Although senior living communities typically are not known for being app developers, it isn’t time to rule them out of that game.

In light of the frequent communication struggles the COVID-19 pandemic caused, Atria Senior Living created the Resident & Family app. For its efforts, the company won the Gold Award in the Building Bridges category of the Senior Living track and also won Best in Show in the annual McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards.

The awards were presented yesterday as part of the first McKnight’s Tech Awards + Summit, which also featured four webinars.

To help family members stay up to date on the latest pandemic news and keep residents aware of the community information, Atria CEO John Moore; Atria Chief Information Officer Ali Sareea, who also is chief technology officer of Glennis Solutions, Atria’s senior living software subsidiary; and the IT team put the app into motion. It has more than 8,000 downloads across Apple and Android app stores and is used at every Atria community.

“It provided a bridge to family members at a time that the disconnect with loved ones was pretty bad,” Moore said. “It was about a four-week mad dash to get the app in place, and now it’s been over a year from when we started testing.”

Leaders at Atria had been considering creating an app for the company for some time, and according to Moore, the pandemic was just the motivator they needed to get it running. It effectively replaces the need for an email list and is a hub of information for loved ones.

Atria ran into difficulties when trying to update the app because of the overall hesitation that tech-producers had toward anything having to do with COVID-19. Despite the challenge, the company consistently was able to make the app better for residents and their families. 

“It’s an interesting process to get an app approved in a COVID world,” Moore said. “But I think a lot of people really appreciated it. …[The app is just] some affirmation or information about how Mom or Dad is doing. It was a very valuable thing to have during the pandemic.”

Other Building Bridges awards in the Senior Living track include:

  • Silver (tie): Virginia Beach, VA-based Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, for its Virtual Engagement Project that allowed for fun events and connections to families for residents.
  • Silver (tie): Johnston, IA-based WesleyLife, for its COVID Transparency Portal, a section of its website dedicated to updates and Q&As.
  • Bronze: Raleigh, NC-based Legacy Healthcare; For its Family Link, which allowed for better communication across residents, family and employees.

Read about the Building Bridges category winners in the Skilled Nursing track on the McKnight’s Long-Term Care News website and the Home Care track on the McKnight’s Home Care website.

See a list of all 2021 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Senior Living track finalists here. Articles about winners in the Quality, Keep It Super Simple and Innovator of the Year categories will be published over the next three days.

Sponsors of the 2021 McKnight’s Technology Awards + Summit program are Consensus, iN2L, Medline and SimplyConnect. To view the awards presentation and recordings of the webinars, visit