Innovation is happening all around us. From artificial intelligence (AI) to 3-D printing, countless breakthroughs have changed the way we live—improving efficiency in our daily routines and also in the workplace. Many industries have embraced these technologies, but what does innovation look like for the senior living industry?
In a recent article in Senior Housing News, writer Tim Mullaney interviews a technology entrepreneur focused on the senior living sector to provide an honest perspective on how the industry is embracing innovation and why it is not sustainable.
“Operators love to talk about innovation. But how many actually embrace innovation? I think that a growing number are candidly trying, but fall short or completely fail because they don’t have a proper structure in place. Because so many people are talking about innovation, everyone feels like they need to be piloting something, which — alongside the fact that the industry itself is growing — is attracting other entrepreneurs to create prototype products that can be piloted in the industry. It’s this positive feedback loop, which sounds great and theoretically is something we should all be excited about, but it has this critical failure mechanism in that the dots aren’t being connected past the pilot stage, so it’s impossible to make a true impact.”
The contributor goes on to explain that the industry needs to embrace innovation and accept the importance of progression in order to meet the demands of a rapidly growing industry. When asked what the biggest obstacles preventing senior living operators from being more innovative in their adoption and use of technology, budgetary restrictions and poor allocation was noted as the biggest challenge.
"The theoretical obstacle is budget constraints, but I think more accurately it’s budget misappropriation. There is so much money poured into bringing a building to life … but relative pennies set aside for supporting actual life in the community. It’s kind of crazy, because it’s a relatively simple thing to rectify, and a simple change to justify. The difference in scale between a community’s marketing budget and activities budget is nonsensical — especially when today’s consumer looks at lifestyle as a key feature.
Don’t think of innovation as an expense, treat it as an investment. Seriously. Yes, there are limitations to that approach in practice, and you should understand those limitations, but don’t treat them as barriers. There’s a huge difference between a barrier preventing you from doing anything right now, and a limitation setting the parameters on the extent of what you can do right now. If you invest in the right kind of innovation, and your communities grow as a result, then those limitations should loosen up, and you can pursue more."
"Higher social technology use was associated with better self-rated health, fewer chronic illnesses, higher subjective well-being, and fewer depressive symptoms. Furthermore, each of the links between social technology use and physical and psychological health was mediated by reduced loneliness. Close relationships are a large determinant of physical health and well-being, and technology has the potential to cultivate successful relationships among older adults."
"Older adults think technology makes it easier to reach people, stay in touch with the people they like, and meet new people. Technology also supports existing social activities with friends and enhances convenience in many life domains (e.g., seeking out information). In short, older adults think the benefits of technology greatly outweigh the costs and challenges of technology."
"I cannot explain how satisfying it is to see the light shining in a staff member’s face as they relay the moments of joy they’ve experienced as the result of their leadership team’s decision to actively invest in innovation."