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Senior housing survey: differentiate with technology. . .in 2013

So I've said it: Technology access for senior housing residents (along with financial counseling on how to sell their homes) should be a differentiator now -- while facility unutilized capacity is so obvious and painful. Swapping out aging infrastructure could even save them money in their operations. And then what's a few computers at under $300 a pop?

Guess I was right:  Wireless and web-based education are in the sightlines of senior housing executives. This just in -- a McKnight's survey done last fall and now summarized confirms they were anxious and worried about their future. Will they have the ability to compete with staying put, especially as they stare down a future of high-expectation baby boomers?

2013: time to differentiate with services. Execs today are struggling to balance and fill their capacity -- in a time when seniors can't sell their homes and afford to move in. That's also how I read words and behaviors at the recent ALFA conference in Philadelphia. According to this Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging survey representing 435 senior living communities around the country, 22% of communities now offer Web-based education (life-long learning) for residents, but 69% will do so in 4 years. And the percentage of 'smart homes', aka those with wireless networks, will grow from 8% to 39% in that same period. This is all part of programs to 'promote quality of life as residents age in place.'

The future is -- well, in the future. The reality is that survey responses are not an obligation to change behaviors or environments and actually make purchases -- they simply confirm a non-committed and no- -money-down distant future 'intent'. So let's look at the vendor exhibit hall participants at the recent ALFA event in Philadelphia -- because if there was ever an indication of intent or even possibility, it is the presence of vendors who want to make a sale -- either now or cultivating potential.

Where's the tech for residents today? I walked up and down the aisles and noticed 3 vendors (out of 300) at the May event who were presenting technology aimed directly residents' quality of life. IN2L (It's Never Too Late), MyWay Village, and PointerWare.  If we add Personal Emergency Response, Emergency call systems, and resident monitoring, we add a few more. However, I put these in the category of staying alive, not quality of life.  The rest of the technology vendors were all over the problem of running the facility operations:  marketing, payroll, finances, billing, etc.

Residents need access now. I have been through many facilities - from small ALFs to the big and stylish CCRC, from nursing homes for the upscale to those occupied by the very poor. With a few exceptions, I see little technology for the use of residents, even though it could grab their minds and  break up a day that is too often largely punctuated by meals and naps. Ironically, the more immobilized the resident, the more they would benefit from Internet surfing with Big Screen Live or listening music delivered through a kiosk by Linked Senior.

Put small money where your survey responses say you're going. While at ALFA, I spoke with a number of executives to test their interest in a future panel on tech for residents. What I surveyed: eyes glazed, most assured me that they were not the right contact, that someone in their organization would be a better contact. Anecdotal information, for sure, not demonstrating their clearly surveyed intent to do something by 2013.






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