No matter which generation you’re a part of, you’re well aware of the amazing heights we have reached due to technological advancements. Our cell phones are the access points for our entire lives, allowing immediate communication with anyone around the world, incredible business functionality, and providing the ability to fly your own drone over your neighbor’s house! Meanwhile, your house is no longer four walls with a roof, but is now a living, breathing smart home managing utility usage, family comfort settings, and even allowing your refrigerator to order milk when you are running low. For those in the senior housing industry, advancements in senior care technology are building and they will continue to amaze and excite in the coming years. For the first time, technology is beginning to make residents safer and more secure, while simultaneously improving their quality of life and reducing technological intrusion into the daily lives of our residents. These advancements can be broken into the following three primary categories:
RESIDENT SAFETY & SECURITY
- Wireless & Wearable Technology
- Advanced Video Analytics for Event Detection
- Remote Video Monitoring & Surveillance Systems
- Access Control
- Electronic Locks
- Intercom and Paging Systems
- Mass Notification Systems
- Intrusion Detections Systems
- Distributed Wi-Fi and Wireless Communication Systems
- Emergency Communications
- Nurse Call Systems
- Digital Signage Systems
- Fiber and Low-Voltage Cabling
A lot of this technology has existed in prior generations of senior living, however, the real renaissance has been in both the improvement and enhancement of these technologies. Also, the integration of these technologies allows them to interact with each other and other platforms to improve efficiencies and cost-effectiveness.
For instance, wearable devices such as GPS watches allow for 24/7 monitoring of residents, which is particularly important for those with cognitive issues (e.g., Alzheimer’s) and who tend to wander. Nurses and staff can immediately locate these residents in the event they go missing, saving valuable time in potentially dangerous situations. These devices will continue to be integrated into other systems, allowing for one access point into the lives of our residents.
Behavior sensors are also revolutionizing the industry by alerting caregivers and/or loved ones to alterations in the routines of residents. These high-tech devices use sophisticated sensors to “learn” an individual’s regular behavior patterns. When a change occurs, such as unusually prolonged stationary position or excessive bathroom trips, the system knows, warning caregivers of risks like malnutrition, falling, UTIs, and depression. Identifying and treating these conditions sooner may prevent residents from going to the hospital, which could mean a tremendous improvement in their quality of life.
For security, electronic access control systems mandate badges for all regular visitors and vendors, decreasing the possibility of a threat. Anyone without his or her badge is not permitted entry and must be physically signed in at reception. Along these lines, electronic locks and central control panels make an immediate facility lockdown in the event of a threat executable at the press of a button. Advances in this technology are also, just as importantly, becoming less and less obtrusive in the lives of the residents, preserving our residents’ dignity.
RESIDENT LIFESTYLE & ENGAGEMENT
Amazon’s Alexa has also done its part in bettering the lives of our senior residents. Residents are using Alexa to set medication reminders, alarms, and even adjust their lights and room temperature settings, but Alexa can also be used to alleviate loneliness. As a voice-to-voice device, people can have a conversation with it. Residents can ask Alexa to stream music, search the Web, play an audiobook, or check the news, time, and weather. Some facilities are also teaching residents how to use Alexa to communicate with family and friends via text messaging and phone calls.
Companion robots have also been developed to combat social isolation for seniors living alone. These robots can ensure the well-being of senior citizens by providing social interaction, assistance, and can remind them about upcoming events, appointments, and deliveries. In addition, companion robots can monitor the homes of seniors living alone, detect falls and unusual activity, and provide medication reminders. They can also ease loneliness with social interaction by accessing communication technologies like Skype and FaceTime for face-to-face communication with family members and friends.
SENIOR LIVING BUSINESS TECHNOLOGY
Not only is innovation building in resident facing applications, but technological improvements in the business of senior living are allowing business owners, operators, and managers greater a more immediate access to the health and growth of their communities, removing them from the daily grind of watching spreadsheets and scheduling meetings. Now they are able to spend more time with the residents and families for a true understanding of the impact that they can make on what really matters.
These are truly exciting times for everyone connected to the senior industry because of the technological advancements that have been developed just in the past few years. More than one million Americans currently reside in senior housing today, and that number is expected to double by 2030. It will be amazing to see how technology in our industry has continued to progress at that time.
As senior housing owners, operators, and managers, the Senior Guidepost team continues to be challenged by the pace of technological advancements and what role should each new technology play in our communities. Implementing new ideas can be great for residents and their families, but can be full of implementation, security, and obsolescence risks. Within our companies, we are building teams of employees and residents alike to evaluate opportunities as a group, improving their adoption likelihood.
Good luck in introducing new technology to your community!