Senior living engagement technology can provide many benefits to residents and families—as well as staff who are providing care and support. It can also be a key differentiator for senior living providers aiming to gain a competitive edge. 

Although there are many types of technologies used in senior care communities today, iN2L defines senior living engagement technology as “a digital solution that gives residents access to content-driven entertainment and connectivity tools that enhance group activities and individual leisure time.” 

Here, we’ll dig into several reports that demonstrate the benefits of engagement technology in senior living communities—as well as why marketers might want to tout its use to help attract future residents and their families.  

Bridging the Loneliness Gap

A 2020 report commissioned by iN2L—which describes itself as “the leading provider of person-centered digital engagement to the senior living market”—examined the experiences and perspectives of senior living residents, residents’ family members, and senior living community leaders before and during the pandemic.

According to a press release describing the results of the report, Bridging the Loneliness Gap, findings revealed that loneliness was a common feeling among the residents surveyed, and that there was a major disconnect in how community leaders perceived the issue:  

  • “Before the pandemic, 39% of residents said they were often or always lonely, compared to only 1% of senior living community leaders who estimated residents were often or always lonely.”
  • “50% of senior living residents have never felt like they had any friends in their community.”
  • “During the pandemic, the number of residents who reported always feeling lonely increased by 230%.”

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic made it much more difficult to provide the personalized activities needed, with 62 percent of community leaders reporting that they were “less able to create tailored engagement activities for residents compared to pre-pandemic times.”

Additionally, “Less than three-quarters (72%) of operators say they have a method in place to keep staff informed of residents’ personal interests.”

According to the report, many of the family members surveyed noticed the lack of personalized care and weren’t happy about it: 

  • “Only 42% of family members are very satisfied with staff knowledge of their loved one.”
  • “Only 24% of family members give top marks to the community’s use of resident information to tailor and assist in picking activities and creating individualized care for their loved one.”

In the release, Lisa Taylor, iN2L’s CEO commented on the results.

“This data shows how critical social connection and engagement are to the senior living experience,” Taylor said. “Not only are these experiences essential for residents’ wellness, but also for family decision-makers’ satisfaction with their loved one’s care and their willingness to recommend the community. The pandemic has made it even more clear that residents’ friendships and feelings of social connection are a vital part of how communities can differentiate themselves, maintain capacity, and thrive.”

The release also described factors families said were important in terms of selecting a community and recommending a community to others: 

  • “Almost three quarters (73%) of residents and 78% of family members say activities specifically tailored to the resident are absolutely essential or very important to their well-being.”
  • “Family members reported that the number one reason not to recommend a community would be if opportunities for residents to socialize with each other were lacking.”

Taylor also said that “The juxtaposition of these data points is important to note because family members’ second most cited reason they would not recommend a community is if their loved one was not provided with opportunities for engagement and activities that fit their personal interests. Individually tailored experiences are one of the most important things a community can offer, but there’s a gap in their ability to collect personal information about each resident and their ability to use it.”

She also underscored the role of engagement technologies to fill these gaps: “It’s clear that solving for these two factors is foundationally critical for resident and family satisfaction in their community of choice. Despite significant challenges, we see communities embracing these opportunities to optimize resident care, using engagement technology to make an impact not only on resident well-being but also on community operations as a whole.”

2021 Tech and COVID Recovery

A survey published in late 2021 by Senior Housing News and health care software platform MatrixCare, 2021 Tech and COVID Recovery, supported the increased focus on engagement tech. 

According to a Senior Housing News post describing the results, “Senior living providers are looking to bring in tech platforms to their communities that encourage and streamline resident engagement as their top technology investment for 2021 and beyond.”

In fact, a key point in the findings was that investment in engagement tech was apparently being prioritized over investments in technology specifically geared toward addressing operational challenges.  

“A slight majority of respondents – 31% – are targeting their technology budgets to platforms that will improve resident engagement, compared to 27% looking to spend on health and wellness initiatives, 20% on platforms that streamline interoperability, and 13% on connected devices,” Senior Housing News said.

The article additionally noted that, “It is possible that providers are targeting resident engagement platforms because older adults have embraced technology as a communication tool during the pandemic. Forty-six percent of respondents reported that residents have adopted technology to stay connected, and 43% replied that residents have somewhat acclimated to technology.”

Senior Living 2022: The State of Engagement and Technology

Trends indicating the growing importance of engagement technology were confirmed in a recently released report from iN2L, Senior Living 2022: The State of Engagement and Technology

In a March 30th press release announcing the results, iN2L said that 98% of the senior living leaders surveyed agreed that “engagement technology is vital to their communities.” It also noted that this is the third year in which the company has conducted its “annual investigation into trends regarding the adoption, state, and impact of technology upon resident engagement within senior living communities,” and that there has been a consistent shift toward its use.    

The announcement highlighted two key issues related to the challenges of the pandemic and how engagement technology helped to address them:

  • Engagement technology “…has emerged as a means of connecting residents with the wider world – with loved ones, each other, and with a broad array of personal interests, enrichment activities, and new hobbies.”
  • The report “…explores the widespread impact of staffing shortages, and how engagement technology can help fill gaps, support the existing workforce, and combat pandemic-driven loneliness to spark engagement, increase personalization, and build camaraderie.”

Quoted in the release, Lisa Taylor, CEO of iN2L underscored how this year’s findings demonstrate the growing imperative for engagement technology. 

“As a survey of senior living leadership sentiment and community priorities, this report acts as an annual barometer for our mission,” Taylor said. “This year, we are hearing loud and clear that leaders fully believe engagement technology has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘table stakes.’ We know that communities are looking to leverage technology in new ways to support today’s critical challenges around staffing and occupancy rates. These times have provided valuable, if painful, lessons learned and all of us who work to support these communities are prepared to build on the knowledge gained to foster a higher level of resident satisfaction and well-being.”

Key takeaways from the report include: 

  • The value of engagement technology is clear: “86% of leaders with technology in place report that it is either ‘very’ or ‘extremely important,’ which represents a 10% increase year over year. 65% of leaders report that engagement technology delivers a ‘clear ROI.’”
  • Technology dramatically accelerates an ability to engage: “93% of communities that leverage engagement technology report a positive ability to engage residents, as compared to only 81% of organizations without specialized technology in place.”
  • Engagement tech is “table stakes”: “More than 80% of executives believe that senior engagement technology provides unique benefits and experiences that help set their community apart.”
  • Among senior living executives, engagement technology continues to grow in esteem: “Of the 2021 respondents who leverage engagement technology, 98% believe it is at least moderately important, an 8% increase from last year’s report and a 16% increase from the 2019 report.”
  • COVID-19 forever changed the way communities function: “60% of communities report being ‘less’ or ‘much less able’ to engage residents today, as compared to before the pandemic. Respondents note that engagement technology can help – 42% note it can ‘deliver personalized care’ and 24% note it helps foster resident satisfaction and well-being.”

In addition to the studies cited here, the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies (CAST) compiled a list of all of their Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology case studies spanning 2017-2021—as well as a consolidated list of lessons learned and advice drawn from the case studies.  

Future residents and their families want to be assured that a senior living community will provide personalized support and attention to all who are entrusted to their care. Since research indicates that engagement technology is an important tool in this context, communities that are making the most of this tech might want to consider touting the fact that they do.

If you need help getting the word out, AMG Healthcare Marketing is here for you. 

Contact us today to find out how we can help you level up your healthcare marketing strategy