Why do some organizations thrive when delivering technology solutions for their residents while others flounder or experience minimal upside?

Nearly two decades at It’s Never 2 Late gives me some perspective, dare I say wisdom, about what I’ve seen work (and not work) over the years.
Over the last 19 years I have witnessed remarkable strides in senior living when it comes to dining, staffing, bathing, and the physical layout of rooms, to mention a few. But I’m perplexed, despite the mainstream adoption of technology in our lives, to still see residents living with dementia plopped in front of a television with no meaningful engagement offered to them. This is disappointing to me on many levels.

Embracing change

One of the biggest changes in my own thinking since our inception is the role that organizational leadership plays in successful implementations of technology in senior living.  

When we started iN2L, I thought success was measured more by the cool factor of the technology. This was a due to the influence of a career stint in Silicon Valley. Obviously, the technology is critical, but in a world with an overworked and overstressed staff, your organizational culture is as important as the technology itself in leading to successful outcomes. As ironic as it sounds, while I am never ageist when it comes to elders using our technology, I can sometimes be “ageist” when considering staff. It has nothing to with how old they are; it’s really more about our resistance to change. Some staff can get set in their ways as to how to do activity and therapy programming. 

That leads me to the focus of this post: While there’s no cut-and-dried method to ensure resident engagement, Jodi Guffee, COO at Oregon-based Radiant Senior Living, has created a recipe for success. She is an industry leader who has shown how to integrate technology in senior living while maximizing the value of the investment for residents, staff, family – and the bottom line.

Jodi has had an eclectic career in senior living. Her many years of experience prepared her to take the leap with her husband James in 2011 to found Radiant. My first interaction with Jodi was when Radiant acquired a community in Colorado that was using our iN2L technology. Her first email to me ended with a tagline of “have a Radiant day.”

What was that all about?! We all know people who claim to embody their company mission statement and tagline, but in reality contradict these messages in their actions. I’ll admit was a tad cynical when I first got that email. Was this another false façade? In short order, I learned that in no way was Jodi a mis-representation of Radiant Senior Living. Jodi is truly authentic in everything she does on behalf of Radiant – she lives and breathes being Radiant, whether it’s negotiating a contract, walking the halls of her communities, or belting out karaoke at their internal events.  

Where does all that come from and what can Jodi teach others about elevating the engagement game at senior living communities across the country? If you ask Jodi, she’ll tell you her passion comes from being family-owned and operated for generations and having grown up in the industry. At an early age, she started volunteering in senior living communities and that positive experience led her to obtain a BD degree from the University of Oregon and a Masters in Gerontology from USC. Jodi began her career in healthcare administration as a licensed administrator in both Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing communities and she was involved in the planning, construction, marketing and management of both new and existing properties. She explains, “The passion for who we serve hopefully translates to those that we hire and therefore to those that we care for. It may sound trite but I think it is truly an honest passion to serve. My greatest excitement is being able to see an individual reach their highest potential, whether at the beginning stages of a career or at the end stages of life.”

Our hands-on observation of Jodi from an iN2L standpoint has been how she has led the implementation of our technology throughout Radiant’s 18 communities. Over the years, iN2L has conducted hundreds of trainings. I can tell you it’s the kiss of death if the management does not take an active role in technology implementation. If the staff sees apathy from the top, that often translates to their own feelings that this new tool must not be that important.

Conversely, as in Radiant’s case, Jodi ensures community Executive Directors are on board and engaged for iN2L’s training and implementation. This translates into site champions and exponentially increases the monitoring and measuring of usage across Radiant Living communities.  When staff sees top-down buy-in, they are more likely to engage, adopt and believe in the benefits of engagement technology, despite a learning curve and need to disrupt the status quo in the day-to-day activities and care. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Jodi, in true Radiant style, takes it to a wonderful extreme. I have seen her in hands-on mode – finding a distressed resident and deftly getting that person in front of our iN2L system where she navigates to Google earth, launches the screen to the person’s hometown, and successfully diverts attention in a positive way. Truly remarkable! I love how Jodi describes iN2L to me – “IN2L gives Radiant so many of the tools to be able to reach potential awesomeness.” That’s as good as it gets!

Engagement technology as a differentiator

Jodi has also done a phenomenal job of getting publicity for how our technology can be a marketing advantage for her communities, including multiple TV spots highlight how technology can positively impact residents living with dementia. Jodi sees the value for the residents and believes it’s a reason family members choose Radiant communities for their loved ones.

Jodi Guffee guiding a resident.

Here’s a story on one of Radiant’s communities – Arbor’s Memory Care in Sparks Nevada.   

A big thank-you to Jodi for showing the senior care community that engagement technology needs champion – from the leadership to the activity director to the marketing coordinator. Thank you for being who you are as you drive Radiant to be the best it can be. For other operators out there, there are plenty of lessons to learn about how to launch your own initiatives. Leading by example is a tried and true methodology in any profession. I have seen it at work for 20 years. There’s nothing wrong with having a Radiant day along the way!

Jack York is the president and co-founder of It’s Never 2 Late.