The pandemic has turned some technologies from optional amenities into operational necessities.
By Jonathan Gould, K4Connect
COVID has brought countless industries to a halt and caused companies to rethink how they continue to meet the needs of their customers while surviving the ongoing impacts of this pandemic.
We’ve seen in-person meetings shift to virtual platforms, small businesses implement new e-commerce options, and restaurants add curbside delivery and pickup services for restaurants. Innovation is taking on new, promising forms that serve the customer where they are.
This innovation wave is also happening in senior living communities across the nation, where technology has moved from a desirable resident amenity to an operational necessity. Video conferencing platforms are connecting isolated residents with their loved ones, staff are using digital tools to communicate across communities, mobile apps are enabling residents to stay informed 24/7, and digital content is keeping residents active and engaged while in quarantine.
The opportunity to serve the millions of older adults impacted by COVID-19 is huge, whether they’re living at home or in one of the thousands of care/residential communities in the U.S. This pandemic has revealed new avenues for existing technologies and services from industries outside of the traditional senior living vendor set to consider older adults as a viable market to serve — and one that is in need, especially now. The systems many of us are accustomed to, at both the consumer and enterprise levels, can be applied to senior living. We expect to see these trends start to emerge in 2021.
Reservation & Capacity Planning
The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the pandemic as travel was restricted and social distancing mandates forbade crowds. Disneyland’s shut down was perhaps the most notable of 2020 and cost the company billions. Without the visitors, typically bustling hospitality and tourism sectors like cruise lines and theme parks all but skidded to a halt.
As these industries review alternative strategies to stay in business, there are two relevant systems that can be applied to the ongoing needs of senior living: reservation planning and capacity management.
The same systems these popular tourist destinations use to manage the millions of people who funnel through their gates can be applied to daily senior living community management.
As social distancing continues, the dining experience has completely changed and operators are turning to digital solutions to better manage new regulations. Enterprise cloud-based systems give staff sophisticated tooling to handle mealtime reservations, resident capacity management and methods of communicating/organizing this new way of dining to residents.
Point of Sale Systems
Meal planning is not just for students — it is a common offering found in senior living communities of all sizes and care settings across the country.
The software universities use to deliver student dining and meal balances can also be applied to the way thousands of older adult residents experience daily dining in their communities. This is particularly important now as the pandemic has shifted how residents receive their meals.
Moving this part of the resident and staff experience to a digital platform has a multitude of benefits. Residents can easily view daily/weekly menus through their personal smart devices, check their meal balance, reserve a seat at the table or elect to have a meal delivered to their door.
At the same time, staff have an efficient way to manage their resident database, organize meal planning and, most importantly, better understand the behaviors and interests of residents through analytics and reporting within these POS tools.
Visitor Management & Point of Control
Visitor management solutions have risen in importance in recent years to ensure safety and compliance in corporate office buildings, but now, most of those buildings sit empty as millions in the workforce moved to remote work.
As the majority of the world continues to work from home or via virtual platforms, senior living community staff from administrators to caregivers are still heading into work every day to care for residents.
Point of control systems allow communities to regulate who is coming in and out of the community while gaining access to valuable visitation data. Capabilities include tracking employees and vendors, scheduling family visitation and recording COVID-19 compliance. Ultimately, these systems afford communities a new level of security while saving staff valuable time and keeping everyone at the community safe.
The reality is that senior living was undergoing a digital transformation for some years now. But what was once a 10-year journey has drastically shortened to meet the needs of residents and caregivers as they continue to navigate the impacts of the pandemic. While challenging, the advancements taking place today are laying the groundwork for an industry poised to open the doors for a wide array of technologies that can improve the lives of older adults who have long been ignored by innovation.
Enterprise systems will change the way community operators view technology as part of their long-term success plans by leveraging tools and systems that solve the challenges of traditionally manual processes. With the ability to collect and analyze data, operators will unlock a new way of evolving services and offerings that keep pace with changing resident and staff expectations.
COVID has put a magnifying glass on older adults and the senior living market, and leading enterprise and consumer technology providers have an opportunity to serve the millions in need across the U.S. The future of innovation in senior living is bright and there is no doubt we’ll see this reflected in 2021.
Jonathan Gould is the co-founder and vice president of advanced technologies of K4Connect, a mission-driven technology company that integrates technology to serve and empower older adults and individuals living with disabilities.