You might not think that words like “technology” and “seniors” would pair well together. But several local independent living communities are coming to realize that as baby boomers are reaching retirement age and looking for better living options, technology needs to be part of the package that will draw them in.
“I think the biggest shift we’ve had at Atlantic Shore is a focus on going green,” says Anna Little, managing director of sales and marketing for Atlantic Shores Retirement Community in Virginia Beach. “We have been certified as the first official Pearl Neighborhood in South Coastal Virginia as designated by the Lynnhaven River NOW partnership. We’re committed to green initiatives, which means knocking back on paper use. So, we created a website for our residents called My Community, which is similar to Facebook in that you can have friends and post pictures. We use that internally, but family and friends can sign up with profiles, too. But it’s where we post all of our menus, newsletters, schedules for all activities and more. It’s our main form of communication and announcements, and the residents really get into it. They post pictures, send birthday greetings and things like that.”
Atlantic Shores also provides technology classes for residents to teach them how to use Skype, anything to do with online shopping like Amazon Prime and other things to keep their residents connected to family and the rest of the world through their smartphones, tablets and laptops. In addition, Atlantic Shores has two “technology homes” set up as models to show residents how they can set up their own homes with in-home cameras, Alexa and automated features like turning lights on and off and changing the thermostat using their smartphones. Then they can help residents with installation of the products they are interested in.
Lake Prince Woods in Suffolk provides FaceTime instruction for residents to keep them connected with family members. In addition, they show residents how to use a Roku stick to watch movies online instead of relying on DVDs. “We’ve also had great success using YouTube to show funny clips of puppies and kittens,” says Tammy Garrett, director of marketing for Lake Prince Woods. “Residents who suffer from dementia may see that and suddenly recall owning a pet as a child.”
Lake Prince Woods is also in the process of installing a new online portal that residents will be able to use to sign up for meal reservations, classes and all sorts of other activities through the convenience of their smartphones and tablets.
Like the other two communities, Mennowood Retirement Community in Newport News offers free WiFi to residents, and they have a computer station set up for residents who may not have a smartphone or tablet. “We have a computer program called IN2L, which is an acronym for It’s Never 2 Late,” says Thelma Shaffer, director of marketing and admissions at Mennowood. “Not only does it have the capability to allow residents to Skype with relatives and friends outside our community, there are a lot of fun things they can do as well. They can take any picture and make it into a jigsaw puzzle. They can build their own story on the IN2L and customize it with background music if they want. They can use it to send and receive emails. They can participate in therapy, either live on site or via the Internet. And it has the capability of implementing an integrational program with local schools.”
In addition, the IN2L program provides basic skills in areas of health and wellness, such as brain fitness. It can provide online learning via things like TED Talks or guided tours to see other areas around the world.