Designing for personal technology is crucial for senior living facilities
By Jeff Carpenter
Today’s seniors are increasingly tech savvy. They use smartphones, smartwatches, and smart home technology, and subscribe to streaming platforms they watch on smart TVs and other connected devices. According to a 2022 AARP study, more than 70% of those older than age 50 say they rely on technology to stay connected and in touch with friends and family.
It isn’t enough to give senior living residents a pre-determined bundle of technology and assume that they’ll be satisfied. The technology-savvy consumer expects to use their personal technology ecosystem — whether that be Apple, Amazon, or Google devices — that they built habits around before moving to a senior living environment. As the hospitality industry learned many years ago, gone are the days of dictating what technologies residents can use in their new home.
Some senior living facilities have not yet adopted a philosophy of supporting personal technology ecosystems, which is likely to disappoint potential residents going forward. Supporting this consumer mindset will be a challenge to senior living facilities, but it also offers opportunities if considered at the right time in the design and development of projects.
Beyond infotainment, an added opportunity is the growing focus on home care, telehealth services, and remote medical monitoring. The popularity of wearables, like smart watches, allows facilities a chance to modernize or even gamify wellness programs. Perhaps most importantly, properly designed technology provides a meaningful connection between residents and their loved ones across the globe.
Clearly, yesterday’s approach to planning and designing some conduit rough-in and a few network cabling drops will not achieve the needed results for today and tomorrow. Many senior living facilities are now designed to feel like home rather than a hospital, which requires a different approach. It’s important to get the technology infrastructure right early — the hard ceilings that 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 used in IMEG’s design for the Maine Veterans Home, a 179,000-sf supportive living facility in Augusta, ME. We were involved in the planning process from the very beginning and were able to work with the owner and architect to design the technology systems to support the services and devices their residents will bring to their new home, as well as the software and systems that allow Maine Veterans Home to optimize the operation of their community.
By engaging technology thought leadership early, you 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.