Cleveland retirement homes are rethinking the way their residents use technology


A tech-themed red hooded superhero magnet sticks next to Stevie Frank’s door in Laurel Lake in Hudson.

The “CATIE Champion” symbol means her third-floor neighbors can knock anytime for help using the community’s personalized iPads, which are equipped with Laurel Lake-specific apps.

Apps include a video gallery with the Laurel Lake Today program, where the residents’ association and staff announce updates and news, and post a calendar filled with events and activities.

“I love this feature,” says Frank, adding that residents can use iPads to create contact groups and communicate via email or messaging. “I created four groups – one for the bridge, the neighbors, the autobiography and CATIE.”

Introducing personalized iPads for residents is just one way seniors’ communities are integrating technology to solve problems and open up new opportunities for residents who might not be familiar with virtual options. These solutions help residents discover new ways to shop, connect with loved ones, see a doctor and more.

Frank, a former English teacher and guidance counselor, loves her role as a CATIE Champion and helped deploy the Laurel Lake system in January 2020. She also teaches new residents how to use CATIE (short for Communication and Access To Information Everywhere).

“My kids think it’s hysterical that I became a CATIE expert because before I used email and that was it,” Frank says. This was before Status Solutions, the company that supplies CATIE, gave extensive training last year to resident volunteers and staff. “We had our CATIE (training) two months before everyone else, and we were able to work on it and identify things that we thought were not clear,” she says. “We fixed the issues, then we went to each apartment and showed the residents how CATIE worked and even how to find a place to plug it in. “

CATIE iPads are a clearinghouse of information that residents use for service requests, meal plans, videos, news and events. “Our residents wanted to have timely news and more connection, so having a device that allows them to contact each other, send messages and stay in touch is so valuable,” says Susan Busko, Programming Manager at Laurel Lake.

“We’re starting to see baby boomers taking hold and of course they have smarter technology.

Shishir Kapadia says his life “revolves around technology”. In addition to using his phone and iPad to read news and stream content from Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO Max, he also uses his phone to order groceries on Instacart and connect with friends on Facebook. Kapadia, who lives in Springwood in Hudson (part of Danbury Senior Living), is an engineer, so while he may be more tech savvy than the other residents, he sees a lot of people who are willing and open to learning more. “Quite often, residents ask me for help going to Amazon,” says Kapadia, 75. “Technology is really helpful for the elderly – it’s almost essential,” he says.

Texting between residents has become commonplace. “A few years ago, many felt that their smartphones were like an electronic leash for their children to monitor – they wouldn’t wear them, or they wouldn’t be charged,” says Bob Pontius, Regional Director of Development. Business. “Now, they’ve moved on to faster, smarter phones, and they’re ready to deal with their kids and grandchildren.”

Get with the program

This new appreciation for texting is evident at Normandy’s Breakwater Apartments, as there are many groups of residents who organize plans through group texting. “They text each other and talk to each other – (sometimes) they meet at the Pub at 4 pm or go for a walk,” explains Jasmina Mehmedagic, director of activities at Normandy.

On Saturdays, Mehmedagic hosts a “Tech Time with Jasmina”, where residents can ask questions about their devices. “Sometimes it helps them use apps like Instacart to have their groceries delivered, or I’ll go to their apartments to show them how to use Netflix,” she says. “It might sound simple, but once I show them how to do it, they are much more comfortable with the technology. “

Unlike in previous years, Mehmedagic says, new residents are already tech-savvy, so things like FaceTime and texting are a way of life. “Some residents like to keep a journal and they use the Notes app on their iPad to write down their thoughts,” she says.

As a community, The Normandy is leveraging technology to bring concerts to residents through its ‘Music around the Globe’ series – which has been particularly useful in the height of the pandemic and continues to provide a means of presenting orchestras. and artists from all over the world.

