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Five consumer technologies that should be in every senior housing unit

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 you think that 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 Kindles 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?


I couldn't agree more! The challenge is not just finding the appropriate older-friendly technology, it's making it readily available and usable in their daily environment. If you don't know how to use something, or can't get help, it's useless to you, despite the device's intrinsic capabilities. Let's get creative on both counts.

Very good suggestions. Our Seniors must be plugged into technology; and Nursing Homes and other facilities must wake up to the benefits of interaction with family, and others. I recognize the expense involved, but I would suggest the marketing benefits would more than make up for cost. In addition, low tech ideas like Senior specific Playgrounds should be part of every facilities offerings. Let's get into the 21st Century. Communication, Interaction, diet and exercise are no longer luxuries, but proven entities that will increase Seniors' quality of life.

So many companies that have tried to deliver one or more of these services have come and gone since the late 1990s. I know because I was the Founder of one of them. The problem is twofold -- capital is precious for products and services that are considered "nice to have" as opposed to "must have," and technology solutions that don't include appropriate training for staff and residents always fail.

I couldn't agree more! Many people in senior housing may have physical disabilities and perfectly able to use technology and would like to from their own units. WiFi should be a standard feature. Hopefully as more Baby Boomers move into senior housing technology will become more available.

In Australia the government is providing high speed fibre to every home in the country, including the elderly, which includes video capability. They have even published a report on what that would look like, including a great video which includes older Australians.
Check out and for more information.

The reality is that such technologies require a business model to exist, and the major benefits accrue to governments that absorb much of the cost of an aging population as they do in countries like Australia with social healthcare schemes.

I couldn't agree more... every one of those technologies should be in every senior housing community.

High speed internet is long overdue. Almost every hotel/motel/school/hospital/library/recreation center has wireless high speed internet - much of it free.

Skype and other video conferencing is also very common and many seniors were probably using skype before they moved into a senior housing community! My 90 year old Grandma as well as my wife's Grandma are both familiar with skype and love seeing their friends/family.

Mobile PERS - This is long overdue... only having access to PERS @ home is disappointing but mobile PERS is not common in Canada. Is there a provider? The local community health program uses traditional LifeLine services.

Medication dispensing - This is not only need for senior housing but also home care. Many seniors just have home care for medication reminders when this could be replaced by technology (and only monitored by health care staff periodically).

Kindle - Probably the simplest and easiest to implement.

Thanks Laurie!


I think this needed technologies list missed one critical, and in my opinion, the most important a PHR. How will the facility or the community that supports the resident be able to do their jobs to the best of their ability if they don't have the resident's personal health information to help guide them?

The bells and whistles may be sexier, but we need to keep priorities in order.