In the realm of technology, there is a common perception that it is only for the young – however the fact is that it is used extensively by older people, too. Last year’s Nielsen Global Generational Lifestyles Survey report showed that, globally, seniors in fact embrace a more technology-driven world. The report points out that, “Today’s consumers are challenging yesterday’s preconceived generational notions.”
The findings of the report are endorsed by the experience on the ground of people working with retirees. “While the use
of technology by residents varies, we certainly cannot say that older people are technology-averse,” comments Arthur Case, the CEO of Evergreen Lifestyle, a leading provider of retirement living in South Africa and a division of the Amdec Group. “In fact, we see a trend where more residents want to use technology than was the case a few years ago. He points out that, since most people in their 60s or early 70s would have used technology in their work prior to retiring, it is not something completely alien that has to be learned from scratch.”
Bearing in mind the benefits that technology can bring to people’s lives, Evergreen Lifestyle provides useful information for residents about things such as the features offered on a smartphone, and using Whatsapp, Facebook and Skype to keep in contact. Clubhouses at the various villages offer Wifi. And, because of the advantages that technology offers, fibre connectivity has been adopted, where possible, such as in the Broadacres Village in Johannesburg, improving the quality of the internet connectivity used by residents.
The Evergreen Group will be installing fibre to the home (ftth) in all new villages, such as the recently launched Evergreen Noordhoek with 380 units and Evergreen at Val de Vie where 600 units are planned. Older villages will be retrofitted with ftth in due course.
“It is quite common for our residents to do internet banking and to pay for various services through the use of EFTs,” Case explains. Residents are also keen to use technology for entertainment purposes. At the lifestyle villages, 60-inch flat screen TVs are made available for the residents’ use, and they enjoy the Showmax or Netflix video-on-demand services provided. In addition, fibre connectivity allows for the showing of TED Talk movies, so creating the opportunity for residents to enjoy the intellectual stimulation of these thought provoking topics.
In addition to the use of technology by residents themselves, it plays a crucial role in both health management and security. Unique technological solutions have been developed by the IT industry to cater specifically for the retirement community.
As regards security, the sophistication of the systems used make it more difficult for an intruder to get into a village. Monitors pick up changes in the voltage of the electric fencing, as well as breaks or shorts, and the security services immediately respond. In addition CCTV cameras and off site monitoring services are becoming the norm.
“Camera surveillance systems are vital for both security and care,” says Elize Porter, the Managing Director of Unique Health, which provides healthcare services to retirement homes. “The ability to see an image on a TV screen sent electronically by a camera far away is really significant in terms of preventing serious health issues, such as when a resident has taken a tumble. Our nursing staff can respond immediately and assist the resident, whereas years ago the person may have been left on their own for many hours,” she explains.
The same is true of panic button devices. “We use the Telecare system in our villages,” Case explains. “Each resident has a device in their room plus a pendant or bracelet which they are encouraged to keep with them in the home. The person must activate it every morning, so that village management knows that the person has got through the night and is fine. It also allows for calls for emergency assistance if something has happened to the resident.” This technology is a valuable tool in meeting the focus among older people for security and physical well-being.
Therefore technology is enabling better quality of life for seniors by ensuring enhanced security and health monitoring for the residents of retirement lifestyle villages.
The administration of a retirement village is also heavily dependent on technology: electronic waiting list modules help manage applications for accommodation, and electronic health assessment records are captured in a controlled system that ensures compliance with the Older Persons Act.