It’s time to embrace the changing aging population
The Canadian population is aging. It is a familiar phenomenon among many developed nations. The baby boomer generation is quickly reaching retirement age. With this milestone, the older population is the fastest growing segment in the country. As the population ages, their needs also change.
Before we dive into the changing needs of seniors, let’s take a look at the numbers.
Changing Older Population
Senior citizens are generally grouped into two categories – those aged 65 years or older and those aged 85 years or older. As of 2016, about 16.9% of Canadians were aged 65 years or older (1). Similarly, around 2.2% were aged 85 years or older (2).
These may not be big numbers but they represent a changing population. It’s a 20% increase in these age groups over just five short years. In fact, experts predict that the population aged 65+ years will grow to 20% by 2024 (3).
Seniors and Technology
Quick, who do you think of as the typical Internet user? Today’s kids and young people are more connected than any other generation before them. However, seniors are the fastest growing segment of Internet users!
Consider these statistics. In 2013, only 65% of Canadians aged 65 – 74 used the Internet. By 2016, the numbers had shot up to 81%. Showing a remarkable similarity, another jump happened within the population aged 75+. In just 3 years, Internet use among this segment went from 35% to 50% (4)!
What do these numbers mean for institutions like senior homes and assisted living centers? It means you have to adapt to changing trends. As seniors start using technology, you should be prepared to meet their growing expectations. Your prospective residents expect a certain level of access to technology. If they don’t find it, they’re less likely to move in or stay with you.
So what are seniors looking for in a community?
Access to Wi-Fi
This is perhaps the bare minimum level of technology seniors expect. Do you provide a Wi-Fi network in communal areas and rooms? As the numbers indicate, seniors are not afraid of technology. In fact, they happily embrace it. Most seniors will have a smartphone, tablet or laptop with them. All these devices need Wi-Fi to function. Seniors rely on services like video chat and Facebook to stay connected with loved ones. A senior home that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi is at a distinct disadvantage.
The Internet of Things is the latest technology buzzword. Smart speakers, appliances, and thermostats drive news headlines. But for seniors, smart health devices save lives. Medical IoT devices are an important aspect of technology for an aging population.
Do you have the infrastructure to support personal medical devices? How quickly can they get medical help if needed? For a senior, a medical emergency may hamper their ability to dial 911. Many people prefer a button that summons help with a single push.
Physical and Mental Fitness
Have you considered the benefits of having a Nintendo system or two in your game room? Most video games encourage a sedentary lifestyle. However, the Nintendo Wii sports games offer a wealth of opportunities for elderly citizens. Casual games encourage seniors to be physically active while also having fun with their friends.
Video games can help with mental fitness as well. Games like Trivial Pursuit, sudoku, and Mahjong improve mental skills. Many older people also like challenging their grandkids to such games online!
More and more seniors expect residences to offer online portals. Some communities offer a variety of social services through their portal. Such features may include:
- The ability to change meal defenses
- Access to a directory of resident names and photographs
- Being able to make restaurant reservations
- Make payments or pay their bills
- Stay in touch with friends, family members and/or their primary care physician, etc.
Access to Learning Resources
Seniors are embracing technology and the app economy. But they still need help navigating this complex digital space. Can your staff help them install apps on their phones or computers? Do they know how to access online resources about their community? Most of us have helped our parents or grandparents with technology. But seniors living in residences don’t have that option. Your residents are going to be looking at you and your staff to provide such help.
These are not the only considerations for prospective residents. Seniors look at a number of factors when searching for a senior home. However, technology and Internet use play a big role in the decision-making process. Both seniors and their caregivers feel comfortable with communities using technology to help them. Make sure to inform residents of the technology and devices they can access.
Stay on top of changing expectations and embrace the technology needs of seniors!