Aging in Place Technology Watch February 2012 Newsletter

Overcoming tech inertia in senior housing.  Andrew Carle, founder of George Mason University’s senior housing administrator program, was interviewed by Senior Housing News on the labor-saving benefits of technology use. That he felt compelled to suggest that technology was both an opportunity and a threat was interesting. But is the low penetration of a variety of technologies more about inertia on the part of management and lack of insistence by families who are fearful of making waves? Residents and families would be able to participate in a richer living experience if senior housing organizations overcame their inertia and offered:

High speed Internet access for all.  So here’s a question: do think the oldest in your communities need to be online? Or is your organization waiting for others in the industry to lead the way towards it being a must-have versus a nice-to-have? Do all of the residents in independent, assisted living, and nursing homes know how to sign up? Do they have a tablet, PC or MAC in their own rooms/apartments/homes? Or do they have to visit the common areas in order to send an e-mail? If they brought their own laptops, would there be a wireless network or an enabled Internet jack available in their own spaces, just the way they can connect their own TV when they move in? 

Support for video and Skype.  What are you offering to connect the generations in your resident’s family? Do you help residents participate with family via video? If a family member wants to contact them via Skype at holiday time, how likely is it that someone is around who can help with setting up a Skype ID, getting them started, dialing or receiving a call? Is there anyone available on Sundays to help? Does the organization feature high speed Internet access on a brochure and website, but lack the staff to make it work for individual residents – unless their families help out?

Mobile PERS and GPS locator.  Are you investigating the transition from stationary PERS to mobile technology? Do the majority of residents have PERS pendants – and do they stay within the distance zone specified by the vendor, typically a maximum of 600 feet? Or are they getting into a car or bus with their pendant and heading to a local community center, out of range? Or is the pendant on the bedside table and the resident has gone on the trip to the mall? Mobile PERS technology is out there – MobileHelp and GreatCall have it now, Verizon and LifeComm will have it later this year, and PERS apps are available now for smart phones.

Medication Dispensing. Is the ‘wellness’ nurse occupied nearly full time with record-keeping about medications dispensed, searching for the resident, recording the dose, putting back the paper chart and the medication, and on to the next? Is this really what the nurse should be spending her time on, behind a glass wall and surrounded by paper? Is there no way to introduce just a teeny-tiny bit of technology into this process, including pre-loaded (weekly) canisters/containers per resident that can offer up reminders for an appropriate med dose? Couldn’t these devices link back to a resident record that the dose was taken?

Kindle Reader or app in a shared kiosk. Maybe every resident’s family will buy one of these for Christmas, but if not, why not set up several Kindle’s in a well-lit common area, books preloaded.  Or use the free Kindle reader app in a shared PC area – some organizations even have ‘library’ type sitting rooms. Consider that the residents or a staffer can join a local library, ‘borrow’ an audio book online, download it to a PC or other device, and play a very entertaining audio book?

And from other blog posts in February:

Transcending technology targets for new applications.  Smart televisions are getting so smart, but can they be enabled for opt-in family and professional caregiving through Skype? TelyHD was announced at CES and written up in USA Today – sounds like another good shot at tech that could be applied with an app or two to power the picture of connecting seniors to those who care about or care for them.  The TV is in the home, including (again!) the senior living apartment of the seniors, including the apartments of the aged 80+ in those 55+ communities strewn around the country.  Instead of Mrs. Smith being wheeled down to the common room with the computer as the only platform choice, how about upgrading Mrs. Smith’s own TV?

The future of aging and tech viewed from today's lens -meet the future of boomers. One of the smug clichés I frequently hear is how the future will be different for baby boomers. How many of you smile confidently and assert that when boomers reach their upper decades, they will take their tech literacy with them? We are convinced that the oldest old today are the very last generation to take such limited advantage  or believe in the benefit of the touted tech of the moment. But we are kidding ourselves. The accelerating pace of tech change will leave those who are resistant to rapid change completely in the future dust. And those who are resistant to rapid change will be those who have lived the longest and want to hold on to what they know and like. "I am not very much interested in the vast variety of technological equipment – it is quite overwhelming to me. I am 90 years old." And because coolness, usability and low-cost access are rarely introduced as a bundle that is cheaper than the sum of its parts and therefore fits within lower incomes, we will always be divided into a society of early adopters, mainstream buyers and skeptics, or those who cannot afford or lack interest in the next new, new thing, whatever that will turn out to be. 

Mobile devices everywhere -- not a drop of information to drink. There is an organizing principle, but organization has yet to emerge.  The above is a hierarchy, although Maslow would probably say we haven’t satisfied too many needs. At the bottom of this stack, we have the Internet of things talking to each other and transmitting a sea of data – like when a bus will arrive, whether a water main has broken, where a physical asset is located. (Hopefully someone is noticing on their smart phone). Up a layer, there are wearable devices for tracking aspects of our individual lives. Uo a layer from that, there is the ubiquitous smart phone, although still only penetrating 11% of the 65+ according to Pew. Given the available apps, that is probably for the best. Smart phones could potentially display some info from the wearable devices, though not necessarily. Up from that finally, are the consumer health smart phone apps, which seem, perhaps appropriately at this point, not terribly smart and extremely self-oriented.

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*** And if you or your organization would like more guidance in any of these areas, learn more about Aging in Place Technology Watch offers of retainer-based and other services. ***

Hope to see you soon at one place or the other (noted on the home page as well). Increasingly my travels will include Washington, DC where we have established a 'base' of operations. Look forward to seeing you there!

All the best!

Laurie