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How Technology Is Impacting Our Communities: A Viewpoint From Brookdale

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By Josh Studzinski, Director of Marketing, Caremerge

Technology has the incredible ability to bring generations of people together and bridge gaps that separate us both emotionally and physically. This is one of the key takeaways from Caremerge’s new Trailblazers In Senior Living initiative that features pacesetters in the field who have implemented new and innovative ideas aimed at delivering transformative experiences to residents, families, and caregivers. (Caremerge is a Senior Housing Forum partner.)

The purpose of the series is to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities impacting family, community, and staff; deliver thought-provoking discussions that may inspire change in senior living communities; and provide a collaborative forum to share ideas with other executives in the senior living industry.

Bridging Generational Gaps

For its first trailblazer interview, Asif Khan, Caremerge Founder and CEO, sat down with Andrew Smith, Brookdale’s director of strategy and innovation. Smith told Khan that video chat has been the most impactful and important technology for residents, families, and caregivers at Brookdale. He says, “We’ve seen it bring family members together in a powerful way and use it to connect face to face.” 

Indeed, video chat creates an excellent opportunity for grandchildren and grandparents to build strong relationships with each other. “It keeps family ties strong, despite the distance, and helps to prevent social isolation among residents,” Smith explained.

The Magic of Video

With regard to reducing social isolation among residents, Smith explained that it's important for senior living to stay grounded in what residents need. “Since there is a lot of variability in their technology acumen, it can be a challenge to meet everyone’s needs. We try to educate everyone about technology.

“What I love about video chat and other technology for residents is that you connect with others—with family members, fellow residents, and more—over just a conversation about one thing,” Khan added. For example, he noted, if someone brings up the fact that he had flown a certain plane while serving in the military, you have the technology at your hands to look up the plane and have a discussion about it.

“It could last for hours or even a whole day,” said Khan. “That shared experience, it creates a simple touch point; it helps me understand that person better, and it’s so important to have that connection.”

Meeting Expectations

“Regarding our residents, I feel we are meeting and even exceeding their technology expectation in assisted living and independent living. But not with family members,” said Smith.

Today, family members expect to transact business no matter where they are but the senior living industry is behind in that regard, both Khan and Smith agreed. “We can create a lot of value by mimicking innovation in other industries,” Smith observed. “Looking at your bank statement online, for example, is something that residents or family members can do, but the industry is behind in that regard. Innovation for us is being able to show your bill digitally.”

Not only that, but the adult children of seniors are using Amazon Prime, Uber, Grubhub—their experience outside of senior living is totally different. “It’s important to remember that family members bring in expectation we have to meet that,” Smith said.

Taking the time to find out how to meet the expectations of residents, as well as family members and staff, especially when it comes to technology, is also important, Smith advises.

In the end, he adds that technology is a very positive thing: it can drive transparency, quality, and consistency--three very important elements of senior living. 


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