Designing for personal technology is crucial for senior living facilities

By Jeff Carpenter 

A tidal wave of technology is bringing huge changes to the aging population’s living environment by way of two main forces that have a dramatic effect on aging consumers’ expectations: the personal technology ecosystem and technology wearables. However, most senior living facilities have yet to adopt up-to-date technology capabilities that will be expected by residents in the coming years. 

Today’s consumers – seniors among them – are becoming increasingly more tech savvy, surrounding themselves with a suite of technology solutions that I call their “personal technology ecosystem” – the particular services and brands they choose to integrate into their lifestyle. The exact combination of services and brands is unique for each consumer. Usually, however, you’ll find one of the “big three”: Apple, Amazon, or Google at the core of each consumer’s selected ecosystem. If a consumer subscribes to Amazon Prime, they likely use Alexa as their personal assistant and may watch Prime Video on an Amazon Fire tablet. Wearables – such as smartwatches and fitness trackers – are all the rage with consumers and are likely to be a brand that integrates nicely with their chosen personal technology ecosystem.  

The rise of the personal technology ecosystem places burdens on senior living facilities, but it also offers opportunities. The technology-savvy consumer will expect that they can bring their personal technology ecosystem of choice into their new senior living home and have the infrastructure needed to support their technology. They will no longer be satisfied to be told what technologies to use in their new home. Yesterday’s approach to planning and designing technology infrastructure will not achieve the needed results. 

Technology design criteria for senior living also has been significantly elevated by the growing focus on home care and the advances of telehealth services in which doctors consult with patients via a tablet and monitor their vitals remotely using connected healthcare devices.  The popularity of wearables provides facilities with an opportunity to modernize wellness programs, even gamifying the experience. Because many senior living facilities are being designed to feel like home rather than a hospital, it’s important to get the technology infrastructure correct from the beginning; the hard ceilings now favored to help create a homey space (unlike the lay-in tiles in a hospital) make it nearly impossible to economically make changes and additions that weren’t considered in the initial design and construction process. 

The best time to plan and design your technology infrastructure (both wired and wireless) is during the planning and programming phase of a project, before the floorplan is determined. This type of early integration was utilized in IMEG’s design for the Maine Veterans Home, a 179,000-sf supportive living facility in Augusta, ME. Because we were involved in the planning process from the very beginning, we were able to work with the owner and architect to design the infrastructure with the ability to support the services and devices their residents will bring to their new home. 

By engaging your technology designer early, you too can ensure your technology infrastructure and systems will be able to support the technology “ecosystem” of today’s seniors – and that of the ever-more-tech savvy generations to come. 

Jeff Carpenter will present the free, AIA-accredited webinar, “IoT in Environments Built for the Aging,” at noon Central time Feb. 26. Learn more and sign up. 

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