Should senior living communities offer legacy management services?

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Jaan Leemet
Jaan Leemet

In this digital age, tools and services for a myriad of information management applications are becoming available to simplify people's access, sharing and organizing of data.

From grocery lists and to-do lists to complex budget tracking tools, apps and cloud services exist for just about everything. Legacy management is no exception.

When most people think about legacy management, they automatically think about a will and testament or an estate plan and taxes. These components certainly are important core elements, but a growing set of tools and services also go beyond these components and can benefit residents and their families.

Some of the things that technology can offer to simplify and enhance legacy management include:

  • Preparation of personalized messages for loved ones. Many tools allow users to record messages for their loved ones to be sent after they pass away. Some even offer voice, video and text messaging, as well as the ability to schedule message delivery for a special occasion such as a birthday, wedding or retirement.
  • Document organization, indexing or storage. The safekeeping and organization of important documents can be critical to making them readily available to heirs. Services exist to enable users to upload digital copies and catalog the location of physical documents for future reference.
  • Clarification of post-mortem wishes and instructions. Remove the ambiguity from funeral wishes, pet care or any other instructions that may not be covered in a will and ease the burden on loved ones during an already difficult time.
  • Creation of a diary or “ethical will” for loved ones. Share favorite recipes, childhood stories, family history and more. This information can become a cherished memory and treasured reading for family members.
  • Creation of an online memorial. Beyond an obituary, a lasting online memorial can contain biographical information, photos and videos. Some tools even become a platform for sharing memories and condolences.
  • Manage social media and online friends. Each social media platform handles legacy differently. A “social media will” with passwords and instructions on how to handle each account can be helpful to heirs.

Senior living can be part of the process

Although important decisions for residents should be made with the counsel of their families and loved ones, a senior living community can help with awareness and training on the various tools available. Outreach on how to use them, as well as the importance of being prepared, may help get people started with what tends to remain a taboo subject that everyone puts off, often until it's too late.

This type of advance thinking can offer several advantages to a community:

  • Opportunity for differentiation or revenue. Partnering with legacy management services or tools can serve as a differentiator for the community and can be a way of generating additional revenue. Service providers often will give discounts in return for working with assisted living communities. These savings can be passed on directly to the residents or could be a way of generating additional revenue for the community in return for set up and training services related to these tools.
  • An additional service for the residents and their families. Digital legacy management still is a new and evolving field, and there is a lack of knowledge as to what is available and how to use it. By being proactive by finding and sharing tools with residents, the community is helping to bring awareness to the community as well as helping residents choose appropriate options. This process can bring peace of mind to both residents and their families.
  • An additional activity for residents. Activity sessions can be created for individual topics, such as recording videos or messages, writing memorials or reviewing some of the new concepts of legacy management. Whether a community converges on one tool or a series of tools, workshops can be set up to review the available functions and how to use them. Topics such as learning how to schedule messages, or perhaps how to find former classmates and long-lost friends through social media, can be added to keep the pace leisurely and not overwhelm residents with all of the features at once. The creators of these tools may have a recommended or freely available training videos or guides that can be used as a baseline. These workshops or activities can be instrumental to helping residents overcome the initial trepidation of becoming familiar with various tools. Many of these applications are available for free, or have models that allow at least basic functions to be used at no cost.

A natural fit

Although estate planning and legacy management typically are thought of as beneficial to one's heirs, one of the most important reasons to undertake these actions is the peace of mind they offer. It's important that residents know that those left behind won't have a difficult time dealing with their affairs thanks to pre-planning and preparations.

Losing a loved one is a tragic and often devastating time. When one is forced to make difficult decisions or search for documents while in the midst of grieving, it can become unbearable. Helping residents prepare and organize their affairs is a natural fit for retirement and assisted living communities.

Jaan Leemet is a founder of Memorial Software, which makes the MemorializeMe software platform and app to help automate many legacy management functions for its users. The basic software is free to use, and a premium option offers more space and enhanced features, such as video and audio. Memorial Software is launching a retirement and assisted living community program, including training and a revenue share/discount opportunity to help residents get set up with the app and website. Learn more by emailing jaan@memorializeme.com or calling 866-878-7575.

McKnight's Senior Living welcomes guest columns on subjects of value to the industry. Please see our submission guidelines for more information.

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