While “Alexa” has become part of the family in tens of millions of homes, it has at the same time been rolled out across many senior living organizations to support the residents who live among senior living communities.
Alexa is a perfect match to help with an aging demographic that often faces challenges moving around the home, as well as information gathering that requires human interaction.
In addition to some of the expected benefits of a voice assistant in senior living, those organizations that have introduced Alexa have also experienced some unexpected benefits, too. Atria Senior Living, began its collaboration with Alexa Smart Properties and Aiva Health in two communities in early 2023. Today they will have deployed the technology to roughly 15 communities comprising 1,600 devices by year-end.
“It’s really given us some pretty awesome learnings around how to deploy effectively,” says Atria’s Chief Technology Officer Chris Nall.
Lesson 1: Deploy at scale
Atria manages a large portfolio of properties, so rolling out Alexa devices and software across communities, required time examining the process of deployment and establishing how to reduce the time it takes to implement a device in each resident unit.
“Through the collaboration with Amazon, we’ve reduced the time to under five minutes; we can do multiple devices at once and we can deploy regionally,” Nall says. “That’s been a massive win this year.”
Lesson 2: Make it about engagement
Atria has deployed Echo Show 8 devices in each room, these devices provide an in-unit screen that can display communications community wide. This has significantly increased the engagement of residents in many of the events and activities taking place within their communities.
“By having these digital signs in every single room, we’ve been able to get anywhere from 30% to 75% more people attending Atria Engage Life® events,” Nall says. In the past, residents would often forget about the timing of these events, but today the digital signage via the Echo Show 8 serves as a reminder and a means to communicate daily information such as menu offerings or other important information.
Atria is also working to develop formal programming that is unique to Alexa, such as teaching residents to use Alexa-enabled devices to further their own personal learning.
In addition, residents use the devices to communicate with family and friends in a way that is often more seamless than some of the other device options available. In meeting with residents, Amazon’s team learned about this ease of use directly from residents.
“Residents love the fact that the Alexa-enabled devices are pre-populated with their contact information,” says Ginna Baik, Senior Living Alexa Smart Properties leader for Amazon. “Residents commented that it’s really hard when you use a smartphone or tablet or even a computer because you have additional steps and passwords and things that are challenging to remember. They found that Alexa-enabled devices with pre-populated contacts allowed them to connect with their family members faster.”
Lesson 3: Seek staff benefits
The benefit to residents is often the main reason a senior living community or organization invests in Alexa-enabled devices. Yet Atria and others have found significant benefits to staff as well. This spans not only time saved and ease of communication, but also EHR integration and fewer emergency calls.
“What we’ve seen is reduction in usage of emergency calls,” Nall says, noting a reduction of 30% to 40% in some communities. “Residents aren’t using their call pendant for non-emergency events; they’re asking Alexa. What we’ve heard from staff is this allows them to focus more on the care of the residents and not spend as much time answering questions around meals and activities.”
Atria staff also utilize Alexa in other ways such as providing calming music in residents’ rooms, or serving as an ambient way of caring for residents.
“Senior living communities can use the ambient nature of Alexa and the data that they have on hand to create meaningful and relevant experiences,” Baik says.
Starting the journey
From staffing benefits to communication improvements, providers should approach the launch of a voice first program as more than a technology initiative, Nall says.
“I would not make it a technology initiative, but make it an engagement and an operations initiative,” he says. “It started out as our solution to smart apartments for how to tie in lights, blinds, and thermostats. It’s since grown into this very strong piece of engagement technology.
Bringing in the team that’s planning events, bringing in the operational management before deployment and introducing it to them… I think would definitely increase the success of the project.”
This article is sponsored by Alexa Smart Properties. Alexa Smart Properties provides device fleet management to provide Alexa capabilities at scale. Residents can use Alexa to easily access information and communicate, helping them to lead more independent and socially engaged lives. At the same time, Alexa enables staff to focus on high-impact areas by creating greater efficiencies with resource-consuming activities such as check-ins, announcements, and maintenance service requests. Alexa technology streamlines associates’ workflows and provides more quality time for resident care. To learn more, visit: https://developer.amazon.com/en-US/alexa/seniorliving
Aiva Health, an Alexa Smart Properties Solution Provider, is a virtual assistance system for healthcare and assisted living, dedicated to improving the health and experience of patients, seniors and their caregivers. Aiva integrates with 40+ systems already found in acute and long-term care facilities, enabling virtual control over systems like meal menus, event calendars, health records, lighting, blinds, thermostats and TVs.
Atria Management Company (“Atria”), headquartered in Louisville, KY, is a leading manager of independent living, assisted living, supportive living and memory care communities in 44 states and seven Canadian provinces. Atria’s brands include Coterie, Atria Signature, Atria Senior Living, Atria Park, Holiday by Atria, Atria Retirement Canada and Atria Home Care. Atria creates vibrant communities where older adults can thrive and participate, know that their contributions are valued, and enjoy access to opportunities and support that help them keep making a positive difference in our world.
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