Senior living operators are trying to use digital services to help their residents stay connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. New digital tools they’re offering to fight social isolation include video chat applications, virtual assistants, livestreamed fitness classes and even virtual reality-based day trips.
The innovations are needed, operators say, because many senior residents are feeling cut off and isolated because they’re forced to spend most of their time shut indoors.
Peter Kress, senior vice president and chief information officer at Acts Retirement-Life Communities, which runs around two dozen senior living facilities in 9 U.S. states, told the Wall Street Journal that his company has adopted various tech solutions to try and help residents stay connected to friends and family. He said that many of the company’s residents have embraced videoconferencing platforms, and are using them to participate in everything from virtual book clubs and bible studies to livestreamed events.
In addition, many residents have taken to smartphone apps to order meals from restaurants that are located on site.
Some of Acts Retirement-Life Communities’ homes have even introduced robot assistants for some of their residents. The robot assistants act as mobile devices to enable visual and audio communications for residents and can also deliver meals to their rooms. Kress told the Journal that his company is also looking at using robots to help with things like cleaning and maintenance, including tasks such as vacuuming the floor and painting rooms that need a new lick of paint.
The company has also partnered with K4Connect to help residents perform health check-ins using motion detectors. In addition, it is planning to install voice-activated controls for lights, thermostats and electrical appliances in its residents’ apartments and rooms, Kress said.
The Journal adds that some other senior care facilities are even using virtual reality headsets to allow their residents experience various day trips as a kind of “virtual escape”.
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