A memorable flight at Brookdale

Jack York, It's Never 2 Late
Jack York, It's Never 2 Late

As a co-founder of It's Never 2 Late, I'm fascinated by the intersection of technology and senior living, particularly on dementia. Our company has put person-centered technology into nursing homes and assisted living communities for 16 years, and it's been a glorious ride.

It's worth noting how there are good companies besides iN2L providing their own solutions, such as Connected Living, Simple C, Linked Senior and the Music & Memory program, among others. It's great to see. What I hope to provide McKnight's readers with on a monthly basis is opening people's eyes as to the power of person-centered technology in engaging with the “Greatest Generation.”   

As I alluded to last month in my first installment, this concept has very little to do with aging.  It has everything to do with our human desire to stay connected, to stay engaged to stay relevant, or as LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan told our company a few months ago, to “stay enabled with the world at large.”

Our first stop on our virtual bus tour is with Juliet Holt Klinger from Brookdale Senior Living.  Juliet helped drive the train for Brookdale's implementation of iN2l into all 565-plus  of their memory care communities. It's a journey iN2L started with her eight years ago, when the concept of dementia and technology had not worked its way onto anyone's radar.

What did Juliet see that no one else did? “Technology (specifically the iN2L) enables us to engage residents living with dementia in a way that just wasn't possible before. We can put individualized, multi-sensorial, content at the touch of our resident's fingers—this has helped us to fulfill our mission of fostering a person centered experience for our residents,” she says.

From a pilot project of 20  systems over 5 years ago, Brookdale's dementia care communities (Clare Bridge) now chug along at a monthly run rate of 138,000 hours of usage on our system.  How did Holt Klinger get hundreds of life engagement staff, many of them not exceptionally well-versed in technology, to get on board?  

“The integration of technology into our Clare Bridge programming was pretty much seamless,” she says. “Our engagement associates, care associates, and even sales associates were very quickly schooling us on the novel application of the technology with their residents and prospective residents. The learning curve was minimal and placing the systems in our Clare Bridges has spawned all kinds of wonderful success stories.”

One of my personal favorite Brookdale stories has to do with an off-the-shelf, $125 Microsoft flight simulator that we include with our systems. One of Brookdale's Clare Bridge residents had seemingly checked out of life. Despite staff's gallant efforts, his daily routine was eroding into an endless dose of television in his room. The lights were low, curtains drawn, and the resident showed little interest in the world around him.  

Our system showed up, flight simulator in tow, and his daughter caught a glimpse of a simple joystick. The instant connection was made. Her dad, in the latter years of a successful and productive life, had been an ace fighter pilot in the Korean War 50-plus years ago.  Within days, if not hours, this gentlemen, who had dutifully served our country, was once again at home with a joystick in his hand. It was glorious! Three weeks earlier, his world revolved around Jerry Springer, and he was now flying around the world in a Cessna one week, a 747 jumbo the next. The astute life enrichment director saw this transformation, and soon had our system connected to a big screen television. The journey that started with short flights in his room were transformed into group activities where he would “fly” the other residents to Paris for a day trip. The life enrichment coordinator, right after a smooth landing at Charles DeGaulle airport, would digitally zip all of the other residents around the Louvre. It was magical, the connection between a person's unique needs, a family conveying those needs, and a dynamic life enrichment director refusing to have this hero's last few years on the planet relegated to a television in his room.

Kudos to Juliet for having the vision of the seamless integration between technology and dementia, and kudos to Brookdale Senior Living for believing in this vision and investing in the lives of the residents they serve.

Thanks for reading, stay tuned for more stories.  Next month we're heading to the Great Plains of Nebraska to meet a gentleman who lives with dementia, a gentleman who happens to be an Italian painter with a flair for the opera. Let me know of your own journeys with technology. Good or bad, we're all doing meaningful work together.

Jack York is a co-founder and president of It's Never 2 Late.

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