Senior living’s embrace of the hospitality ethos is well known, as is its work with smart technology and the creation of smart units, and even smart communities.
A new tech rollout at a senior living community in Kalamazoo, Michigan, reveals a successful combination of the two.
Friendship Village Senior Living recently launched Caremerge Voice, a voice-activated engagement platform from Caremerge and Alexa. The platform leverages Alexa for Hospitality — Alexa’s designated offering for hotel guests — to bring security and scale to campus-wide voice and smart home projects in senior living.
The key differentiator for Caremerge Voice versus existing systems is that residents can use the platform in the same natural way they use Alexa at their own home. That’s because Caremerge Voice is smart enough to discern which resident queries are seeking community-specific information and which are seeking information from the Alexa public platform. This breakthrough means residents, staff, and families can talk to Alexa without adding a vendor identifier to their request.
With this enhancement, Caremerge has created a platform with a natural interaction between user and platform, making it easier for all residents to adopt this technology.
As a result, Leaders at Friendship Village, which offers full care continuum services from independent living to skilled nursing, believe that Caremerge Voice will provide residents with a personalized Alexa experience within their units, thus transforming their daily lives. The product was designed for hotels, making it a natural fit with tremendous value for senior living communities.
“The stereotype of the technology-ignorant older adult is false — rather they expect their senior communities to leverage technology to make their lives better,” says Ken Greschak, director of fund development and life enrichment at Friendship Village. “That said, we should always be looking for ways to make using technology easier. With its new capability, Caremerge Voice is the right voice-activated solution to help residents get access to the services and information they need whenever they need them.”
Amazon announced the Alexa for Hospitality platform in June 2018, with the purpose of offering the type of personalized voice-command home experience in a hotel that consumers usually only receive in their homes. Upon the launch, Amazon noted in its press release that Alexa for Hospitality would allow hospitality providers to “enable and customize a range of voice-first features based on their guests’ needs,” and highlighted the platform’s ability to help guests receive hotel information, contact the hotel to request guest services or play music in their rooms.
Each of those is the exact type of experience that senior housing residents seek from community-offered voice technology platforms, such as accessing the community calendar, communicating with staff or learning about dining room menu options. By using Alexa for Hospitality as the foundation of Caremerge Voice, Caremerge and Amazon — which launched their solution offering in April 2019 — are taking the next step in creating resident-centered technology.
“Alexa can be truly transformative for the quality of life of residents, but without the Alexa for Hospitality platform, the request structure was cumbersome and impacting adoption,” says Nancy Koenig, CEO of Caremerge. “The combination of Caremerge Voice and the Alexa for Hospitality platform unlocks the promise of voice technology to improve residents’ quality of life and provide them with greater independence on a daily basis.”
“With Alexa for Hospitality, we have gained the ability to treat each individual apartment as its own center of information,” Greschak says. “It becomes about the resident and what their individual needs are. We wouldn’t be able to do this successfully without it.”
This technology is not just for current residents. Friendship Village is using it to keep prospective residents engaged with the community while on the waitlist, says Diana Duncan, Caremerge director of sales and marketing. Prospective residents can use the Caremerge platform to keep abreast of community events and forge friendships with residents — a feature that is having occupancy benefits, Duncan says.
“They start to build memories and experiences before they even move in, and that helps with a higher conversion so that they’re more likely to move in,” she says. “And what a great transition for them, to be able to already have friends engaged in the community, to help them move and show them around. Caremerge is a great bridge for them.”
For operators considering rolling out voice technology across their campus, Caremerge Voice is proving a natural fit for welcoming residents into the community while giving operators access to technology that scales. Tech-savvy residents have welcomed it, Greschak says, in part because they were entering the community already using a lot of personal technology.
But he also recognizes the need for voice technology with a population that might struggle to physically navigate devices.
“Those were the two considerations that we were chasing: interconnectivity and voice-activated technology — and that led us to Caremerge,” Greschak says. “What we have gained is the ability to treat each individual apartment as its own center of information. It becomes about the resident. … It’s helping us isolate down to more of an individual. And both Amazon and Caremerge have been very good to work with.”
Click here to learn more about Caremerge Voice and watch our video success story of Friendship Village Senior Living in Kalamazoo, Michigan.