Technological innovation can pose challenges for older adults, however, resistance to tech adoption by seniors is a common misconception and the senior living communities in which they live need to tap into this potential.
“AgeTech” – defined as technology designed around the wants and needs of older adults – comprised the first panel discussion at SFCS’s 2023 By Design conference. Hosted by SFCS Principal Curtis Jennings, panelists Sheri Rose, CEO and Creative Director at the Thrive Center, Ken Roos, Chief Client Officer at AIVA Health, and Lydia Manning, Gerontologist and CEO/Co-Founder of Circle of Life, the panel focused on the exciting benefits and important considerations of implementing such technology.
“I really think ageism is at the heart of what goes on in tech aversion,” said Manning. “We make a lot of assumptions about older adults, what they will do, who they are, who they are not.” However, in-home technologies are not new to seniors, panelists noted, and the 55+ population is the largest growing segment of regular tech users.
Rather, the lack of interoperability – or the inability for new systems to import and interpret data from one another – can make adopting new technology feel overwhelming for organizations. With as many as 27 separate tech systems operating in the average senior living community, Roos suggests, current and future vendors should explain how their products integrate with others before beginning or renewing contracts.
Rose adds that “organizations need to designate a program or project manager to manage the implementation of new technologies, because the demand for these technologies is only going to intensify.”
The pandemic sparked an acceleration of innovative tools to enhance social engagement – a top-of-mind need in senior communities. “When Covid hit and we were sent home, everybody experienced what it’s really like for that older adult going into senior living and experiencing loneliness and isolation,” said Rose.
Staffing is another area that can benefit from emerging tech. Roos believes it’s crucial to develop tools that allow staff to focus on the most important and fulfilling aspects of their jobs that attracted them to the field to begin with, rather than growing administrative demands.
Panelists described many inspiring applications of technology aimed at improving – and extending – the lives of residents:
Perhaps most crucial is ensuring privacy, safe data collection, and respectful integration into the personal lives of residents, such as HIPAA compliant privacy settings. “Dignified technology should always be the end goal,” said Manning.
Furthermore, any AgeTech innovation must have the input of the older adults and communities it is designed to help.
“It’s a really exciting time to be in this AgeTech space,” said Manning. “We’re looking at possibilities and change that we can’t imagine, and I think it holds tremendous promise for how we’re going to serve others in their homes in the future.”