I stood in an expansive hotel foyer behind a table with a little white sign that said Technology and Innovation, setting out various gadgets, robotic pets and flyers. A woman who looked to be in her 80s walked up to me and asked, “What’s that contraption?” She was looking at a spoon with a heavy, weighted handle. I picked it up, handed it to her and explained, “That is Liftware – it stabilizes the end of a spoon so people with essential tremors can feed themselves with dignity because it reduces the risk of spilling. Want to see how it works?”
She was impressed. “Oh, wow! I know somebody who could really use this. Will you send me information that I can share?” she asked, proceeding to give me her mailing address because her friend doesn’t use email.
This is how the annual Brookdale Entry Fee Resident Conference started. Every year, Brookdale invites residents from its entry fee continuing care retirement communities to attend a conference where they get to interact with Brookdale leaders and residents from across the country on a broad range of topics. I was at the conference to lead a session titled New Technology Trends – What Matters? My goal was to introduce residents to new technology, educate them on the benefits and solicit feedback. I showed them videos on Amazon’s Echo Show and social robots like JIBO™. We talked about telemonitoring devices, social media platforms, Lyft’s ride-sharing services, passive monitoring with predictive analytics, and much more. It was a whirlwind of videos and demos.
After breakout sessions and a lively group discussion, the group concluded there are two areas in particular they want us to continue to explore: technology training and mobile personal emergency response systems (PERS).
In regards to tech training, they lamented the extreme variability of technology acumen in their communities, wishing some of their peers would be more open to using smartphones, tablets and computers. Even the most tech savvy among them want to learn how to use their beloved devices to do more. For example, they wished they could digitally share minutes from their Resident Council meetings and easily collaborate on documents. They were excited to learn about Google’s free collaboration tools, but still worried about the fact that they have to print and distribute paper to accommodate digital novices.
They celebrated our existing resident technology training classes and yearn for more. This further validates Brookdale’s commitment to educating residents in this space. Christopher Leech, Brookdale’s Manager of Resident Technology and Innovation, develops programming that teaches seniors how to use technology. His curriculum is always evolving based on resident feedback. Taking his initiative one step farther, we launched a Tech Tips blog that offers continuing education on a broad range of topics.
On the topic of personal safety, they are looking to the future for devices that may work outside of the community. That prompted a dialogue on the existence of and reliability of mobile PERS products that use a GPS or cellular signal.
It’s important to remember this is a group of older adults living in an independent living setting – and that’s what their opinion represents. I love talking to these folks because they not only represent the voice of an important division of residents, but they are the Assisted Living residents of the near future. Understanding their expectations keeps us focused on what really matters to residents and influences what we provide. This is why interactive opportunities like this are so valuable. I am already looking forward to next year.