California Buildings | March 2022 by Tammy Ng
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges for senior living communities but has signaled the widespread adoption of technology to assist with resident communication and engagement. During the initial phases of the pandemic, the use of technology to promote the health of residents in senior housing was at the forefront. While this is still heavily prevalent amongst architects and developers, senior living providers are now leveraging technology to empower its residents.
Contrary to the belief that technology is counterintuitive to providing resident-centered care, an increasingly high-tech senior living environment encourages residents to regain a sense of control of their lives. A technology-forward senior living design concept can ultimately lead to an increase in the following ways.
Social isolation has been one of the conditions seniors face as they age, which studies have shown have led to a significant decrease in their overall health. This lack of social and community interaction has only intensified with the Shelter-In-Place orders enforced during the pandemic. Technology is allowing seniors to maintain the connection with community. Working in tandem with the increased accessibility to tablets and computers, largely due to their video calling capabilities allows seniors to stay connected with friends and family, particularly, amidst visiting restrictions imposed by COVID-19 restrictions. This has impacted interior design, where there is a focus on providing meeting spaces and semi-enclosed booths in common areas for guests to make these virtual calls. Furniture has been selected to create a sense of privacy and it also include the capability of charging the electronic devices.
Seniors today are becoming more technology-savvy. In this new pandemic era, seniors are learning to use new technology to interface with everyday errands, whether it is using a tablet to hold a telehealth appointment with the doctor or a smartphone to request groceries to be home-delivered. Further, part of what seniors are seeking in assisted living facilities or senior housing communities is a program of activities to help structure their days. Announcing the program schedule to residents has become widely accessible through the integration of app-based services and smart flat screens located in lobby areas. Now, guests can gather all the necessary details about upcoming events and decide for themselves which activities to take part in. At each event, attendees can easily and independently check in via tablet or smartphone.
At Vivalon Healthy Aging Campus in Marin County, one of the amenities we worked to develop was a computer lab. Upon completion, residents will have the opportunity to immerse themselves in classes of their choosing—encouraging technology empowerment and learning at any age. In addition to providing a place where seniors can become proficient in email or other modes of online communication, the computer lab also provides ways for seniors to discover programs that foster creativity. As a social hub, the computer lab supports social interactions amongst residents by enabling them to bond over technology as they become adept at the skills needed to use the devices. This computer lab also serves as a space to learn about the latest smart building technology within the facility. Vivalon has implemented some of the latest UVC technology to help filter and clean the air within the facility. The lab teaches the building occupants and staff how this technology operates and how it impacts them. These sessions help ensure staff and operating and checking on the equipment per manufacturer’s requirements and gives occupants a better understanding of how the UVC systems help to eliminate any potential dust and pathogens circulating in the air.
Fortunately, technological advancements have opened several doors for seniors. Not only has technology allowed them to stay connected with loved ones during the pandemic, but it has also given them a sense of freedom and autonomy that is not otherwise possible without technology’s help. Through these implementations, we’ve been able to create future-forward spaces that are modern in design while also increasing seniors’ connectivity, learning, and health.
Published: California Buildings