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Technology and the Future of Senior Living

Even though the boomer population is not retiring as early due to recent recession years, more than 40 million people are expected to retire in the U.S. over the next 25 years. Retirees are looking for cost-effective senior care living facilities only to find there are not many options available and the supply is steadily decreasing.  Technology advancements are changing the face of senior care and the traditional nursing home model as we know it is on the decline. Recent cuts to Medicare and Medicaid along with the high cost of employing skilled clinicians, have made the traditional nursing home model challenging from a profit standpoint. It is difficult for existing nursing home facilities to incur the investment cost needed to convert to “smart” facilities, even if the end results will dramatically improve operations. 

While senior citizens still use technology at a lesser rate than younger generations, current research shows the technology gap among the aging population is closing. According to a recent study by Pew Institute, 4-in-10 seniors now own smartphones, more than double the number since 2013. Senior citizens are living longer, fuller lives, and they are utilizing the use of technology more than ever. With the use of smart home technology, more seniors are aging in place or opting for smaller-scale communal living options.

Through the use of digital technology like smart phone apps, personal care robots and telemedicine services, seniors are able to stay in their homes longer allowing care givers and physicians to monitor their healthcare remotely.  For example, personal care robots such as Paro, can maneuver autonomously and carry out a range of tasks. Some personal assistant robots like the Toyota Personal Assist Robot can help with mobility assistance, lifting and bathing. Robots and similar personal care devices work off a series of sensors to detect potentially dangerous situations for people living alone (i.e. fall detection, blood pressure changes, audio and scent detection). Smart phone apps like Medisafe and Tabtime are virtual pill boxes with various compartments and alarms that beep or vibrate when it’s time to take medication.

In addition to increasing the longevity of independent living for seniors, technology is also dramatically impacting future housing trends for seniors. Traditional nursing home facilities are moving into an era of catering mainly to older seniors in need of specialized one-on-one care. Technology is shaping the housing options for seniors allowing them to choose various options like multi-generational housing, small-scale communal living and more eco-friendly housing. From building materials to thermostat controls and shared wi-fi, technology and its growing demand are driving the future of senior living housing from concept to construction.

State-of-the-art technology features are a priority requirement when shopping for senior housing options. CFO’s in the senior living community are responding to the demand for Wi-Fi and investing heavily in high-speed internet connectivity for their facilities. Companies like Vitality Senior Living are answering the call and spending necessary dollars to implement strong, “future-ready” technology infrastructure for their senior communities. Deploying an enterprise solution which consists of both wired and wireless allows Vitality to better ensure life safety for residents as its main priority while providing end-to-end wi-fi coverage for resident enjoyment. Many modern communities offer common areas with internet cafés to give residents a social opportunity to mix and mingle while surfing the internet. Technology in senior living communities and facilities is also being ramped up to better handle things like security (i.e. tracking who comes and goes from a property), staff monitoring and back-end operations like electronic billing and payment processing.

While investing in new and advanced forms of technology for senior living facilities can be expensive and time consuming, it is critical to staying relevant in the industry and meeting the growing demand of residents. As communities look at new projects or go through re-financing on existing communities, it is important to engage technology experts and include forward-thinking solutions in the budget planning process.