It’s hard to think of anything good coming from Covid-19, especially as it pertains to our elderly population and your community’s residents. Yet the reality of this “new normal” and the associated feelings of isolation are prompting senior living community leaders across the country to rethink their engagement strategies and step up plans to implement new technologies. Technologies designed to enhance the lives of residents and improve the effectiveness of their resident activity efforts.
While no one can say for sure when the pandemic will end and we’ll go back to normal, or what the new normal will look like, the benefits of implementing senior living technology will extend far into the future. And that’s good news for seniors and senior living communities.
Covid-19 – compounding the effects of isolation
No one knows the impact that Covid-19 is having on seniors better than you and your team. In what many view as a war against an unpredictable enemy, you’ve seen the detrimental effects on residents, staff and their families firsthand.
While loneliness, depression and withdrawal are often common among those separated from their loved ones, that’s especially true during times like these, when residents are prevented from leaving their communities and families aren’t allowed to visit. To make matters worse, recent research is proving that the associated health ramifications of these conditions can be farther-reaching than many originally thought.
In fact, in a recent study by iN2L, the engagement solution provider highlights that loneliness and isolation are also proven to “increase the risk of chronic conditions, including:
- Dementia by 64%
- Stroke by 32%
- Coronary artery disease by 29%.
Beyond that, many who feel isolated also experience PTSD symptoms, as Psychiatry Advisor highlighted in an April 2020 article that used a past virus as an example. “After being quarantined during the epidemic of sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS),” the author writes, “individuals who were quarantined or had relatives who contracted SARS were two to three times more likely to report high levels of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms than the rest of the population.”
“In the long term,” the article continues, “social isolation may well impose increased mortality risks on society’s most at-risk populations for mortality from cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as from COVID-19.”
Online tech publisher Engadget also recently examined the negative effects of social isolation in an article quoting Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. The professor is co-author of an analysis of recent studies on the subject of isolation. She reveals in her work that “a lack of robust social connections can raise one’s health risks as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or misusing/abusing alcohol – that’s twice as much as obesity’s impact would be.”
These results and others are startling, for sure, and many senior living community leaders across the country are evaluating the best ways to safeguard their residents against the effects of isolation and to get and keep their seniors engaged. Many experts agree that technology is the answer.
Recent articles, including one in USA Today, suggest that the best way to deal with the increasing problem of isolation and its related effects is for community leaders to help residents become more tech savvy. As the author correctly states, technology can help seniors “extend their lives beyond campus or their apartment” by providing ways to “take classes, listen to lectures and concerts, read books, watch videos, exercise and even take tours from their rooms.”
If current resident engagement trends are any indication, senior living communities across the country are taking note.
In The COVID Effect: Technology Adaptation in 2020, a joint survey by Philips and Senior Housing News, a significant 80% of respondents reported an increase in tech budgets to address COVID-19, with 87% of respondents saying they’ll spend even more in 2021. The focus of their increased spending? While “resident safety,” “telehealth” and “virtual tours” were noted by many, the majority of reported increases centered on “virtual activities and engagement for residents.”
These reports confirm our experience here at Eversound. We’ve seen significantly increased interest in our products and services since Covid-19, from communities looking to enhance the benefits from solutions we’ve already implemented and new customers seeking our help in developing their senior living technology planning.
Not your father’s engagement technology
Today’s leading senior engagement solutions have advanced past the simple video chat capabilities previously offered, building on those advancements to create a world of opportunities for senior residents. New technologies help seniors access an almost endless collection of activities beyond the walls of their communities – activities they can share with their families, friends and neighbors.
Through these solution offerings, seniors experiencing the effects of isolation from Covid-induced lockdowns can come together and virtually attend concerts and lecture series, go to the zoo or an art museum, take fitness classes and more.
But technology is only good if people use it. Many seniors are leery of solutions that require steep learning curves based on past experiences with tech that was cumbersome and frustrating. So what’s one of the most important things to look for in resident engagement technologies?
Accessibility and usability are key
Simplicity is a key factor when evaluating new solutions and that’s a driving force behind Eversound systems. More than 800 communities count on Eversound’s innovative, easy-to-use senior engagement technology solutions to help residents overcome distancing barriers.
For instance, our premier wireless listening systems are designed especially for seniors, delivering an innovative ergonomic design that helps every resident stay connected by enhancing their ability to hear and focus, enabling participation in groups of all sizes. Eversound headsets are fully wireless, work great without cellular networks or Wi-Fi and easily connect to your a/v system or audio source to support physical distancing, enable safe visitations and amplify programming.
What else do experts recommend in senior living engagement technology? Meaningful content that’s constantly evolving and customizable.
Eversound’s comprehensive activity programming service offers hundreds of key programs and ideas in a wide range of content topics and formats. Everything from exclusive performances and entertainers on a variety of subjects to a vast library of guided programs and ready-to-go printables. All at the ready for community life enrichment teams, so they can spend less time planning and more time connecting residents to a world of possibility.
By empowering residents to take a more active role in choosing their activities and providing the ability to analyze the engagement decisions residents make, Eversound systems and programming options not only enhance the resident engagement experience, they also open a whole new world for planning team efficiency and effectiveness.
So what comes next?
As we noted above, there’s no definitive indication about how long Covid-19 will last or if we’ll ever get back to normal as we know it. Some things are clear, however. As the previously cited iN2L study highlights:
- Senior residents and senior living staff in communities across the country are benefitting from new engagement technologies. Communities are using these systems to keep residents engaged with their loved ones, each other and the outside world.
- Communities incorporating these advanced engagement technologies will differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. I2NL compared year-over-year findings and the number of leaders who believe engagement technology differentiates their communities rose from 73% to 88%.
- More leaders report seeing ROI from their tech investments. The responses also show a dramatic increase in survey participants who say they definitely see a clear return on their engagement technology spending.
In this time of Covid-19, where isolation among seniors is felt even more severely, Eversound is helping resident engagement professionals address the negative effects of isolation by creating life-changing experiences for over 10,000 residents in mo