Five consumer technologies that should be in every senior housing unit

Universal/accessible design of the home from an occupational therapy and a construction perspective. This blog is part of a quest for cool, convenient, functional design that makes life safer, easier, and as maintenance-free as possible. It's about the lifestyle.


Overcoming tech inertia in senior housing.  Andrew Carle, founder of George Mason University’s senior housing administrator program, was interviewed by Senior Housing News on the labor-saving benefits of technology use. That he felt compelled to suggest that technology was both an opportunity and a threat was interesting. But is the low penetration of a variety of technologies more about inertia on the part of management and lack of insistence by families who are fearful of making waves? Residents and families would be able to participate in a richer living experience if senior housing organizations overcame their inertia and offered:

  • High speed Internet access for all.  So here’s a question: do you think that the oldest in your communities need to be online? Or is your organization waiting for others in the industry to lead the way towards it being a must-have versus a nice-to-have? Do all of the residents in independent, assisted living, and nursing homes know how to sign up? Do they have a tablet, PC or MAC in their own rooms/apartments/homes? Or do they have to visit the common areas in order to send an e-mail? If they brought their own laptops, would there be a wireless network or an enabled Internet jack available in their own spaces, just the way they can connect their own TV when they move in? 
  • Support for video and Skype.  What are you offering to connect the generations in your resident’s family? Do you help residents participate with family via video? If a family member wants to contact them via Skype at holiday time, how likely is it that someone is around who can help with setting up a Skype ID, getting them started, dialing or receiving a call? Is there anyone available on Sundays to help? Does the organization feature high speed Internet access on a brochure and website, but lack the staff to make it work for individual residents – unless their families help out?
  • Mobile PERS and GPS locator.  Are you investigating the transition from stationary PERS to mobile technology? Do the majority of residents have PERS pendants – and do they stay within the distance zone specified by the vendor, typically a maximum of 600 feet? Or are they getting into a car or bus with their pendant and heading to a local community center, out of range? Or is the pendant on the bedside table and the resident has gone on the trip to the mall? Mobile PERS technology is out there – MobileHelp and GreatCall have it now, Verizon and LifeComm will have it later this year, and PERS apps are available now for smart phones.
  • Medication Dispensing. Is the ‘wellness’ nurse occupied nearly full time with record-keeping about medications dispensed, searching for the resident, recording the dose, putting back the paper chart and the medication, and on to the next? Is this really what the nurse should be spending her time on, behind a glass wall and surrounded by paper? Is there no way to introduce just a teeny-tiny bit of technology into this process, including pre-loaded (weekly) canisters/containers per resident that can offer up reminders for an appropriate med dose? Couldn’t these devices link back to a resident record that the dose was taken?
  • Kindle Reader or app in a shared kiosk. Maybe every resident’s family will buy one of these for Christmas, but if not, why not set up several Kindles in a well-lit common area, books preloaded?  Or use the free Kindle reader app in a shared PC area – some organizations even have ‘library’ type sitting rooms. Consider that the residents or a staffer can join a local library, ‘borrow’ an audio book online, download it to a PC or other device, and play a very entertaining audio book?


Mark.Time Warner Internet said...

Good post. Seniors are obviously kids who requires more care and consideration. I will surely make a checklist at my home to ensure all these are present. Keep it up.

Karen K Koch said...

Thanks, I do think seniors, like the rest of us need to play and enjoy life. I hope to stay young at heart and play my whole life no matter what sort of shape my body is in, its my main goal.

I'm now approaching middle age and I feel it's my responsibility to make sure the elder years are quality, happy years for my parents and some day for myself.