Mar 13 2020

Why Tech Training Can Help Older Adults Enjoy a Better Quality of Life

To leverage the benefits of today’s connected world, all ages must be able to participate. Here’s how to expand access and education.

There’s a strong case to be made for introducing modern technology to older adults

In recent years, senior care communities have adopted consumer tech — including smartphones, tablets and wearables — to help residents stay connected to loved ones, engage via virtual experiences and even age in place.

Most older adults — 58 percent — have a positive outlook on this technology, a Pew Research Center study has found. And while older adults may not be as inclined to seek out the latest technology, the Pew data showed that roughly 1 in 5 people in this demographic show a strong preference for early tech adoption. 

Deploying technology requires some knowledge on the user’s end, and many organizations struggle to implement it successfully. According to the Pew study, 73 percent of older adults say they need help when using a new electronic device. 

“Technology should be easy and convenient,” Dr. Charlotte Yeh, chief medical officer of AARP, says in a recent interview with HealthTech. “Technology providers should think about convenience, simplicity, intuitive ease of use. Devices should not only be easy to set up, but also easy to use with other devices.”

Give Residents an Opportunity to Share Knowledge on Tech

Although consumer tech companies are increasingly looking for ways to tailor their devices to better accommodate older adult needs, many communities still struggle to find the right solutions.

One strategy is to designate resident tech experts, or “super champions” for peer-to-peer guidance. Exploring in-house and third-party training options is also helpful. 

At Phoenix-based Sun Health Communities, the small computer labs at each location have become gathering places that organically spawned unofficial computer clubs. Those connections laid the groundwork for a formal club with help from Sun Health, says Chip Burns, the organization’s CIO. 

“They own it, but we’ll provide them with additional services — such as a better, more expansive lab for them,” Burns said in a recent conversation. That platform, he adds, helps build critical mass for educational seminars and important cybersecurity training.

Another positive: Sun Health has seen an influx of residents who once were engineers or worked in Silicon Valley. This knowledge base offers a lifeline to the communities’ IT staffers, who can pass that information along to other members of the community.

INSIDER EXCLUSIVE: Watch a CDW Bring IT On session about connecting seniors and technology.

Tech-Savvy Older Adults Still Have a Need for Tech Support

As younger baby boomers retire, the demand for useful tech and related support will continue to grow. Senior care communities must be prepared.

“We realize that technology for seniors is an important element for our community,” says Burns. “The expectation and need for support for residents’ own technologies is critical. And as the demand for smart technology within their living space gets bigger, our ability to help them with that tech is a necessity.”

To that end, Burns suggests allocating a certain percentage of a full-time employee’s time to dedicated tech support for residents. Larger communities, he says, should offer dedicated lines of support for residents.

Sun Health offers new residents four tech support tokens upon their arrival, with each token worth 30 minutes of IT service. Residents may purchase additional tokens that can cover anything from installing anti-virus software to installing smart lightbulbs.

The community has also enlisted the help of area high schoolers. Residents enjoy engaging with the tech-savvy teens, Burns says, and it offers students a way to earn community service hours while lowering Sun Health’s IT costs — another win among many.

By keeping older adults’ tech needs front of mind, senior living communities have a prime opportunity to ensure high quality of life and better care. That’s something we all can agree on.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.


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