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Helping Residents Embrace Technology

rosenbaum tablet II

Atlantic Shores’ technology initiatives were featured in a national story in the March-April issue of LeadingAge Magazine, one of the country’s top trade publications. 

An observation by Sara Hamm, vice president of successful aging and health services at Lifespace Communities, sums up a challenge to providers as we approach the 3rd decade of the 21st century.

“In past years, most providers were concerned about making sure they had a bank of computer terminals in the community library for residents to use,” says Hamm. “But now we find there are so many residents that never use them because they have [their own] computers or iPhones.”

As the years go by, the technological sophistication of the seniors served by LeadingAge members is growing steadily. Pew Research Center data from 2016 shows that 64% of adults 65 and older use the Internet (twice the percentage of 10 years ago) and 51% have high-speed broadband at home. A look at year-by-year data shows uninterrupted growth in both of those numbers since 2000. In short, technology-savvy residents no longer represent just a small fraction of the people providers serve, as they did a decade ago.

On the provider side, organizations that once devoted most of their technology development to “back-end” systems—to enable electronic records or adoption of clinical devices for staff use—are now devoting more resources to offering technology-embracing residents the tools they need to get the most out of communication technology.

Top-Level Technology on a Large Campus

Atlantic Shores Retirement Community, Virginia Beach, VA, is a resident-governed cooperative that is working to improve the technology options for residents. Its ASpire initiative offers excellent wireless connections everywhere on the 100-acre campus, and also offers bundled phone, TV and internet service. The organization’s goal is an “enterprise-grade” IT network offering connectivity, security, and capabilities.

The program also includes an app, “Atlantic Shores,” that offers access to a password-protected social network site, MyCommunity. There, users can get news and information about events, an online marketplace, staff and resident directories and dining menus. Members can create profiles, link to their Facebook accounts and more. It also offers one-touch emergency dialing to the community’s gatehouse.

As in many other communities, Atlantic Shores has an active group of technology-loving residents that do a lot to help other residents get up to speed on technology.

A resident-driven group, the “Hub Club,” was formed to advise Atlantic Shores staff as it rolled out the ASpire initiative and act as technology ambassadors and teachers for other residents. It wasn’t long before the Hub Club was upgraded to the Atlantic Shores Technology Committee, which evaluates technology needs, reviews current systems and suggests improvements.

“The organization decided [it] didn’t want [the Hub Club’s] expertise to go to waste,” says resident and technology committee member Richard Sawyer. “The new technology committee interfaces with the administration and with the residents and also provides education and exposure to technology they might not always have.”

Fellow resident and committee member Frank Barrett agrees, but adds, “You’d be surprised how many people here have a deep understanding of technology.”

According to Atlantic Shores IT Systems Analyst Jamie Lockard, the committee’s official functions include the following tasks:

  • Review and suggest improvements to campus technology.
  • Report and evaluate campus technology issues and work to provide resolution.
  • Assist in creating resident interest to those residents who may be less interested in or intimidated by the new technology.
  • Work with management regarding most necessary and applicable resident needs for specific technology relative to all residents.
  • Promote cost saving initiatives, which may be fulfilled with technological implementations.
  • Provide input and feedback to assist with making decisions regarding the ongoing improvements to the website(s) and applications.

Barrett also says the committee is trying to help residents “to become a little more paperless, so if we can get people to use the electronic systems we have, it’s a more efficient and effective way of reaching out to everyone.”

Lockard offers classes for residents on many topics: Skype, Facetime, Microsoft Office applications, email functionality, access to the MyCommunity site, Roku boxes, Google, Amazon, device training, and more.

One big project under development is the installation of 2 fiber optic rings across campus which will create an internal network that will allow services such as medical alert and monitoring systems, emergency backup, emergency notifications via the phone system, and campus-wide Wi-Fi. Hard-wired connections to each villa are needed for phones and other services that require a more reliable connection than Wi-Fi.

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