Community YouTube channels with programming specifically for residents are another way independent and senior residences use technology to engage, entertain, and deliver information to residents. For example, Danbury has its own YouTube channel (aptly called “The Danbury Difference”) which features videos on exercise, arts and crafts, cooking, and brain games. “We use it to connect and keep them active,” says Pontius. “Our teams don’t have to scramble to find a morning exercise playlist – they just post it on their phones, connect to Bluetooth, and everyone’s happy,” he says. “Same with the movies. We use smart TV in our cinema, and anyone can vote for a movie to show.

For those less tech-savvy, Danbury has set up a general resident email account so families can send notes and photos. “We printed them and passed them on,” says Pontius. “Those who don’t have computers or other technology liked the printing of a note. So it’s kind of old school and new school.

Pontius says the staff act as technical support for anyone who needs a tutorial. “During the pandemic, our employees programmed more smart TVs, tablets and smartphones than you can imagine,” he says. This education has also been extended to a resident’s extended family, as the children of some older residents may need to learn the technology.

To help residents with additional tech support, The Welsh Home in Rocky River created a tech support cart with a large screen and device for residents to make video calls. “Families could hang out on our website, and I would post the schedule, and our staff would move the machine from room to room for virtual calls,” says Sheryl Kinser, director of enrichment at Welsh Home Life and Certified Dementia Practitioner. .

As well as having a smart TV (with laminated instructions so anyone can learn how to use it), The Welsh Home also has an Xbox. “Some of our residents love the game of bowling – others love the cowboy shooters,” Kinser says

A connected life

One of the most important things Pontius and other nursing home directors have tried to remember is that residents’ comfort levels with technology vary – age not being the main factor. . “We have 90-year-olds who’ve never owned a computer or smart phone and who don’t want to learn now – and there are 90-year-olds who wear Apple watches that they wear to monitor their health and track their appointments, ”he says.

More residents are more accustomed to virtual meetings and appointments, dragged down by the pandemic freeze of in-person gatherings that has pushed people to use telehealth and other virtual tools like Zoom.

These days, video meetings are a regular affair for Ben Ammons, an 86-year-old resident of Hudson’s Springwood who sits on a number of boards of directors of companies and nonprofits ranging from University from Akron to his church. “I feel like I learned a lot by being forced to use it a lot more,” he says.

Ammons also takes advantage of telehealth appointments by using his iPad for virtual exams and to connect with his daughters. The same goes for Charles McBride, who moved to Springwood with his wife, Susan, in February. Since then, they have used technology to bring the world to their doorstep. “We use the Internet to get food, clothes, medicine,” says McBride, 67.

After a career in the biotech industry, McBride is somewhat of a tech native to his generation. “There is a little reluctance to adopt it because some people are afraid to break it or maybe are afraid to try it,” he says. “Someone wanted help the other day hooking up the laptop to a TV for a presentation. So we got it. If all else fails, we unplug the TV and start over. “

As technology becomes more entrenched in community life, older people who may have felt intimidated there recognize that even simple tools can be satisfying. Frank recounts how Laurel Lake added a solitaire app to their CATIE tablets, which attracted those who were hesitant to accept the platform. “One of the women I worked with who was around 90 was terrified of CATIE, but I told her if you need help I’m right down the hall,” she says, adding that the solitary function has conquered her. “The other day she said, ‘I love CATIE. I really like CATIE.

A similar sentiment was shared by residents of Danbury Senior Living when staff worked with local churches to deliver the services. “We have had residents who have attended their weekly services every Sunday for 50 years, so we have met with the deacons from the local church and trained them on how to broadcast so that we can bring it to our residents,” explains Pontius. “Now they can stream from their iPads in their apartments, and they literally had tears in their eyes the first time we did it. They could see their deacon. Once we made it easier, they wanted to keep doing it.

Although every resident’s experience with technology is different, Pontius has started to see more and more residents of Danbury Senior Living working to adopt the technology.

“They can stay in closer contact with their family and their doctor, they can watch their favorite movies or go shopping,” he says. “As people get used to it, it makes their lives that much easier.”

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