As anyone with a parent in senior living knows, the intake process is substantial. So much is shared and so much is learned.

Adam’s stroke affects his right side. Mary uses a walker and a wheelchair, depending on the day. Luke is allergic to garlic.

Those are the basics. But what about who they were out in the world and who they want to be now? Often, enthusiastic caregivers learn every detail, but where does this information go? Without a comprehensive digital system, these intimate details often are lost during staff turnover, and the difference that could be made to the consumer is lost along with them.

Just like hotels collect data on their guests to better serve them, it’s time for senior living to use the latest in data-sharing, not only for operational efficiency but also to better serve residents.

Collecting pertinent data about incoming senior residents is a key part of many recruitment and enrollment systems within the senior living industry. Although some businesses are struggling with integrating new technology into existing legacy systems, others have invested in updated systems over time. The issue is that most of these systems were designed to focus on recruitment and enrollment, not ongoing management of the needs and preferences of residents. 

There now exists a sizable opportunity to extend, append, replace or introduce new data collection systems to tailor the experience for each resident — and doing so is, for many reasons, becoming increasingly critical to the highly competitive process of attracting new residents. Overall advancements in technology have heightened the demand for personalization: From the purchases we make and the news we consume to how we do our banking, we’ve become accustomed to tailored service. Adult children, used to apps and messaging as efficient communication methods, have raised the expectation that technology is the preferred way to communicate. Seniors themselves are tech savvier; according to AARP, more than 90% Americans aged 50+ own a computer or laptop, 70% own a smartphone and over 40% own a tablet. 

Left on the cutting room floor (so to speak) of most senior living businesses are the data that can be just as pertinent to an older adult’s overall wellbeing as food preferences or physical therapy needs: What are the interactions between the staff members and residents? Are there shared points of view between residents that need to be addressed? What entertainment or socialization services are being used most frequently, and to what outcome?

The opportunity exists to collect these data over days, weeks or even months and create a more accurate view both of the residents themselves, and the operations of the facility. The continuity and shared knowledge that this data collection will garner overtime could be invaluable — and would not be affected (or lost forever) by staff turnover. 

In addition, data can be used to consistently increase happiness and satisfaction among residents. From personalized calendars that manage social engagements to concierge services such as Amazon package shipments, cars for hire or food delivery, using collected data can expand the world of the senior resident. Real-time assessment and feedback, integration of clinical and wellness data and family outreach all could contribute to a resident’s wellbeing.

I know firsthand that my own mother’s weekly trips from her senior residence to get her hair done brighten her mood substantially. Getting feedback about her outings not only would be invaluable to me; it also could aid in her facility’s management of her health and happiness. 

Keep in mind, the data collection is only a tool; it is all about what is collected and how those data are used. Just as hotels collect data on their guests to better serve them and provide stellar customer service, the senior living industry can do the same.

Take a look at the Ritz Carlton’s leadership training principles, for instance, which are focused on building a culture that is fanatical about customer care. Principle number 3 is: “I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.” The “empowered” portion of this principle is key. Staff members need to feel empowered to provide excellent care, and it should be the result of great staff training to give them confidence while also providing an appropriate span of control.

In addition, staff members need access to timely data with good historical facts that give an instant sense of how that resident is and what matters to him or her. This can be done in simple, intuitive interfaces that celebrate the resident. That empowerment, coupled with accessible data, can help provide care teams with the knowledge and inspiration they need to go above and beyond expectations. 

Residents aren’t the only beneficiaries of data collection, however. Businesses can ensure staff efficiencies, offer timely responses through automation and use the data in the back office to manage operating budgets. Data also can help determine what new services are needed and track satisfaction among staff, residents and even family members. 

Adjacent market opportunities abound with this type of commitment to end-to-end data collection systems. In using them, you have the ideal tool kit to move into servicing older adults who live in and around communities you already staff and operate.

Why not consider developing the age-in-place market and serving seniors in their homes? The fact that AARP says that 90% of aging adults won’t move in to senior living communities — at least until they have aged further — is proof that the lifetime value of building services and relationships with seniors in their homes in an emerging large new greenfield ripe for growth. Data collection can help manage, elevate and enhance the experience for seniors and those who care for them.