In the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for one of our most vulnerable populations – older adults – became even more daunting, especially for those in senior living communities.
Staff members were afraid of taking the virus with them to work and bravely put themselves – and their families – at risk every day. Shifting protocols resulted in the cancellation of many daily resident activities that previously filled communities with joy and vibrancy. Social distancing requirements also meant that at many communities, residents would not be able to receive the same level of comprehensive services and care.
I firmly believe, however, that nothing – not even a global pandemic – should affect the care residents receive. That is why I founded Seniors Rising, a technology and data company that gathers key insights from residents at senior living sites to implement substantive change based on their concerns. In our efforts, we have found that technology offers a variety of tools to improve the quality and efficiency of care given to older adults, both physically and mentally.
Although the pandemic spurred many hardships, including devastating losses, over two years later it is important also to consider the ways it ushered in much-needed improvements to our lives and the lives of our nation’s most vulnerable. In my case, it helped me see the need for more integrated technology solutions that address the concerns of residents and make senior living communities more engaging and comfortable for those who call them home.
Accelerated by the pandemic, new technology offerings have unlocked an ever-growing number of possibilities to assist older adults as they age. From remote healthcare to advanced lighting systems, the technology available today enables senior living communities to address residents’ key safety concerns and proactively intervene, simplifying long-standing issues.
For example, my company has developed a motion detection system that enables staff members to monitor and assist residents in case of falls or further injury. This is especially significant given that falls constitute the leading cause of injury and injury death in the US in people aged 65 or more years. Every year, falls send 3 million older adults to the emergency room for medical care. By proactively detecting the problem, our technology affords caregivers and others the opportunity to save seniors from serious injury.
Other benefits of implementing technology in senior housing include a heightened awareness of safety, security and freedom for residents. Telehealth offerings, such as those at Waymark Gardens in Glendale, AZ, help seniors track their fitness and health levels, such as blood sugar, blood pressure and dietary needs. This information then is outsourced to clinicians to help residents track their vital signs and gather any needed insights.
The pandemic has inspired a surge of innovation, and it’s critical that we capitalize on those advancements – not just on the front end but also on the back end. Although my company helps senior living providers embrace technology, we’ve also made a concerted effort to embrace innovative technology ourselves. For example, we’ve started using a fintech platform called Melio to help us manage our payments to vendors. As an inventor myself, I am constantly searching for the technology that can make my life – and my customers’ lives – better.
Although more senior living providers are beginning to increase their spending on technology, there is still much to be done to modernize our elderly care system. Senior living providers have reported an increase in technology investment to address the pandemic, but providers must substantially allocate more funds to adopting the smart systems that comprehensively address the health of residents, including their physiological, social, mental, and emotional health.
I strongly encourage all senior living communities to embrace today’s technology offerings. Older adults deserve to benefit from today’s technology just as much as younger generations.
Eric Luster, DBA, PhD, is owner and CEO of Seniors Rising LLC and current president and chairman of the board of directors at Waymark Gardens senior housing community.
The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.
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