Editor’s Note: The 2020 winners of the McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards are being announced Sept. 29 to Oct. 6. Senior Living track winners are being announced here by McKnight’s Senior Living. Senior Living track winners are being announced on the website of sister publication McKnight’s Long-Term Care News.

When real estate investment trust LTC Properties approached Juniper Communities, one its operators, back in March offering support at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, a bright idea virtually popped into the head of Juniper founder and CEO Lynne Katzmann, Ph.D.

“What if we got together and curated programming and asked other providers to help us curate it with us?” Katzmann suggested.

That was the start of Virtual Connections, a free-to-use online resource meant to provide staff members, senior living residents and community-dwelling older adults entertainment, education and enlightenment during an otherwise dark time. The resource has won Gold in the activities category of the Senior Living track of the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards.

Built around categories including activities, culture, spirituality, wellness, sports and entertainment, the site offers an easy-to-navigate layout and direct links to hundreds of existing, free activities from other organizations.

The online activities clearinghouse made perfect sense for Katzmann’s frontline staff members, who were looking for new ways to engage with residents who were not allowed visitors or for group events during the COVID crisis. But Katzmann never thought of restricting its use, despite the cost and manpower hours that went into designing the site and updating it with new recommendations from users.

“Everybody is facing the same thing, and, frankly, it doesn’t hurt us at all to have others avail themselves of it,” she told McKnight’s Senior Living. “The other part was the crowdsourcing. We knew people would add to the original list, which mostly came from Juniper, and make it more robust.”

The project continues to be powered by Juniper Communities and LTC Properties and has so far attracted 3,000 unique users who viewed more than 13,000 pages by July.

Elsewhere in the Activities category, which is exclusive to the Senior Living track:

  • Silver: Maplewood Senior Living won Silver for its implementation of Rendever’s virtual reality platform, offering travel, games and meditation options that have been used in more than 2,000 sessions.
  • Bronze: John Knox Village of Florida took Bronze for its use of MyndVR, a virtual reality program helping residents with a range of cognitive abilities to “travel” and pursue new adventures.

Competition entries were submitted earlier this year and judged by an independent panel of skilled care and senior living experts and industry professionals.

Stanley Healthcare is the Platinum sponsor of the 2020 McKnight’s Excellence in Technology Awards. MatrixCare is the Gold sponsor for the Senior Living track.

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