Pandemic Changes Tech Use in Senior Living

CAST | July 25, 2021 | by Donna Childress

See how robust Wi-Fi, telehealth, social connectedness technologies, and more have become critical to senior living.

A robust digital connection is essential for senior living today, and the pandemic has underscored that truth, noted the June 2021 "Technology: Changing the future" supplement from McKnight's. The pandemic also brought lasting changes to long-term care by increasing the use of telehealth, social connectedness technologies, and infection control solutions.
 
Majd Alwan, Ph.D., LeadingAge CAST executive director and senior vice president of technology and business strategy for LeadingAge, contributed his expert opinion to three of the supplement’s articles.
 
Telehealth will be a permanent part of senior living, Alwan said in “3 Ways Tech Use Could Change Long-Term Care Forever.” One reason is that older adults and older clinicians had to use telehealth during the pandemic and have now gained a comfort level with it. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services granted temporary waivers that made telehealth easier during the pandemic. Alwan expects many of those flexibilities to continue long-term, paving the way for continued telehealth services to older adults.
 
The use of social connectedness technologies likely will continue to increase, said Alwan, because older adults find them fun. Alwan also expects more technology to do double duty, offering both telehealth and social connectedness applications.
 
Infection control technology that enables symptom screening, hand hygiene and disinfection will continue in both senior living and skilled nursing, Alwan predicts—to protect against this virus and future ones. This article also appeared in McKnight’s Senior Living.
 
In “It’s Clear Internet is a Utility,” Alwan told McKnight’s that the importance of internet connectivity will remain after the pandemic and that the pandemic would have hit businesses harder financially without the internet. He cited bandwidth needs growing 50% year over year before the pandemic and increased need for bandwidth for video conferencing, which means communities need better network infrastructure.
 
Wi-Fi that enables both residents and staff to move about is part of infrastructure, Alwan told McKnight’s in “Wi-Fi Expected Today.” Wi-Fi lets residents easily sign up for classes or meals and enables care team members to use point-of-care devices throughout the day from wherever they are.

Read the full McKnight’s supplement, "Technology: Changing the future."