Most senior living communities and operators acknowledge that technology is an essential driver of resident quality of life, as well as a critical component to staff retention and engagement.
However, with the many technologies available today and the myriad of functions they offer, it can be difficult to ensure technology is being used to its full potential.
Take, for example, the addition of new product features to a particular technology platform, or a change in staff or leadership who may not be familiar with some product uses or capabilities. A concerted effort toward ongoing training as well as creative approaches to user adoption can help ensure a community’s technology stack is working to its highest potential.
Adapting technology to meet residents’ needs has made a significant impact at Westminster Communities of Florida, an Orlando-based organization with 10 continuing care retirement communities throughout Florida. A long-standing partner of Touchtown, Westminster identified opportunities to improve residents’ engagement and get them the information they needed in completely new way. Daily menus on their phone or tablet were just the start – some communities are experimenting with interactive monthly newsletters, online event registration, and even custom video.
Identifying the need
In some cases, there may be technology already available to help resolve existing challenges, but leadership must identify the need and make the technology connection.
For Westminster Communities of Florida, the company’s wellness coordinator Joshua Alfrey noticed the growing amount of paper being used to distribute newsletters and other communications.
“We have 300 to 500 residents at each community, and all of the residential life staff have to send something—menus need to get to the residents, as well as newsletters,” Alfrey says. “That is a lot of paper, and a lot of people who have to deliver that paper.”
Alfrey knew Westminster had access to technology solution Touchtown, including its Community Apps offering. While the organization was using some of Touchtown’s capabilities, such as digital signage, he realized it could also be saving a lot of time and resources by bringing more of the community information into Community Apps.
“It [required] trying to get people to understand that we have this capability, and then motivating them [to use it],” Alfrey says.
Training and retraining
Many times, a technology platform may be in place, but the utilization is low among both residents and staff based on leadership. Following the realization that staff could be saving time and resources by leaning more heavily on Touchtown’s Community Apps, Alfrey and his marketing team set out to train new employees on the capabilities and retrain existing ones who may not have been aware of the full suite of services.
“We were using only 5% to 10% of what it could do,” Alfrey says. “We went back and retrained everybody to make sure we were using the calendars, the slides — we almost had to start fresh because not everyone knew how to use all the pieces even if they had been with [the company] for many years.”
A critical component of gaining staff support was showing the resident benefit.
“We went from hearing ‘Residents aren’t going to use this’ to ‘Oh, I see how they will use this,’” he says.
Given residents frequently ask about the dining menu and daily activities, the organization turned to Touchtown’s app to host the content for easy mobile and desktop access among residents.
Creative approaches to adoption
One of Westminster’s communities, Westminster Palms in St. Petersburg, took the approach a step further and made a concerted effort toward bringing its Penline monthly publication to a paperless format.
“When I arrived two years ago, we were putting the Penline online in pdf form,” says Andy Southgate, resident lifestyle facilitator at Westminster Palms. “Nobody was using it. No one wants a pdf on their phone versus a paper publication in the mailbox. I wanted to bring it to life, but in order to go paperless, you have to make something exciting and interactive.”
Southgate worked with his marketing team to create an interactive publication in Google Slides that integrates with the Penline app module. The linked slide decks help residents navigate and quickly preview some of the activities that were scheduled. A trip to a museum, for example, would include a link to a virtual tour of the museum and a registration form, saving residents a trip to the community’s lobby where a paper sign up sheet sits. The interactive newsletter is now hosted in the community’s MyWLife wellness app via Touchtown, among many other important community resources.
“Residents were absolutely amazed,” Southgate says. “They loved seeing the videos of the places we were going to go. It was difficult [previously] for them to get a depiction of the events.”
The community is also using Touchtown’s digital signs to communicate with staff, and Southgate has recently co-hosted several meetings with Amazon’s Alexa, which also interfaces with the software.
“Alexa and I host the meeting together,” Southgate says. “We put on a display in the multipurpose room. She turns on the lights, and I demonstrate accessing MyWLife.”
The resident lifestyle staff has really embraced the new capabilities with Touchtown. For one, the communities compete monthly against one another on the basis of their activities, and promoting the creative events through the apps and digital signage builds excitement throughout the community.
“It’s about awareness and engagement,” Southgate says. “And allowing people to spend time more wisely. Even those that are hip and savvy can be forgetful. Having MyWLife makes it easier to remember things, stay in touch and stay active.”
To learn more about Touchtown and its senior living technology solutions, click here.
Original Article: How Senior Living Communities Can Get the Most Out of Technology by Valerie Arko, July 2019