August 14, 2020
With nursing home residents at high risk for COVID-19, operators of senior housing communities worldwide are scrambling to rapidly embrace technologies that will keep residents and essential workers safe, says JLL.
The sector is increasingly investing in technologies that range from telehealth to service-oriented robots with a wide range of functionality. These changes will significantly advance operators’ ability to handle the coming “silver tsunami” of 73 million baby boomers in the U.S. who will all be 65 or older by 2030, says Zach Bowyer, managing director, JLL.
“What the pandemic has done is force operators to step back and say, ‘We have this problem to solve — and we need to solve it now,’” Bowyer says. “It’s expedited the technological progress needed to prepare for the population that will be entering senior housing communities over the next decade.”
The U.S. is one of more than 34 countries that will be “super-aged” by 2030, meaning that 20% of the population will be 65 or older by then. Germany and Japan are already there. In the U.S., 16% of the population is elderly, and it’s expected to rise to 20% in the next 10 years.
The demographic shifts don’t just turbo-boost demand for seniors housing. It’s expected that the Baby Boom generation will transform nearly all aspects of seniors housing in much the same way that they redefined other life stages.
“Boomers want options and they want more control, which is not necessarily the case with the current generation of seniors,” says Bowyer. “And technology provides a lot of those things.”
Isolation has been a major issue for seniors in communities under lockdown. But robots, such as Temi from the software company Connected Living, have come to the rescue, JLL says.
These robots are equipped with video screens, enabling them to connect residents with family, friends and physicians.
“The robot will come in the room and announce who has called, and that person’s face will pop up,” says Bowyer. “They are being adapted in all sorts of creative ways.”
New technologies, from voice-activated controls to “clear connection” panels enabling socially distant digital visits with family, are being installed in senior facilities worldwide, says Audrey Symes, JLL’s director of research for healthcare, life sciences and advisory.
“Technological adoption would not have happened as quickly if not for the pandemic,” she says. “The intensity of COVID-19 protocols and the scarcity of staff forced a tipping point, especially for telehealth. Once it reached a critical mass, systems could collaborate on new solutions.”
Out of necessity, the adoption of telehealth in senior housing facilities has accelerated as virtual physician appointments have become the norm during the pandemic, says JLL.
“One of the biggest roadblocks that was impeding telehealth was the inability of healthcare systems to communicate with each other,” says Symes. “But with hospital staff stretched thin and the need to follow COVID-19 protocols, the pandemic has forced that tipping point, and solutions are emerging.”
Pictured: Temi for senior living.
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