Why Tech Concierge is becoming an essential position in the living communities of the elderly
It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed older people to use technology more than ever in the recent past, and senior housing service providers have taken note.
A trend that gained momentum during the pandemic: new technology-driven janitor roles meant to help residents use the growing number of devices and platforms found in their communities.
These are typically workers who are familiar with the community or organization’s technology devices and platforms and can answer questions, train other workers, and directly assist residents.
Before the pandemic, residents of retirement homes were slightly more reluctant to use new technologies and therefore to work with technological janitors. But over the past two years, residents have learned they “can’t live without” these employees as they embrace technology to stay connected. Few people know this lesson better than Ricky Garrett, who works as a technical janitor at Watermark Retirement Communities. In fact, he was the very first employee of the company to take on this role.
“They relied so much on [having] a tech janitor – especially during the pandemic – that they now come to see me on a daily basis, ”Garrett said in a recent webinar hosted by senior weekly reporter Chuck Sudo and Jessica Longly, business development strategist at CDW Healthcare. “They love to have someone here who they can lean on.”
Watermark, which is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, is not the only senior housing provider to have created new technical janitorial positions in response to the pandemic. United Methodist Communities, based in Neptune, New Jersey, is another senior housing provider that has created such a role. Atria Senior Living has a technical concierge in their “community of the future” in Newport Beach, California.
“I encourage everyone to participate so that you can start to experience this role and see how to position it for the future,” Tammy Farris, director of strategic innovation at Watermark, said during the webinar. “Because I think it’s going to change from what we know even today.”
The rise of technological concierge services
The senior living industry has seen first-hand how seniors adopted technology during the pandemic – and new research from AARP shows how far that’s happened.
Just under half (44%) of adults aged 50 and over said they felt more positive about using technology to connect than before the Covid-19 pandemic, while 82% said they felt more positive about using technology to connect. said they now rely on technology to stay in touch with family and friends. , according to a AARP study published in April.
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Adults over 50 also reported using these forms of communication more now than before the pandemic: video chats (45%), texting (37%), emails (26%) and phone (29%).
For many years before the pandemic, United Methodist Communities had a technician who traveled among the organization’s four Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) in New Jersey. This led the organization’s leaders to discuss how residents perceive and use technology in their day-to-day activities.
What they learned was that while many residents saw themselves as aversions to technology, technology was playing a growing role in their lives, according to Travis Gleinig, IT director for United Methodist Communities.
“These people who thought they had no interface with the technology are realizing that they sort of use it every day, and [see] the quality it brings to their lives, ”Gleinig said during the webinar. “So we knew we had to meet this need because it was definitely underestimated. “
Watermark followed a similar path by creating his position as a technical janitor. About three years ago, the company began running classes for residents to learn how to use email, share photos, and make video calls. Like the United Methodist Communities, Watermark found that residents were often more tech-savvy than they realized.
Similar to United Methodist Communities, Watermark has noticed that residents are increasingly looking for help using their devices. In fact, the company found in one community that leadership spent, in the span of a week, about 60 hours helping residents with technology.
“We were surprised at the volume of requests, and that’s when we started talking about this concept of having a technical concierge,” said Farris.
Today, Watermark uses a model where residents can request help from a technical concierge for a small fee that is added to their statements at the end of the month. In the community where Garrett works, that’s $ 15 for every additional 15 minutes of tech support – a pricing model that almost makes up for his salary from Watermark.
For small communities where demand from residents might not be able to support a full-time technical janitor, Watermark sought to combine the role of technical janitor with another position within the community, such as an employee of the caretaker. life enrichment, someone who works at the janitor’s office or a maintenance worker.
“We are definitely removing job descriptions and job postings for multiple positions and focusing on the ability to adopt technology,” said Farris. “You must have patience… compassion, and you must be a good teacher.”
United Methodist Communities uses a similar model, billing residents in 30-minute increments.
The role of technology concierge is also useful for sales and marketing. For example, it can be a selling point when visiting potential residents or their families.
“If you include that technological interaction from the start – ‘You have this, and here’s how you use it, and I’ll go through your apartment when you move in and get you on board” – it’s a whole different experience, ”said Gleinig. “And that’s far more valuable than the community on the road saying, ‘Here we have XYZ, and good luck.'”
Some vendors have been considering whether to add a technology service fee to their annual pricing, and Watermark is included in that list. And United Methodist’s Gleinig believes that trend will only accelerate in the months and years to come.
“I think it’s definitely going to end in the direction where a community has a technical janitor as part of the cost of living here,” Gleinig said.
As vendors look to implement their own tech concierge programs, they should be aware that it is easy to get lost in the “sexy and shiny stuff”.
“[Make] Make sure you have a really strong, robust, reliable and secure infrastructure to ensure that you will be able to support all of these devices that will come into your organization, ”said Farris. “It’s going to show up, so how can you best prepare for it?” “