We all know the stereotype of the technophobic senior. According to this view, seniors can’t or don’t want to learn how to use tech they’re unfamiliar with. Instead, they’ll remind you they did just fine for themselves before all these fancy gadgets. But this stereotype was shattered during the COVID-19 pandemic as tech usage skyrocketed among seniors. Older adults are now embracing new technology and the ways it can improve their lives. As they get more comfortable with tech, the industry will need to adapt to keep up with its tech-savvy seniors.
Fortunately, many in the industry have already implemented new technology to meet the challenges of the pandemic and are now seeing the benefits. Here’s how technology is transforming the senior living industry in the aftermath of COVID-19.
For many older adults, the COVID-19 pandemic was the motivation they needed to give new tech a try. They’re now realizing the potential tech holds to make their lives easier and give them more control over their own health and wellness.
While isolating or social distancing, seniors turned to tech to stay connected to friends and family with positive results. According to recent surveys, 9/10 seniors say their devices and internet access helped them a lot during the pandemic, and 44% of seniors now view tech more positively as a way to stay connected. Senior isolation was a serious problem even before the pandemic. While video calls can’t replace in-person contact, they can help older adults stay connected with loved ones to combat the negative health effects of loneliness.
With internet access, older adults can take part in distance activities that support their health and wellness. Older adults are forming communities with each other, taking university classes, and following exercise programs like StrongerU online. The great part about these services is that they’re designed for, and often by, seniors. Tech is often not senior-friendly. Fortunately, initiatives like Senior Planet and non-profits like Generations on Line are working to bridge the technology gap between generations. Many senior living communities are also holding tutorials to empower older adults with the tools to stay healthy, engaged, and connected to their loved ones.
Seniors are not the only ones realizing the benefits of tech during the pandemic. Within senior living communities, the strain put on staff exposed the limits of pen and paper processes. Recreation teams were left under-resourced and understaffed, all while dealing with changing health guidelines and outdated administrative processes. Many communities saw the need to save time that could be refocused into ensuring the safety and well-being of residents.
Communities increased their efficiency with recreation software. Using smart tools, recreation staff can easily track and record resident engagement to combat social isolation during lockdowns. The pandemic also saw the rise of contact-tracing software that lets staff take quick action to identify, isolate, and contain an outbreak in their community. Giving staff the tools to do their jobs efficiently also means more time for one-on-ones with residents, which became even more important during social distancing.
While the pandemic was an eye-opener for many in senior living, the industry has been going digital since well before the pandemic. Communities are realizing that having the right tools makes it easier than ever to deliver engaging, personalized programs that result in a more profitable community.
Technology is making it easier than ever for older adults to be proactive about their health. Whether it’s wearable devices that monitor the user’s health, new software designed to detect falls, or a simple app to refill prescriptions online, tools are available that empower users to take charge of their own health.
Like other industries, innovation in healthcare was spurred by COVID-19. But the greatest healthcare innovation of the pandemic may not be any one piece of technology — instead, it’s the rise of telehealth.
Healthcare providers made the switch to telephone and video appointments to meet social distancing guidelines and a surge in demand for services. Surveys have found that the overall use of telemedicine services among seniors increased by 300% during the pandemic. Not only that, but 74% of all telemedicine users report high satisfaction with the services they received. This suggests that people will want to keep using telehealth after the pandemic is over.
There are many advantages to using telehealth services in senior living communities. The need to travel to a doctor’s appointment can make getting a checkup difficult for older adults. Plus, they may not be getting the care they need while they wait between physical appointments. When older adults can receive checkups from the comfort of their rooms, problems can be caught early before they develop into costly health issues. This not only saves costs on staffing nurses and providing expensive treatments, but eases the overall burden on the healthcare system.
Dining is another aspect of senior living that transformed during the pandemic. Communities had to adapt to social distancing with room service, limited seating, and meal carts. At the same time, many otherwise reluctant residents tried ordering food and groceries online for the first time. It’s hard to compete with the convenience offered by these services. But even before the pandemic, industry trends were pointing to variety and 24-hour dining. It’s possible to offer residents the flexibility they’ve come to enjoy.
To get closer to 24-hour dining, communities can continue to offer meal cart services and grab-and-go stations with prepackaged snacks. While residents may use these services less as they return to in-person dining, they’ll still appreciate the variety. Another popular way to offer more variety is to create convertible dining spaces that may be a coffee shop in the morning and a bar at night. Sharing staff and space also means money saved.
Many restaurants are going digital to increase staff efficiency and offer greater flexibility in services. Opting for digital menus can reduce staff error when taking orders and allow for real-time updates to reflect menu changes. Online menus can also assure family members that their loved ones are eating well. This level of transparency creates an opportunity for feedback and higher customer satisfaction.
The data collected from digital processes can help operators order food with greater accuracy and reduce expensive food waste. Plus, knowing your residents’ menu favourites will help you cater to their preferences. After all, if your dining services already compete with what local restaurants have to offer, your residents won’t feel the need to turn to UberEATS.
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in the digital age of the senior living industry, and there’s no turning back. At Welbi, we’ve always understood the potential tech holds to transform the industry. That’s why we created our state-of-the-art recreational platform to help senior living communities deliver exceptional life experiences to their residents. Our user-friendly software incorporates seamlessly into your daily routine, and we’re here to support you every step of the way. Always.
To learn more about how we can help automate your processes and save countless hours of administrative work, click here to book a demo of the Welbi platform or to chat with us. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on industry trends.
Wendy studies English Language and Literature at the University of Ottawa, where she has won numerous awards for her writing.
Katie is a member of Welbi’s Customer Experience team! She has a background in communications and recreation and is passionate about older adults, exercise, coffee and people.
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