Though the coronavirus is not yet over, vaccines are now being administered to more and more seniors across the country. As of today, more than 3.8 million residents and staff of long-term care facilities have received at least one dose of the vaccines. After a year of devastating personal losses, this wave of vaccinations for our most vulnerable neighbors and residents is instilling a critical sense of hope in our communities that this all will someday soon be in the rearview mirror.

As we approach the 1st anniversary of coronavirus lockdowns in the United States, we reflect on what this year has meant for teams like yours. You have been forced to adapt and step into completely uncharted waters. These adaptations have inspired the emergence of and expansion of numerous resident engagement technologies that offer innovative ways to engage our communities. Beyond simple video-chat functionality, these technologies open up a brand new world of possibilities for seniors. As we look towards a future with hope, let’s take a look at some of the technologies that will continue to create space for meaningful 1-on-1 interactions within our care communities.

1. Eversound Wireless Headphones & Activity Programming Service

Eversound’s wireless hearing systems are unique on this list in the ways in which they enhance all other technologies that follow. Whether paired with our Activity Programming Service, or integrated to maximize content from other sources, these headphones allow for clear communication regardless of physical distancing or mask use. Even after masks are no longer necessary, Eversound’s Wireless Headphones will provide comfort and peace of mind.

According to the Research Institute on Aging, it is estimated that between 70%-90% of elderly residents in care facilities have some degree of hearing impairment1. Under these circumstances, important information may be missed during 1-on-1 interactions, beginning with facility tours. Eversound’s Wireless Headphones can nurture a sense of agency and independence for seniors during this potentially anxiety-inducing transition of moving into residential facilities. Eversound’s packages can enrich other 1-on-1 interactions as well, including family visits, communications with caregivers, and activities such as music therapy.

2. iN2L

Since 1999, iN2L (which stands for “It’s Never Too Late”), has been providing senior care communities with many exciting engagement options. Their easy-to-use tablet is designed specifically for seniors, with functionality that can support residents who may be more hesitant when it comes to incorporating technology into their lives.

These tablets come preloaded with 100 applications that are chalk-full of educational content and entertainment. The iN2L tablets are customizable, and offer one-touch video calls so that residents can maintain essential connections with loved ones.

Doctors visits have never been easier, as residents can use their tablets to access confidential Telehealth appointments without risking exposure to COVID. Moreover, some care staff report that iN2L tablets have been utilized during certain behavioral challenges, which previously may have necessitated medication.

3. Touchtown In-Room TV Service

Next on our list is the In-Room TV Service option from Touchtown. Utilizing a centralized content manager, staff are able to disseminate information like community announcements and meal options to residents with the push of a button. From the comfort and safety (during COVID) of their own rooms residents can live stream group exercise classes, local church services, educational programming from the local Zoo, and so much more.

Up for a movie night? Touchtown In-Room TV Service enables staff to play a DVD or movie in multiple rooms at once. Additionally, families can access content such as activity schedules, so they can optimize their visit times. In-Room TV Service allows staff to spend less time on administrative tasks, and more time engaging with residents 1-on-1.

4. Smartphones + Tablets for Virtual Visits

While new senior-specific technologies are providing inventive engagement strategies, there is something to be said for utilizing what we probably already have as well. The smartphones in our pockets and tablets laying around can be leveraged with other technologies to create meaningful connections between residents and staff, families, care providers, and their communities. Paired with Eversound’s Wireless Headphones, our smartphones and tablets can access Zoom, Skype, Facetime and other apps to create memorable virtual visits.

5. Sentrics Entertain360 and Engage360 platforms

Last on our list are the Entertain360 and Engage360 platforms from Sentrics.

Engage360 transforms residents’ televisions into an interactive, whole-health hub. Paired with either voice command or a big-button remote, its content is divided into 3 sections: Mind, Body, and Spirit. Engage360 offers opportunities for resident’s families to engage with their digital experiences via the app. In this way, families can stay connected from afar and get a better sense of any changes in their loved ones interests or socialization habits.

The Entertain360 platform offers the option to integrate residents’ TV, Internet, and Voice services into one, easy-to-use bundle. This platform also comes with a big-button remote, and HD imaging for comfortable viewing. Entertain360’s Voice functions allow residents to place calls to friends and loved ones over a landline, just like they would at home. A little bit of familiarity can go a long way for seniors who may be struggling to adjust to the transition of moving into residential facilities.

Technology makes room for life

These technologies get to the heart of one of this industry’s most challenging questions. How do we make room in our facilities for less medicalization and more living? Resident engagement has been in constant evolution since the inception of senior living facilities, and COVID has shed new light on just how crucial this component of our work is- not only for the functioning of our facilities, but for the health and wellbeing of our residents and staff.

This year we have seen high numbers of overburdened staff doing tasks not listed on the initial job description. There have undoubtedly been times throughout this past year when the best we could give felt like just putting one foot in front of the other. As we move toward a hopeful future, these technologies will continue to help foster vibrant communities for living and thriving, not just surviving.

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1. Hearing Aid Use in Nursing Homes: Part 1 Prevalence Rates of Hearing Impairment and Hearing Aid Use