How to Boost Resident Engagement During a Crisis

on February 6, 2023 | By Allbridge Support

2min read

During the COVID-19 pandemic, senior living residents were among the most vulnerable to the disease. Shelter in place orders lasted months.While this was the best way to keep residents safe, the loneliness has taken a toll on many.

At Miami Jewish Health (MJH), psychologists, nurses, and social workers called residents several times a week, doing brief mental health checks and referring anyone who needed help for follow-up attention. There’s “a lot of loneliness,” said Dr. Marc Agronin, a geriatric psychiatrist and vice president of behavioral health at MJH. “If this goes on much longer,” he said, “I think we’ll start to see less engagement, more withdrawal, more isolation — a greater toll of disconnection.”

The resident engagement has always been a priority in senior living, but the social isolation that older adults have been experiencing over the past few years has made engagement more important than ever. Many communities have found creative ways to keep their residents feeling positive and involved, like photo ops and pen pal requests.

Experts say the best way to help older adults feeling depressed is to provide a sense of companionship. The surge of COVID accelerated the need for technologies that were once only used by a minority of senior living communities. High-speed Wi-Fi, modern communication tools, and AI-enabled technology have very quickly gone from “nice-to-have” to “absolutely necessary”.

Many healthcare IT leaders have been looking ahead to increasing numbers of Baby Boomers retiring, preparing to match their expectations for a connected technology experience – but the shift came sooner than expected. Older residents already living in communities have quickly gotten the hang of technology during the last few years. According to Buckner Retirement Services, fifty-five percent of residents surveyed admitted they never used video chatting technology before shelter-in-place orders, but 52% said they plan to continue using the technology beyond the pandemic. 

 How to Boost Resident Engagement During a Crisis

More stats for you:

They are staying connected to family and friends in a variety of ways, including through phone calls (99%), texting (57%), email (46%), video calls (43%), and social media (21%). Additionally, a wave of aging Baby Boomers means more staff than ever will be needed to help care for older adults, yet senior care already faces big hiring and retention challenges. That’s why technology-enabled communities are critical — not only to help bring in younger, tech-savvy workers, but to facilitate tools that can help drive efficiencies with fewer employees, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic is one example of a crisis, but other events like natural disasters can create similar environments that perpetuate loneliness. 

Providing tools to residents to help keep them connected to loved ones and engaged in their community is one of the most important things operators can do to set their communities apart in a post-pandemic climate. By using digital engagement platforms like K4Community from K4Connect, residents can easily transition into the digital world with simple, user-friendly applications that allow them to stay up-to-date on community events and news, while also providing them built-in, easy-to-use communication tools to stay connected to staff, other residents, and loved ones outside of the community.

Such platforms also include a variety of other tools that can be immensely helpful to staff workloads, such as Smart Home capabilities, Wellness tools to track steps and sleep hours, and streamlined, intuitive features that allow your staff to work more efficiently, giving them more time back in their day to spend caring for residents.

While residents will have to continue sheltering in place for the foreseeable future, the right technologies can deliver one connected experience to transform your community and make their residents’ lives simpler, healthier, and happier.