Mather Lifeways named Gold Winner in McKnight's Tech Awards

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Mather's 'talking pen' technology allows residents, staff and family members to interact with residents' artwork.
Mather's 'talking pen' technology allows residents, staff and family members to interact with residents' artwork.

Mather Lifeways has returned to the throne in the McKnight's Tech Awards competition, winning Gold once again, this time in the High Tech/High Touch category.

The Evanston, IL-based organization earned the Gold Award in the Quality category in 2012 and Silver in the Dignity category in 2015.

For its most recent win, Mather introduced “talking pen” technology in 2015, including Mantra Lingua Penpal, Pen Friend and Livescribe Echo pens, as an asset to its art therapy program. After residents create their art, they can speak a story, memory or song in response to their artwork. The pen will play back audio content when touched, which allows staff, visitors and family to hear the story behind the art.

“People were sharing personal and meaningful things,” Caroline Edasis, Mather Lifeways Art Therapy manager, says. “It really brought all the images to life. Hearing the voice changes the relationship.”

The technology also allows the residents themselves to play back the audio to revisit the art later, she added. Those residents with dementia can participate more fully in art-related programs and be creative. The use of the smartpen technology at Mather also has been observed and documented in a research collaboration between Mather and the Northwestern University Department of Communication.

Capturing the Silver Award this year is BMG Senior Living, for its use of the HeartLegacy resident engagement app. BMG has 20 independent, assisted living and memory support communities in the South. Staff members have used the video feature to let residents send video messages to loved ones, ranging from birthday greetings to health updates. Using the “life story” feature also has allowed deeper relationships between caregivers and residents, the BMG leaders said.

Merrill Gardens, which has 30 locations on the West Coast and in the South, won Bronze in the High Tech/High Touch category for its use of Meural. The Meural Canvas is a digital canvas with access to a curated collection of 30,000 licensed pieces of art. It can be run through an app, online dashboard or gesture control. The benefits include letting residents share memories about art pieces and discussing their travels.

The O'Neill Centre in Toronto earned a Certificate of Merit for its Music & Memory program through the The Alzheimer's Society of Toronto-iPod Project. Windsor Healthcare Communities, headquartered in New Jersey, also won a COM for its use of a drone with virtual reality glasses. Seniors using the DJJ Goggles can see 360-degree coverage while the drone is flying.

Winners for the remaining McKnight's Tech Awards categories — Dignity; Quality; and Transitions — will be announced daily through Monday, Oct. 16. To read about the Innovator of the Year winners, which were announced Tuesday, click here.

The McKnight's Tech Awards program is sponsored by CareRise.