Best Practices for Social Engagement Technologies

CAST | March 12, 2018 | by Donna Childress

CAST Executive Director Majd Alwan highlights a March 19 session, online resources, and best practices in this tech area.

Because social isolation among older adults can produce health effects equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, LeadingAge CAST and its members are working to integrate social engagement and connectedness technologies that bring together older adults. 

In a guest column for McKnight’s Senior Living, “Social engagement technologies: Providers' best practices,” CAST Executive Director Majd Alwan outlines ways to bring these life-enhancing, even life-saving, technologies into your organization. He also shares a special upcoming conference session, free online resources and selection tools, and tried-and-true best practices from LeadingAge and CAST members.

Choosing a Strong Tech Solution

An array of solutions and devices to help older Americans surmount isolation are now available—apps that increase resident engagement, headphones for the hard-of-hearing that mimic the look of trendy Beats by Dr. Dre, friendly digital avatars reminiscent of “Lady” from the animated Disney classic that augment home-care services, and more.
But sorting through the options can be overwhelming. Successful implementation often is a mix of art and science, requiring clarity on the needs and desired functionalities. It may also require preliminary testing and reassessment. Majd suggests following the methodology outlined in CAST’s Interactive Guide, and detailed in the white paper, as well as using CAST’s online Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology Selection Tool.

March 19 Session on Social Connectedness and Engagement Technologies

You can learn more at the upcoming PEAK Leadership Summit, which will showcase the strategies and best practices needed to respond well to the aging population’s ever-changing needs. The summit will take place March 18-21, 2018, in Washington, DC.
A special session, Social Connectedness and Engagement Technologies: Resident and Caregiver Perspectives, will explore these technologies and present the most important planning steps to implement them. It will also share perspectives from residents, families, and caregivers. The session will be held Monday, March 19, 2018, from 3 - 4:30 p.m.

Free Online Selection Tool

To help providers determine the best solution for their needs, LeadingAge CAST's Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology workgroup released a free, comprehensive online resource late last year that covers a variety of tech solutions. CAST recently updated the Online Tool and Product Matrix for 2018.The Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology Online Tool presents the following best practices, drawn from CAST members' experiences, that can help providers successfully plan for, select, test, and implement solutions.

Planning, Selection, and Implementation:
Get buy-in and support from all groups involved in tech use: leadership, activity department management and staff, residents, and family members. Train relevant staff, roll out the technology first to a carefully selected test population, then refine. Customize the technology as needed, and solicit a wide range of feedback continually.

Marketing and Use:
Communicate about your tech solution broadly and continually, and track resident use to ensure continual adoption. Address concerns and manage expectations with residents and staff for topics such as security. 

Identify and train residents as ambassadors. For example, LeadingAge member Longwood at Oakmont, a life plan community in Verona, PA, enlisted 78-year-old resident Ray Heuser in its resident technology interest committee. Tech aficionado Heuser works to champion and improve MyLAO, an app-based digital technology that increases residents' engagement and community interaction. In addition to cultivating community champions, offer personalized onboard/training sessions to 10 to 15 residents per session. Monitor the new technology’s rate of adoption, and identify additional or special training needs and any accessibility/use needs. Users who have poor vision or difficulty with steady hand motion, for instance, may need additional support.

Learn More

To learn more, explore CAST's Social Connectedness and Engagement Technology resources, read our case studies, and use our online technology selection tool.
And don’t forget to register for Social Connectedness and Engagement Technologies: Resident and Caregiver Perspectives, the special session on March 19.