5 questions (senior living) should ask before buying that tech

I love tech. I love what we can do with it. I love the access to information and people. I’ve come to rely on it to get through my day and keep me on track–it enriches our lives in so many ways. Except, when it doesn’t. I don’t want to admit that sometimes, just sometimes, technology is not a good thing. At any age, I believe there is such a thing as technology for technology’s sake.

Technology in senior living is taking off. You can see the products developed for memory care and a host of innovations that could actually improve our lives as we age. Our own company is implementing technology such as electronic medical records and care plans–allowing each member of the care team to chart progress notes in real time and more closely monitor elder health and well-being.  Peachtree Village in Roswell, New Mexico helped a resident attend her granddaughter’s wedding via Skype® because she couldn’t travel herself. It’s amazing how connected we can be in the digital age!

Peachtree Village Retirement Living helps a resident attend her granddaughter’s wedding virtually.

Senior living providers were slow to implement these changes. Now that they see the value, though, the largest of the providers are quickly scrambling to show how they are safer, faster, and more innovative with the tech. They’re implementing the latest and greatest technologies for you and your loved ones–they promise that they are the place to live because they have the screens, the remotes, the sensors, and the “flashing lights.” In the process of “getting on the bandwagon” have we stopped to ask is this helping? Or, are we achieving the goals we set out to achieve?

Many of the technologies developed for seniors–whether at home or in a community setting–are keeping elders safer and engaged longer. In fact, there is evidence to suggest that elders are demanding at least wi-fi in senior living communities. There is no doubt that technology needs to be a part of the modern aging experience. It hasn’t even been a part of the aging experience long enough to know what too much really looks like. We don’t know if we’ve fully reached the tech for tech’s sake threshold. But, do we really want to find out?

Here are 5 questions every senior, family, and senior living provider must ask before buying or implementing that tech:

  1. What problem are you trying to solve? Technology is inherently born out of trying to solve a problem such as labor cost, physical demands, lack of information or communication. Be wary of solutions looking for a problem to solve.
  2. What does success look like? The technology should enhance or enrich the lives of the elders or families or employees. If you think it will, what outcomes do you expect to have?
  3. Is there demand? More and more elders and their families are looking for communities and living arrangements with wi-fi. They may not be looking for a screen to replace a human to interact with them during mealtimes.
  4. Are your customers willing to pay for it? You may think that it’s a worthy investment, but do your customers? Technology has a price tag. Whether you increase the rent to cover it or not doesn’t matter as much as the perception that they are paying for it. If they think it’s useless to them, they may not be so hot to write the check.
  5.  Is it single or multi-purpose? Alton Brown, the Food Network star and kitchen master, is a staunch proponent of multiple use tools. Anything that only has one use doesn’t make it into his kitchen. Tech can be the same way–if you can only use it for one small action, you’ll quickly find that the next one developed has multiple good uses and stays useful longer (i.e. the flip phone vs. the smartphone).

About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing to unofficial IT coordinator. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, on her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel, and volunteering.