The Coronavirus is Accelerating Technology Adoption
The current social distancing policies implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus have motivated many individuals to turn to technology for a variety of daily needs, including medicine, food delivery, and socialization. Technological advances, specifically live streaming technology, are providing opportunities for individuals to maintain their physical, social, and mental health despite isolation.
Like COVID-19 has increased the use of technology, sudden self isolation has accelerated the loneliness epidemic already present in the United States and worldwide. Loneliness has serious impacts on all aspects of one’s health, and the senior population is disproportionately affected.
Fortunately, innovation and community resilience have found a foothold during the time of this pandemic, and senior centers and their staff are diligently looking for new ways to help their residents. A lack of socialization and access to healthcare can be harmful for all aspects of seniors’ health, and providing virtual options is one of the most efficient ways to maintain their overall wellness. Directors and Activity Managers need quick, efficient solutions that will keep their residents safe from infection, as well as social isolation.
What To Consider Before Starting Online Programming For Seniors
While there are several online options activity directors can choose to implement, there are a few things to consider before starting your senior community with virtual programming.
Audio & Visual Support
Many of your senior center residents may be hard of hearing, or have issues with vision. One of the best ways to address that is having the moderator who is running the video session have the ability to adjust the volume settings of all residents. That means, if one of your residents has their TV on in the background, you can lower the volume of their screen, or mute them completely to not disturb the other residents.
By having a member of your activities staff work as a moderator, the instructor will be able to focus on sharing their content, rather than having to provide technical support. This is why it’s important to choose a platform that makes audio and video moderation seamless for staff.
If seniors are accessing a software of choice through a browser, do they know how to get to that browser, find the material, and get started? Technical support is a necessity for seniors using new technologies, as well as for the activity directors! Ideally, a member or members of your team can provide tech support to help with the set-up process, software access, and aid any residents or staff that need ongoing instruction.
Creating a “tech hotline” for residents to call when they need help is particularly helpful here, so seniors can access this support at all times. In addition, designing flyers or pamphlets that review how to set up and use the online content would give residents a helpful resource if support staff are busy. However, note that these documents should be easy to adjust and reprint, because streaming sites may adjust their platform with new updates.
Another great option is creating a demo video users can watch on their own time. At televëda, we noticed that some seniors had a tough time figuring out how to join an ongoing class, so we created a demo video for them to follow as they began working with us.
How are you going to remind seniors of virtual programming? How will they know how to begin? It’s incredibly important to make the virtual class experience as seamless as possible for your residents. Bulletin board notices and monthly calendars are helpful, but with rapidly evolving online content, email reminders, phone calls, and SMS notifications are probably better options. No matter what, when dealing with residents who have memory or other cognitive issues, there needs to be reminder notifications in place to keep attendance high.
What is your content going to be, and how are you getting it? Are you outsourcing to YouTube, Universities, or online class providers? If you are outsourcing, what are the quality guidelines and how do you manage them? If your community instructors are making their own videos, how efficient are they at producing and sharing their activities?
These questions all need to be considered before starting to provide content. Content should be fun, but activity directors shouldn’t have to become YouTube stars while trying to engage their residents!
Data reporting is a great option to consider when implementing new programming, and can help manage the tech, content, and logistics to see what works and what doesn’t. For example, you could track what content seniors like best, and what classes have the highest attendance. Or, record the mood levels of attendees before and after class to see the mental and emotional effects of your programs.
Of course, gathering and analyzing all this information takes time and manpower, but it’s vital for creating programming that keeps seniors engaged and their families satisfied. To do this, consider investing in external dashboards that can track online attendance. Or, have staff survey and record resident moods and attendance levels. You want to know the ROI your new programming has, and data reporting will also help you modify the programming to best suit your community.
Last, but definitely not least, comes security. Security is one of the most important issues of all, because it can make or break your virtual community experience. Seniors are one of the most vulnerable groups for online scams, which is why online activities need to be monitored extremely carefully to avoid any issues. Zoom is one of the most popular video-conferencing applications at the moment, but has recently been banned from several organizations and schools due to privacy issues, “Zoom bombing” problems, and webcam hijacking.
To avoid these issues, make sure links are being securely shared, software advertising policies are reviewed, and knowing how to manage online meeting interruptions. Password-protected online accounts are an option, but often reduce the number of participants and can add another level for management.
Virtual Wellness is the Present
Video conferencing and virtual wellness is exciting, and it’s no longer the future. Many seniors previously uncomfortable with video conferencing technology are newly adopting online platforms to stay socially, mentally, and physically healthy.
Telehealth companies are now becoming the norm, and online fitness is booming. From FaceTiming with friends and family, to participating in virtual tours of our planet, live streaming technologies are providing a safe form of socialization that senior communities need to take advantage of right now. And as the providers, it is your duty to ensure the integrity, security, and technical support of these programs.
Though there are many aspects to consider when beginning virtual programming, it’s important to remember that these activities are supposed to be fun! Residents will be able to experience a whole other world of opportunities, while staying safe not only from infection, but the negative effects of social isolation. Having technical difficulties? Feeling overwhelmed? That’s okay! Reach out to us online here, or by email.