Jack York

Wandered through the exhibit hall at a senior living conference lately? Technology is meandering fast and furiously into the world of senior living; it’s coming from all angles. Thumb through any McKnight’s publication, wander aimlessly through the above mentioned trade show exhibits, listen to nursing home pundits talk about the future and it’s clear: Technology is everywhere!  

Nursing home CEO’s are starting to pontificate about building up their wireless infrastructures, or their latest IT investments. You get the sense that technology is finally on its way to revolutionize senior living, just as it has virtually every other industry on the planet.

However, in the middle of all of this clamor and high-fiving as to how technology is making inroads into the senior living world, one person is often times left out of the equation.  That person is the resident, otherwise known as the reason the entire profession exists. It’s analogous to the early days of computing four decades ago, when the “big iron” companies like Digital Equipment Corporation and IBM scoffed at the idea of a computer ever working its way into someone’s home, computers were only going to help the government, the military and big business. And look at where we are now.

Nursing homes are heading down the same evolutionary path. You can argue whether it’s  a year from now or 5 years from now, but tomorrow’s resident is not going to be satisfied playing ball toss with giant beach balls, counting the minutes until Bingo kicks in, or moving cones around for their therapeutic interventions. They will demand individualized technology to keep them connected and engaged, regardless of where they are physically or cognitively. Innovative organizations are not waiting for these baby boomers to move in, but are investing in person-centered technology as a way to market. Many customers in their 50s and 60s believe that their mother and father use technology everyday, and should have access.

Our company has been providing this type of experience for 15 years. During our first decade of existence, people laughed at our business model, because their own assumptions and prejudices on the “limitations” of their residents were astounding. They honestly did not believe the people they served had the capability to still expand and grow. It’s been enlightening to see organizations like Brookdale get it, and put their money where their mouth is.

But the reality is that it’s not that innovative or daring, it’s just common sense! Both of my parents are gone, but if I was in the position of helping choose a dementia-specific community for them, having them stay connected, engaged, brain fit, Skyping with the grandkids, etc., you can bet it would be a lot more important to me than the quality of the furniture.

I think there are a lot of people like me out there! As you plan your technology budgets for today and the future, allocate some dollars to improve the quality of life of the generation that invented the cornerstone of all of the technology we take for granted today. Springsteen will soon be replacing Sinatra ‑ Get ready for it!

Jack York is the president of It’s Never 2 Late.