Finances & Advice Senior facilities prep for tech-savvy population

Senior facilities prep for tech-savvy population

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The World War II generation ushered television into everyday life, and TV is all around the people who reside in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

But as their children – the baby boomers – themselves age, when the time comes, they want these facilities to provide them with newer technologies. Those facilities that are equipped with WiFi, laptops, tablets, Skype and other amenities, are ahead of the game.

“We have this conversation often,” said Sarah Forgioni, administrator at the Inn at Village Square, an assisted-living home for people 62 and older at 123 School St. in Gorham. “We’re sort of looking down the road.”

In fact, what’s down the road is the so-called “silver tsunami.” The youngest baby boomers will reach age 65 in 2029. By then, according to the website governing.com, the total population of Americans over 65 will swell from 41 million to 70 million, a 75 percent increase. In 2010, seniors accounted for 13 percent of the population; in 2029, they’ll account for 19 percent.

The Inn at Village Square added wireless connection to the Internet last winter.

Forgioni said that right now, just a few of the 37 residents at Inn at Village Square are baby boomers. But she knows that will change.

“I don’t think this has hit yet,” she said, “but in a few years it will begin to be an issue. We are actually talking about adding a computer to one of our common areas, and we’re talking about assisting residents in how to Skype. As time goes on, and more baby-boomer residents move in, we won’t need to do as much of that assistance. Baby boomers are pretty savvy, from what I’ve seen.”

Technology for entertainment value might be an important consideration for boomers considering retirement facilities. Technology that makes it easier to access and manage medical records is vital.

St. Andre Health Care of Biddeford, which provides accommodations for a range of health care needs, has electronic health records.

“That’s a really big thing now for the health care industry,” said Renee O’Neil, director of admissions at St. Andre. “An InfoNet is a pool of information about yourself. Insurance companies are working with their providers so they can access that information. Baby boomers would be more apt to use this. They’re the ones who are going to see their doctors more often.”

Aside from InfoNet, “all our records are electronic,” O’Neil said. “We don’t do handwritten notes anymore. As baby boomers are technologically advanced, their expectations are at a higher level. They’re not afraid to ask, ‘What are my medications?’ at any given time.”

St. Andre also provides laptops in rooms, and is installing new routers and WiFi connections on its floors.

“We didn’t really have the demand before,” O’Neil said. “Now we have the demand.”

There is a desktop computer on all four floors.

“We were kind of ahead of the game,” O’Neil said. “We had a couple of residents who fall into the baby boomer generation who had asked for access.”

O’Neil said she anticipates that television and phone will be computer-integrated in the near future at St. Andre.

“Those are the things we are looking at,” she said. “We are updating our phone system now to be Internet-based.”

Larry Grard is a staff writer at Current Publishing.

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