Why Senior Living Communities are Adopting Interactive Technology

New options can improve resident experience, keep family members informed and connected

By Mary Greer, Engrain

Everyone involved in senior living knows that aging Baby Boomers are rapidly adding to an already large senior population. The youngest members of the group are often referred to as “new seniors.” They are very tech savvy and have high expectations, technologically speaking, of the communities that they are considering for their retirement.

Fortunately, forward-thinking senior living communities and technology providers are increasingly in conversation about how new software, devices and other advances can create a better resident experience. They are also looking at how to help family members stay informed about, and connected with, their loved ones.

Advanced Technology for Finding the Perfect Fit

Seniors aren’t the only people who expect communities to harness the power of intuitive, informative technology. Their adult children have high standards as well.

Senior living community operators that recognize and respect that preference can create a positive first impression with prospective residents and their families by having more than just a simple website describing their offering. Instead, they use engaging, compelling and interactive online experiences to give prospects in-depth information about their campuses.

People today do the bulk of their research digitally, and will discard many options without ever having visited the community or talked with a sales counselor.

One addition to a website that can have a powerful impact is real-time unit availability shown on a community map. For a senior who wants a unit that gets morning sun or has a mountain view or is on the second floor, location can make all the difference. And when it comes to leasing up a new property quickly, or maximizing occupancy in an existing community, that difference is crucial.

Add other persuasive content like 2D and 3D floor plans, virtual tours, and details on finish options, and you’ve encouraged them to take the next step by visiting the community.

An Enticing Introduction

For seniors and families who have done their preliminary online research and decide to visit a community, nothing is more disappointing than being handed some photocopied campus and unit descriptions or even glossy brochures. Choosing where to live is as much an emotional decision as an intellectual one. To appeal to the emotions, you need color and motion and sound and tactile engagement.

Large, high-resolution, touch-sensitive panels can entice prospects into participating in an immersive, interactive community tour. Whether guided by a sales counselor or self-directed, these explorations create memorable experiences and also a sense that a community is investing in resident satisfaction. Those are the kinds of impressions that keep a property top of mind long after a visit has concluded.

The touch screens can display a wide range of content. Frequently a unit will have a marketing video or slideshow looping when it is not in use, with an eye-catching message encouraging visitors to engage. Once activated, the panel’s intuitive navigation allows prospects to access virtual tours, photo galleries, interactive site maps with availability information and much more.

In some cases, visitors feel so fully informed after using the panel that a physical tour is unnecessary or can be significantly shortened. This can be especially helpful for seniors with mobility challenges.

Input forms on the panels can also be used to collect contact information from prospects. These profiles make it easy for sales counselors to perform personalized follow-up.

Interactive technology for senior living communities can also take the form of an iPad app. Gone are the days when a sales counselor conducting a community tour had to reply to a question with, “I’ll show you that when we get back to the leasing office.” Virtually any information a prospect would want can be accessed wirelessly from an iPad.

Floor plans, pricing, availability, photo and video galleries — all these things can be available with just a tap or two.

The devices can be incorporated seamlessly into any workflow. And while they are often used in conjunction with large touch screen panels, some communities use the smaller devices exclusively.

Opening a Window into Community Life

Whatever form interactive technology takes, it opens a window into the community that was previously unavailable. By painting a vivid picture of what it will be like to be a resident, these systems help sales counselors overcome a prospect’s reservations about the unknowns of a new living environment.

In fact, a properly designed and implemented digital experience can help prospects reach a decision even before a community has broken ground. Blueprints, architectural renderings, 3D animations and other content can give a senior and their family the confidence to commit to a lease on a unit that won’t be built for months.

As any senior living community provider will tell attest, you never really stop pitching to prospects. Even after they become residents, you need to keep them engaged and informed.

Many communities today are implementing digital signage in key locations around the campus. These panels can provide any kind of information that community management believes residents will find helpful. Weather forecasts, an event listing or calendar, and details on community services are some of the more common elements.

All things considered, it’s fair to say that the bottom line about interactive technology is a better bottom line. Faster lease-ups, improved resident retention, and enhanced reputation are just some of the ways that it can position your community ahead of the competition.

Whether you’re looking to implement systems immediately or down the road, it makes sense to learn more about your options.

 

Mary Greer is national account executive at Engrain, a software firm serving the multifamily industry, including seniors housing. She previously served as director of marketing for a continuing care retirement community in Dallas.

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