The baby boom that followed World War II has become an age boom, as more than 10,000 Boomers turn 65 every day. Senior living organizations are now positioning themselves to take full advantage of increased demand for senior housing caused by this “silver tsunami”, and the pace of new senior housing construction has picked up considerably since a lull during the recent recession. But successfully meeting the demand of aging boomers involves more than inventory and an “if you build it, they will come” approach to growth. Boomers are drawn to features and amenities that differ from those that attracted earlier generations of senior living residents, particularly in the case of technology.
Catering to the Tech-Savvy Senior Living Resident
No longer can technology for the use of residents be an afterthought. As more Boomers enter the 65+ demographic, internet use among that age group is rapidly rising. Pew Research Center found that in 2005, 28 percent of seniors aged 65 and over used the internet on a regular basis, while ten years later that figure has more than doubled, reaching 58 percent. Boomers who are now retiring and moving to senior living may now have two or three decades experience with computers, and many are heavy users of internet connected computers and other devices. They are accustomed to using modern, connected technologies for the same purposes as younger people, which include network intensive applications such as the streaming of HD video and audio, and even gaming. Communities that do not enable residents to use technology to the ends that they are accustomed will be passed over in favor of providers that do.
Senior communities that are to thrive in the coming years can’t take shortcuts when it comes to technology. They must have the IT infrastructure in place to enable new, tech-savvy residents to use technology for the same variety of ends that they have used it before moving to senior living, and that allows them to experiment with new ways of using technology as well. This means that every unit in the community should have access to high speed, broadband internet, and wireless access must also be strong throughout the property, both inside and out.
Flexible, Future-Proof IT
But a solid, future-proof IT infrastructure is about more than assuring older residents have internet access for hobbies, entertainment, and communication with friends and family. It is also essential to ensuring that communities are able to fully use the wide spectrum of applications, both current and emerging, that improve operations and care. For example, passive remote monitoring, which is among the most exciting recent developments in senior care, is generally only possible at communities with a modern IT infrastructure and community wide connectedness. Most future senior living technologies will have the same sorts of IT requirements, meaning that communities will be left behind if they do not have a strong technical foundation that can be adapted to fit varying and sometimes unpredictable needs.
Senior living organizations and communities catering to the newest generation of senior living residents must also be prepared to make sure that they have access to the human talent and expertise needed maintain the integrity of their IT solutions and ensure compliance with HIPAA and other regulations. Furthermore, it’s important that leadership teams, both at the organizational and community level, buy in to a future minded approach, recognizing the increasingly central role that technology plays in the satisfaction of residents, the monitoring of their health and wellbeing, and the efficient operations and administration of communities.
No boomer-friendly senior living community is fully complete without a modern, flexible IT backbone. Wisely investmenting in the right technology and the expertise to make it work effectively is crucial to attracting the new generation of seniors, and to providing the best possible quality of life after they have moved in.