As we go through life’s changes, there’s a natural urge to want to remain in control – of ourselves, our lives, our interactions with others. In seniors this sense of control is referred to broadly as “independence,” the ability to be the master of one’s own fate.
When seniors say they want to remain independent – and the vast majority do – they say it with the mistaken notion that leaving their longtime home and joining a senior living community will rob them of some of that autonomy. As senior housing operators know, this is not the case.
Senior housing executives go to great lengths to ensure independence. In many cases this will mean implementing a technology infrastructure that enables seniors to manage their lives on their own terms, comfortably and safely.
Social engagement is a chief marker of independence. Seniors who enjoy rich social lives typically feel a sense of empowerment as they connect with others, be it members of their immediate community, or loved ones near or far.
Today’s communications technology dramatically enhances the sense of independence that comes with social interactions. In some senior residences, for example, operators have implemented communications portals. These sophisticated systems allow seniors to easily access social media, to tap into video communications, or to organize social schedules with other residents. By helping seniors to take charge of their social lives, such systems go a long way toward empowering independence.
Physical wellness is by definition the bedrock of senior independence. Too often, seniors find that an impaired sense of physical wellness sorely limits their ability to engage life on their own terms. Autonomy demands wellness.
Here too technology can help a senior residence operator to bring a substantial positive force into the lives of residents. The key, some would say, lies in taking a proactive stance. Rather than responding to falls, for example, an operator can invest in technology that passively monitors a resident’s movements and alerts staff when key metrics are indicative of an elevated risk for a fall. Similar technology may drive passive sensors that pair with the same smart software to develop a baseline of functional vital signs, in order to keep track of a senior’s overall wellness and provide early illness detection.
Care coordination may be viewed as a means of bringing all these elements together: Wellness, communication, and technological innovation. A top item on the national health agenda, care coordination calls on doctors and other health care providers to be in close communication with one another. Such engagement ensures multiple conditions are treated appropriately; that pharmaceutical orders do not contraindicate; that tests and procedures are sensible and appropriate.
As “home base” for the senior, the residence can play an integral role in making this happen. Again, it comes down to a matter of smart technology well implemented. Communications infrastructure in particular can raise the stakes here. A carefully constructed portal can not only help a senior to keep in touch with practitioners. It also can help keep family members actively in the loop, directing messages and alerts as a means of ensuring that everyone in the senior’s care circle is always up to date.