Creating a digital senior space

Patrick Smith
Patrick Smith

Technology is an instrument of convenience and ­­a necessary tool in our daily lives.

It is no secret we live in a digital world, and with Wifi becoming so easily accessible, the web does not discriminate against demographics. An often overlooked statistic is that seniors are the fastest growing web demographic. It is safe to say this number with only rise over time.

Yet, despite their vast presence on the internet, senior technology usage continues to get downplayed or ignored, even in long-term care communities. Part of that relates to a lack of understanding as to why seniors are using the internet. The seniors' usage spans out to more than just a few clicks on a website as they integrate their social and medical livelihood onto the web.

One of the factors that takes seniors on board with an online social presence is connectivity. Seniors, like everyone else on social networks such as Facebook, Skype, Twitter, etc., benefit from the at­-hand and immediate connections they have with friends and family.

Furthermore, seniors are investing in technological devices (smartphones, desktops, tablets, iPads) to truly immerse themselves in the social culture. Seniors are aware that in order to get certain services and functionalities, such as apps, webcams, and the convenience of portability, they must own certain pieces of technology. For seniors, the benefits of social connectivity span farther than just staying up to date on news, or see what the grandkids are up to through Facebook: social activity can lead to long-­term health benefits. There is an alarming rate of social isolation and depression in the senior community. Isolation and depression are correlated with living alone, being away from family­­, or a lack of a social network.

Online communities should not be undervalued. By taking a step into the online world seniors are taking steps towards bettering their own personal health, and that in itself is a proclamation that should perk the ears of businesses in the senior care field, especially senior living communities.

In the past five years a focus for senior living communities has been implementing electronic health records, which allows resident medical histories to be consolidated into one, all ­inclusive comprehensive report which benefits community staff members and medical providers. While some benefits trickle down to residents, it is a primarily staff-­centric digital solution, leaving seniors out of the conversation, pushing them out of the digital culture. If there is a time for senior living communities to foster and encourage digital use it is now, especially since the next wave of seniors coming in will have had a stronger exposure to technology.

Fostering a technologically friendly atmosphere can be as simple as transitioning into a paperless system, or investing in a computer lab for resident use. By creating a digitally suited environment, communities will show residents that their needs are being heard and more importantly met. Residents will not feel as if they are frozen in time, or signing their lives away to isolation. Seniors have already immersed themselves into this culture, and senior living communities should support that transition.

Patrick Smith is the founder and CEO of Senior Portal, a resident engagement solution that aims to serve CCRCs, life care and independent senior living communities. For more information, visit www.seniorportal.com or call at 919-903-9274 to request a demo.


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