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Wi-Fi: A New Trend in Senior Living

A Place for Mom Staff
By A Place for Mom StaffApril 17, 2015

Move over techies, you have company. More and more seniors are using the internet regularly. According to Senior Housing News, 71% of seniors are going online every day and more seniors are accessing the internet from mobile devices than ever before. Learn more from our conversation with Holiday Retirement about supporting the need for Wi-Fi in independent and assisted living communities.

Wi-Fi in Senior Living

For Holiday Retirement, this shift in resident demand has not gone unnoticed. Holiday recently started rolling out common area Wi-Fi to over 300 senior living communities across the U.S..

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Unsurprisingly, this change wasn’t spurred nearly as much by business need as it was resident demand. “A lot of our residents’ visitors are their family members adult children and grandchildren, who are used to having their smart phones and tablets handy,” said John Brock, Holiday’s director of infrastructure. “This rollout isn’t just for our residents, it’s for everyone who steps through our doors.”

The addition of Wi-Fi is also having a major impact on communities’ activities programs. Now, residents are able to engage in more activities that were previously unavailable. “The philosophy of our resident enrichment program is to plan life-enriching activities and events for residents that will benefit them in every aspect of living — physically, intellectually, socially, emotionally, creatively, spiritually and vocationally. Common area Wi-Fi will allow us to plan robust activities to engage our residents,” said Tess Aiello, Holiday Retirement’s resident enrichment manager.

Using Wi-Fi to Stay Connected in Senior Living

One community, Westminster in Greenville, North Carolina, is already taking advantage of Holiday’s internet initiative by adding a complete series of computer-based activities to their calendar.

“You’d be surprised how eagerly seniors embrace technology,” said enrichment coordinator Chris Merritz. “You just have to find a connection that means something to them.”

“Find My Hometown,” a popular Westminster activity that introduces residents to Google Earth as a way to see their family homesteads, home towns and familiar streets, is a perfect example of mixing seniors’ passion for reminiscing with internet searches.

“We were able to look up one resident’s birthplace in Italy,” shared Merritz. To see the look on the residents’ faces when they see buildings and streets they remember on the screen. It’s amazing.”

The Westminster team’s approach to using technology with residents goes beyond the bells and whistles typically associated with finding the next best thing to “play” with and tackles a major logistics concern for many seniors: mobility.

“A lot of our residents have children and grandchildren who live on the West Coast, and taking trips to visit them, even for major life events, isn’t always an option,” said Merritz. “We’ve Skyped three weddings and a funeral as a group so far,” said Merritz. “We also have chat sessions and spelling bees with another community that’s six hours away. Some of our residents aren’t very mobile so the opportunity to meet new people and feel connected is really huge for them.”

Based on residents’ initial response to Holiday’s Wi-Fi addition, internet-capable communities goes beyond a trend to a standard that is here to stay. “Our goal as a company is to continually improve on the product we provide for our residents,” said Aiello. “Giving them the opportunity to stay connected and involved isn’t an option. It’s a must.”

 Does your loved one’s community have access to Wi-Fi? What has the experience been like? Share your stories with us in the comments below.

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