Residents at five of HHHunt’s Spring Arbor senior living communities now can control their apartment thermostats and lighting, share photos and messages with friends and family members, check the weather, play games, sign up for community events and more from tablet devices that are part of K4Connect’s K4Community platform.

Two Spring Arbor communities in the Raleigh, NC, market had been testing the system for the past two years, Rich Williams, senior vice president of Spring Arbor told McKnight’s Senior Living.

K4Connect “really jumped in with both feet and spent a lot of time in our communities, getting to know the residents’ daily routine, what frail seniors in their 70s and 80s are doing on a daily basis, what their capabilities are, what the expectations are, how the families interact, how the employees interact — the whole A to Z issues as it pertains to the life of a resident in independent living and assisted living,” he said.

Before the recent rollout, K4 enhanced the platform based its observations and the feedback it received during the pilot, Williams added.

Families also can be part of the K4Community by logging onto the platform through a dedicated portal managed by K4, he said. Spring Arbor educates residents and families on how to use the technology and its potential benefits as part of the communities’ wellness and activities programming.

“What a lot of people forget in independent living and assisted living is that residents come in because they have some sort of healthcare need,” Williams said. “Medication management, meals, housekeeping services — all those things on a daily basis are good things that really improve their health and well-being, but what you forget about is the social interaction piece.”

In addition enabling residents to control their thermostats and lights and communicate with family members, he said, the platform has increased socialization among residents.

“They’re sharing moments of joy with other residents, and that really stimulates all of the residents, and they all start being socially interactive with each other through this common platform that they’re using with friends and family outside of the community,” Williams said.

Residents even have set up friendly competitions related to the number of steps they take every day, he said, explaining that they wear pedometers and the tablets keep track of their steps. “It provides a little bit of fun while at the same time getting some real wellness and therapeutic activity happening,” Williams said.

Residents also share photos from family with staff members, creating another opportunity for employees to bond with residents, he said. “It creates job satisfaction for our teammates as well as the socialization piece for residents and family members,” Williams said.

Just as important, the technology includes a safety component; through dashboards, staff members can monitor who is using the tablets, he said. “If we start seeing signs of lack of use, then we can look into that and make sure there’s nothing else going on that’s impacting that resident’s ability to use it,” Williams said. “You never know — they could be avoiding it because they’re scared of it, or they could be avoiding it because they’re not feeling well.”

And staff can monitor movement via bed sensors. “If we’re seeing the resident getting up frequently at night, that could mean a sleep disorder or UTI or some other thing that might be going on that’s prohibiting them from getting a good night’s sleep, which is very important to their health and well-being,” he said.

The integrated reporting and management system also enables staff members to access data that provide building management insights.

Accommodating the new technology wasn’t cheap, Williams said. Spring Arbor had to update its older buildings, he explained.

“The thermostats need to be changed out to have the wireless capability, light switches need to be changed out to dimmer switches, light bulbs need to be changed out to dimmable bulbs and that sort of thing,” Williams said. Also, he added, Wi-Fi needed to be upgraded to ensure that residents are able to use the tablets in all areas of the building.

“It’s not a cheap investment, but we see it as part of the amenities package that we offer with the monthly rent,” Williams said.

“The feedback has been very, very positive from residents who have fully engaged with it. …and the families really love it that it’s there to use,” he added, noting that residents especially like the ability to see photos shared by family members.

The five communities in which Spring Arbor has implemented the platform are in North Carolina and Maryland. The company has plans to expand the rollout to four additional communities in Virginia and North Carolina in the coming months. Spring Arbor has a total of 22 communities.

“We have been extremely excited by the resident response at each of the Spring Arbors,” Scott Moody, CEO and chief client advocate of K4Connect, said in a statement.