Engagement technology has gone from “nice to have” to “table stakes,” according to the results of a new study on trends in the senior living industry.
Denver-based senior living content provider iN2L on Wednesday released the third installment of its annual report on trends in the adoption and effects of technology on resident engagement in senior living communities.
This year’s report for the first time includes information on how the pandemic changed strategic priorities and everyday life in senior living, its effects on staffing challenges, and how communities used engagement technology to compensate.
“This year, we are hearing loud and clear that leaders fully believe engagement technology has evolved from a ‘nice to have’ to ‘table stakes,’ ” iN2L CEO Lisa Taylor said. “These times have provided valuable, if painful, lessons learned, and all of us who work to support these communities are prepared to build on the knowledge gained to foster a higher level of resident satisfaction and well-being.”
Among the key findings, 86% of senior living leaders using engagement technology said that it was either “very” or “extremely” important, a 10% increase year over year. And 65% of respondents said that engagement technology delivers a clear return on investment.
“Engagement technology solutions support communities and their residents through staffing gaps, group programming suspensions, budget cuts, safety mandates and more,” the report reads. “The value this technology brings to a community is evident through metrics such as relationship-building, resident and family satisfaction, and deeper staff support.”
More than 80% of executives polled said that senior engagement technology provides unique benefits and experiences that help set their senior living community apart, including adapting new safety measures, addressing smaller workforces and connecting residents with loved ones. And 98% said that engagement technology is at least moderately important, an 8% increase from last year’s report and a 16% increase from the 2019 report.
Among polled communities that use engagement technology, 93% reported a positive ability to engage residents, compared with 81% of communities without specialized technology.
Investing in engagement technology remains a high priority for senior living community leaders, according to survey results. The data show that 82% of participating senior living leaders place a medium or higher priority on investing in engagement technology, compared with 87% prioritizing technology last year and 73% doing it in 2019.
Although a strategic focus on engagement technology remains high, the report authors attributed this year’s slight decrease in prioritizing technology to urgent pandemic challenges that emerged over the past 18 months, including staffing, census, cost control, and health and safety.
The pandemic’s effects on industry staffing shortages is well documented. Although 90% of respondents reported staffing shortages or retention challenges, more than 78% reported that those issues worsened during the pandemic. And 76% reported that workforce challenges limited their staff members’ ability to provide personalized care to residents.
Engagement technology, according to the report authors, can provide an “alluring option” for leaders looking to support their workforces by creating efficiencies. But only 50% of respondents said they believed that engagement technology solutions can help fill those gaps.
“For organizations seeking a comprehensive platform, engagement technology can refine administrative processes, reshape budgets, streamline intake tasks, intelligently improve the level of personalized programming, foster social relationships that are key to resident satisfaction, and support key relationships outside of the community’s walls,” the report reads.
The publication is based on surveys of 111 senior living community leaders — including C-suite members and those in the areas of business, therapy and clinical, activities, and marketing and sales — and was conducted in December. It is a follow-up to surveys conducted in March 2019 and June 2020.