Willingness to navigate technology helps assisted living residents stay connected

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Assisted living homes are finding technology helps connect residents to family members outside during isolation.

Megan Johnson, the marketing specialist at BeeHive Homes of Provo, said there has been an increase in the technology used by residents.

Many residents are using Skype and FaceTime. Since residents don’t have cell phones, they call family members using the landline or borrow staff members’ phones to use FaceTime.

Facebook and Skype are popular with residents since they can access both using computers instead of phones.

“Our staff have had to really step up and help residents,” said Johnson. “None of our residents can use the technology by themselves for the most part.”

Director of resident enrichment Rebecca Garrett said the staff at Highland Glen, a senior living community in Highland, Utah, usually set up and run Zoom meetings for residents, though some residents can navigate Zoom on their own.

“For the first couple of weeks I did go around to each resident and make sure that they had it installed on their computer or tablet and I gave them the meeting ID,” Garrett said.

Residents use Zoom to visit with family members and also to participate in weekly “Come, Follow Me” classes.

Many residents question themselves and lack confidence in using technology. Garrett said she reminds the residents that they do know how to use the technology. “It’s been a lot of confidence-building for them.”

Though residents have started using Google Hangouts and Zoom more, many continue to just call and email. Since most residents don’t have access to personal computers, family members email the staff who print out the emails and deliver them to residents. Residents are able to handwrite responses that the staff type up and send.

Recently, Garrett invited each resident to her office to film a JibJab video. JibJab allows users to create personalized eCards to send to friends and family. Garrett took pictures of each resident and inserted their faces into the eCards.

“They thought it was the funniest thing,” she said. “They had never seen anything like that and it made them laugh.”

Garrett said social media and technology do help residents stay in contact and with family members, but at the same time, it makes them long to be with their families more.

“It’s a double-edged sword; the more they talk to their families, the more they want to be able to see them right now,” she said.

Technology is allowing many people, especially seniors living in assisted living centers stay connected with family members. Often, staff of these centers have to guide the residents through the process until they are confident managing the systems themselves. (Photo illustration by Hannah Miner)

The residents at Highland Glen are not extremely savvy with social media and technology but Garrett said those who have been willing to learn have thrived.

“Those who were willing to embrace technology and use it have handled the situation a little better,” she said.

Garrett said she and the staff are happy to help residents navigate technology and connect more with their families.

“I hope that soon they’ll be able to get back out with their families and spend days with them like they used to,” she said.

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