital signage. The platform updates residents on daily dining menus, activities and announcements that are accessible on residents’ phones, tablets, computers, and on digital signs and kiosks across the campus.
To ensure a successful launch, Mary’s Woods assembled a committee of residents to use the Touchtown platform for four weeks in advance of the launch so they could train fellow residents.
“The folks we knew were already [engaged], we knew they wanted more. We went to them and formed a committee,” Mussotto-Conyers says. “We also reached out to residents that weren’t as tech-savvy to have the other end of the scale. We were able to test it out that way, so this group started using it and coming back on a daily basis talking about what we could change and why.”
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Once the platform launched, all residents received training in several formats including one-on-one and small group sessions. Resident ambassadors are available for additional assistance.
“The residents encourage each other and have formed intense communication,” Mussotto-Conyers says. “There are groups forming.”
Mary’s Woods has since began using Touchtown’s Alexa Integration for voice-enabled commands, and has Echo Show and Echo Dot devices set up in its sales office where prospective residents and family members can try using the platform. It also has an iPad, equipped with their community app, at each concierge station throughout the community.
The technology creates a network effect of direct resident communication that would otherwise fall to the community to facilitate. By allowing residents to create profiles with personal information, they can connect with their neighbors based on common interests. Particularly on a large campus spanning eight buildings, that engagement helped residents reach a deeper level of connection on a large scale, Mary’s Woods leadership says.
“A lot of residents have dogs,” Mussotto-Conyers says. “We were able to form a fun doggie group. We also have a ‘man cave’ and more and more couples and men are coming in. We have a lot of residents who are handy, so now we have a woodworking shop. They were able to use the platform to reach out to other people who may not have even realized these opportunities existed. It’s pulling people out of their apartments, out of their villa homes and on to the other side of the campus.”
An online platform serving the community’s residents can make otherwise disconnected residents feel more included, as well.
“Certain people fear technology, but they decided to try this,” says Rob West, communications manager for Mary’s Woods. “One of the biggest things I hear is that people love that they can find out what’s happening in terms of activities, (and the food, of course)… People have told me they were out and had forgotten to sign up for something, so they just went online and signed up.”
Residents can also pick and choose activities based on up-to-date information, Mussotto-Conyers says.
“Typically for someone to sign up for a session, they’d have to sign up on the board, but now they are able to look through and digest all of the different options that are available,” she says. “They are taking advantage of the programs they are interested in and they are finding new and different opportunities to engage by having this at their fingertips.”
Mary’s Woods latest investment to improve resident access and communication is the introduction of two interactive display boards. Residents easily navigate through relevant information at their leisure in any of the community center lobbies. “It’s a quick and innovative approach to provide fast access to the latest updates while residents wait for a shuttle or the bus joining the many tours we offer” says Brabandt.
With around 21,000 app sessions in a single quarter, Mary’s Woods has found the platform promotes social engagement as well.
“This makes it easy for residents to stay in contact with one another,” Brabandt says. “When I came to Mary’s Woods a year and a half ago, we had one wine club. Now we have four, and two brew clubs. Touchtown helps us get the messaging out.”
To learn more about Touchtown and its senior living technology solutions, click here.