Man preparing meal using smart speaker.
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Technology can be a workforce enabler that can engage and empower people as well as meet basic psychological and self-fulfillment needs, according to one senior living technology expert.

Amazon Senior Business Development Manager for Senior Living Ginna Baik addressed technology’s role in the future of aging services during Tuesday’s virtual LeadingAge Collaborative Care Tech Summit 2022.

Technology and the workforce

Baik, the senior living lead for Alexa Smart Properties, said that the “brilliance” of technology is in how it can enable quality services. Citing information from the Consumer Technology Association, Baik said that technology actually is part of organizing and supporting the operations of 94% of companies.

The problem, she said, is that healthcare generally is 10 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology adoption, and long-term care typically is 10 years behind healthcare.

That can be a particular problem for the long-term care industry in its workforce recruitment efforts, Baik said. Organizations need to remember how much technology they’ve enabled and whether they have differentiated their workplaces to be where today’s employees want to come to work, she said.

“To compete for that same workforce, they’re going to look for technology to optimize what they do,” Baik said of long-term care employers. Employees, she added, “want more money and to do less work, and they want the whole experience automated.”

Tech and older adults

Building and implementing technology to serve older adults can be a challenge, Baik said. Although telehealth use accelerated during the pandemic, audio issues and confusing technology requirements, along with a lack of internet access, prevented some seniors from successfully using telemedicine.

Baik said that Older Adult Technology Services, which supports AARP, undertook a project with the Humana Foundation to gauge internet use among older adults. What they discovered, she said, is that 21.8 million older adults don’t have an internet connection. Broadband access, she said, a basic need that should be provided along with food and shelter.

Baik commented that many senior living operators turned to robots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Robots that clean, deliver food, monitor health, combat isolation and connect residents with loved ones burst onto the scene to fill the gaps.

Robots can handle menial tasks, freeing up staff to direct resident care, she noted, adding that they are the vision of what’s next in senior living and care.

Voice technology

One of the biggest trends in technology — especially in the long-term care industry — is voice technology, Baik said.

“Voice is becoming the next operating platform going forward, not just in the world, but also in senior care in general,” she said, adding that smart home controls are not only a convenience but are contributing to safety and falls mitigation.

And although older adults can do many things with voice-activated technology — watch television, call caregivers or family members, play music, turn on lights, manage the thermostat, make dinner reservations or set wake-up calls — it’s important to make the connection seamless, intuitive and timely, Baik said.

Amazon moved into the long-term care space after providers contacted the company about finding a way to connect staff to residents, residents to each other, and residents to family members during the pandemic, she said. Today’s residents range from the tech illiterate to super users, Baik added.

“Voice equalizes tech fluency in communities to get immediate adoption where connection can happen,” she said, adding that age isn’t a barrier to technology adoption. “Good technology fulfills needs and wants.”