Mobile technology, coupled with a plethora of “apps,” is creating amazing opportunities for long-term care residents to connect with the outside world. Getting residents to embrace newer technology, however, can be a challenge. Experts advise how to acquire the right tech that’s safe, useful and welcoming.

1. Start simple with proven apps that have already gained popularity with seniors. Social media is a great place to start.

Facebook, for example, is often seen as way to support social connectedness, says Todd Frederickson, chief operating officer of CareServ Technologies and Consulting. “These types of options tend to suit people who are high functioning where acceptance is gained via widespread publicity and the reach of advertising campaigns.”

Other popular “social” options include apps that support information sharing and messaging with family members for meal ordering and activity scheduling — options that Frederickson says “not only foster more engagement with the family, but also encourage the family to participate in the daily living activities of their loved ones.”

So-called “brain fitness” apps are widely used now among seniors in the general population, so it’s a natural leap to consider them for your facility, says Christopher Krause, OT/L, director of rehabilitation for It’s Never 2 Late®. For memory care, there are numerous technology and app options for clients living with dementia and various forms of cognitive decline.

2. Seniors can be cautious about what to believe when dealing with apps.

As the 2016 LeadingAge Ziegler 150 survey revealed residents “tend to be less eager to participate at times when technology is introduced to them by non-clinical staff. It is important to have a trusted clinical source as part of the training team.”

Frederickson advises caregiving staff to conduct routine “in-services” on apps, even role-playing scenarios so the broader facility staff not only become more comfortable using the apps, but also know how to react when a resident shows interest.

“The more confidence your caregivers show in using the technology, the more at ease and interested your residents will be in participating,” he adds.

3. ”You can’t force residents to do anything. They have to use technology on their own terms,” says Touchtown CEO Ted Teele. One approach is allowing residents to “get their feet wet” by letting them use an app or device anonymously at a kiosk placed publicly in a community.

“There is no log-in required and seniors can get familiar with new products at their own pace,’ he adds.

4. Teele also advocates hosting instructional sessions one-on-one or with a handful of residents as a proven way “to grow their confidence.”

is company has had a great deal of success enlisting tech savvy residents to act as technology “ambassadors,” a peer-to-peer approach that invariably “creates a great buzz in the dining room.”

5. Another proven method to get residents to warm up to apps is introducing simple games, puzzles and staff guided web searches, adds Krause. Touchscreen apps foster easier control, and “diminish apprehension and the technical challenges that come with various devices and their peripherals.”

Dan Roberge, president of Maintenance Care, a provider of facility maintenance software for senior living, believes voice- activated assistants are another barrier buster. “Teaching them to use Siri, for example, to ask about the weather or to play their favorite song is a great way to introduce them,” he says.

6. As valued a connected world is inside the walls of a community, it also fuels security and privacy concerns. Operators and administrators need to vet any apps, ensure they are HIPAA compliant and protect residents from identity thieves. The lines between entertainment and danger can often be uncomfortably thin. Such measures greatly diminish most residents’ and their families’ apprehensions.

Frederickson advises facilities to be transparent about their technology policies upon prospective residents’ initial visit. Being clear about mobile security policies and actions shows incoming residents and loved ones “what to expect and how the technology is helping your team deliver better care.”

That initial visit also is a perfect time to justify a facility’s choices in and the value of mobile tech and apps. “Engage them by showing how you are using the technology to keep track of activities, notes or reminders,” he adds. “Let them experience first-hand how using mobile technology in close proximity to the residents is allowing your caregivers to spend more time with the residents and less time documenting far off in a nursing station corner.”

7. Since many facilities provide technologies and apps as a value-add to residents, acquisition costs are an important consideration.

Frederickson suggests leasing programs for devices and “soft- ware as a service,” or cloud-based apps. Others suggest negotiating group licenses for applications, instead of individual purchases.

Mistakes to avoid

1. Allowing a technology free-for-all. Facilities should choose apps that are not only simple to use, but already widely popular.

2. Not controlling how apps are introduced. Evidence shows tech adoption is much greater when clinical staff introduce it.

3. Failing to vet apps or devices. Privacy and data security should be the highest priority when introducing any new tech.