Growing Tech Needs in Senior Care
AARP’s annual survey, released in April, found that 82 percent of adults age 50 and older relied on technology to stay connected with loved ones in 2020, and more of them are using video calls on their smartphones. But the digital divide for older adults is stark: Nearly 22 million of them in the U.S. do not have access to wired broadband at home, according to a Humana Foundation and Older Adults Technology Services report.
The pandemic accelerated the technology conversation in independent living communities as many were not prepared for the high demand at the start of the health crisis. When residents became isolated due to safety restrictions, technology kept them linked to their loved ones.
Tech needs will continue to grow even after the pandemic as younger baby boomers, who are more tech savvy, will likely be moving to independent living communities with three or more devices.
As older adults decide whether to stay in their own residence or move to a community, they will certainly scrutinize the tech capabilities available. Where is Wi-Fi more accessible? Will there be support for multiple devices? If they’re already getting that support at home, why would they want to move into an independent living community? If care organizations for older adults want to create personalized experiences for each resident, they should consider including technology-based questions as part of their onboarding process (if they haven’t already).
Many organizations also see that technology is a way to bring more people in the door as they experience record low occupancy rates.
Finding Business Value in Tech Concierges
During a webinar I moderated earlier this year with Senior Housing News, Watermark Retirement Communities (headquartered in Tucson, Ariz.) and United Methodist Communities (based in New Jersey) shared their experiences embracing the tech concierge role.
They noticed that their staff — who were already extremely busy with their care and organizational roles — were tackling more tech issues. They also found that residents were willing to pay for a tech concierge service because technology was important to them.
Their experience shows that independent living communities can create a small revenue stream by offering a tech concierge service. At Watermark, the pricing model nearly offsets the tech concierge’s salary.
The pandemic highlighted the importance of technology in helping older adults stay connected with their loved ones — a boon to their mental health and to maintaining their cognitive abilities. The need for tech support will certainly spur the growth of tech concierge services.
If organizations are unable to invest in a full-time or part-time tech concierge of their own, they can explore other ways to provide for their residents’ tech support needs. Companies such as Older Adult Technology Services, Volara’s Tech Concierge and Candoo Tech can fill the gap.
Many organizations that are already understaffed need to explore whether a tech concierge would allow caregivers to better focus on their day-to-day responsibilities. It's a huge differentiator in the marketplace and shows thought leadership and a forward-thinking mindset, as future residents will likely be more comfortable with technology overall and will expect support for it.