Technology and seniors may not seem like a natural fit, but technology can help protect the health and safety of seniors. The power of tech benefits for senior care first became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic, but its possibilities reach far beyond COVID. When senior and assisted living facilities closed down to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within their communities, senior living technology proved particularly critical.
Not only did service robot technologies help housekeepers maintain more stringent levels of cleanliness, the technology helped alleviate seniors’ health and safety fears by providing clear proof of clean. Now, several years later, tech remains key to streamlining the operations of senior care facilities and protecting senior health and safety.
Technology is Supporting Senior Living Safety
Frequent cleaning in senior living facilities is key to preventing the spread of infectious diseases among senior care facilities, where residents remain at higher risk of severe illness from diseases like COVID-19 and influenza. Taking steps to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases in these facilities is paramount.
However, many of these same facilities have long felt the strain of inadequate resources, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic and continued labor shortages since then. This is where technology that can benefit senior living facilities can play a critical role. Technology-based cleaning solutions can reduce the burden on overstretched housekeeping staff while maintaining higher standards for cleanliness to keep residents safe.
Automated solutions like Whiz, the commercial robot vacuum developed in partnership with Brain OS and ICE Robotics, are a prime example of how technology can keep seniors safe and healthy. By vacuuming along a programmable route, Whiz can work alongside a member of the housekeeping staff. The robot vacuum tackles simple, monotonous tasks while staff prioritizes high-level disinfection. By working with a collaborative robot, housekeepers can keep up with cleaning standards in less time.
“Whiz has been a wonderful addition to our housekeeping team,” says a Whiz senior living facility customer. As they explain, “It has relieved the burden on our cleaning staff by maintaining the common areas of our building, allowing staff to spend more time cleaning individual resident suites.”
Cleaning Technology Supports Healthy Air
Cleaning technology is also proving critical in improving indoor air quality, which is yet another key element of senior health.
Many infectious diseases, including COVID-19, are transmitted via droplets in the air. In addition, indoor allergies and sick building syndrome (SBS) can result from stagnant indoor air, leading to symptoms like coughing, sneezing, headache, and more. Poor air quality can ultimately make people feel sick–or contribute to them actually getting sick–and ultimately reduce quality of life for seniors and put them at risk for other ailments.
Leveraging multiple layers of air cleaning technology can slow down the spread of infectious viral particles and improve overall indoor air quality, creating a better, safer experience for senior care residents. A comprehensive air quality strategy may include the use of a MERV 13-rated (or higher) filter within air ducts, paired with in-room air cleaning units and filtered vacuums.
For our senior living facility customer, tools like the Whiz prove particularly useful due to those filtration capabilities. “We especially appreciate knowing the filter removes particles that could compromise our residents’ health,” they say. “This is a big selling point to prospective families.”
Filtered vacuums also play a critical role in removing the piles of dust and debris to which viral particles cling. A square foot of carpeting can trap up to a pound of the dirt and dust that captures allergens and some airborne pathogens. Removing this layer of grime must be a necessary first step to ensure that air cleaning technologies are effective.
How Technology Shapes Living Experience
While senior living facilities have prioritized strategies for keeping residents safe, the evidence is also mounting that isolation in assisted living facilities is another major concern that came to a head with the pandemic lockdowns. AARP reports that data on the mental health effects of the lockdown on nursing homes and other long-term care facility residents is light. For example, the report notes that feelings of isolation and loneliness increase the risk of developing dementia by 50% and stroke by 32%.
Senior living facilities are taking a range of approaches to combat these issues, including new technology uses. This includes a range of applications, from resident monitoring to telehealth solutions, to video conferencing with families.
When it comes to alleviating the fears and loneliness in seniors, cleaning technology solutions as simple as commercial robotic vacuums can help. These automated solutions present a clear indication to senior living facility residents and their families that staff is taking action to move beyond standard cleaning by providing constant, visible proof of cleaning.
While tablets and other video conferencing technology may significantly impact connecting seniors with families, there’s also some evidence that the novelty of robots in the hallways can help bring seniors out of their shells. In addition, Senior Housing News notes that robotics are also helping senior living facilities offload work so staff can spend more time engaging with residents, providing much-needed human connection.
A recent New York Times article highlights this phenomenon, sharing a heartwarming anecdote:
At a table in the dining room, Janet and Bill Carlson, both in their 80s, watched the empty robot glide around the room. ‘I think he’s kind of cute,’ Ms. Carlson said. The other night at dinner, she said, the robot kept walking behind her husband and saying thank you. “And Bill kept saying, ‘You’re welcome.’ I said, ‘Bill, I don’t think we have to answer.’”
The same article highlights many other technologies, including robots, that are now being leveraged to enhance the senior living experience, including things like “touchless meal delivery or groceries, video doctor visits, smart speakers, home monitoring devices, and even smart toilets.” Other technologies include health care monitoring devices that can automatically “detect falls, tie in with hospital systems, access electronic medical records, and provide one-touch connection” with doctors and caregivers. The possibilities of tech used to benefit senior care is only just beginning.
As GeekWire puts it, COVID-19 busted the myth that many seniors don’t want to use technology. Technology is proving key to helping seniors maintain a positive quality of life.
Prioritizing the Right Technology Investment
Of course, implementing technology that benefits senior living means investing—and for some facilities, this can be a challenge in itself. However, to remain competitive, senior living facilities will need to determine a targeted approach.
A survey of readership by Senior Housing News, in partnership with global health technology firm Philips, indicated that in the first half of 2020, 80% of survey respondents increased tech spending in 2020 to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents expected their organizations to improve their technology budgets in 2021. A more recent article from the publication indicates this focus on tech investments hasn’t slowed down into 2022.
Prioritizing the most effective safety investments will be an essential priority, but these solutions don’t have to be cost-prohibitive. For example, Whiz is available on a subscription basis, allowing senior living facility administrators to pilot the solution in their buildings cost-effectively.
To discover how Whiz could help keep your residents safe, contact us today.