Technology and seniors may not seem like a natural fit, but technology can help the elderly in a range of ways. As senior and assisted living facilities close down to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within their communities, senior living technology is proving particularly critical. Not only is technology supporting staff, helping housekeepers to maintain more stringent levels of cleanliness, but it’s also able to alleviate fears for social distancing seniors by providing clear proof of clean.
Technology is Supporting Senior Living Safety
Frequent cleaning in senior living facilities is more critical than ever to reduce the threat of COVID-19, which affects the elderly more severely, on average, than younger individuals. As of Aug. 31, 202, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity had estimated that 42% of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities. Taking steps to reduce the transmission of infection in these facilities is of paramount importance.
However, many of these same facilities have long felt the strain of inadequate resources. Several senior living facilities have been plagued by staffing shortages well before the pandemic exacerbated this issue.This is where senior living technology can play a critical role. Technology-based cleaning solutions can reduce the burden on overstretched housekeeping staff expected to perform a higher level of cleanliness and disinfection to keep residents safe — while promoting social distancing.
Automated solutions such as Whiz, the commercial robot vacuum developed in partnership with Brain OSand ICE Robotics, are a prime example of how technology keeps seniors safe. By vacuuming along a programmable route, Whiz can work alongside a member of the housekeeping staff. It tackles simple, monotonous tasks while staff prioritizes high-level disinfection. By working with a collaborative robot, housekeepers can minimize the number of staff members present in an area while maximizing the amount of cleaning performed.
“Whiz has been a wonderful addition to our housekeeping team,” says a Whiz senior living facility customer. As they explain, “It has relieved the burden on our cleaning staff by maintaining the common areas of our building, allowing staff to spend more time cleaning individual resident suites.”
Air Cleaning Technology Supports Healthy Air
Cleaning technology is also proving critical in achieving a higher level of clean needed to keep seniors safe.
As the CDC explains, people become infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, through exposure to respiratory droplets that carry the virus. The organization allows that airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is possible. As a result, layers of air cleaning technology can slow down the spread of infectious viral particles. This strategy may include the use of a MERV 13-rated (or higher) filter within air ducts, paired with in-room air cleaning units and HEPA filter-fitted vacuums.
For our senior living facility customer, tools like the Whiz prove particularly useful due to those HEPA filtration capabilities. “We especially appreciate knowing the HEPA filter removes particles that could compromise our residents’ health,” they say. “This is a big selling point to prospective families.”
HEPA filter vacuums also play a critical role in removing the piles of dust and debris to which viral particles cling. A square foot of carpeting can trap up to a pound of the dirt and dust that captures allergens and some airborne pathogens. Removing this layer of grime must be a necessary first step to ensure that air cleaning technologies are effective.
How Technology Shapes Living Experience
While senior living facilities have prioritized strategies for keeping residents safe, the evidence is also mounting that assisted living facility lockdowns may be creating a new problem. AARP reports that data on the mental health effects of the lockdown on nursing homes and other long-term care facility residents is light. Still, anecdotes indicate that feelings of loneliness and fear among residents may push the pandemic’s death toll higher. The same report notes that feelings of isolation and loneliness increase the risk of developing dementia by 50% and stroke by 32%.
Senior living facilities are taking a range of approaches to combat these issues, including new technology uses. This includes a range of applications, from resident monitoring to telehealth solutions to video conferencing with families.
When it comes to alleviating the fears of increasingly confined seniors, solutions as simple as commercial robotic vacuums can help. These automated solutions present a clear indication to senior living facility residents and their families that staff is taking action to move beyond standard cleaning by providing constant, visible proof of cleaning.
While tablets and other video conferencing technology may significantly impact connecting seniors with families, there’s some evidence that the novelty of robots in the hallways can help bring seniors out of their shells.
As GeekWire puts it, COVID-19 is busting the myth that many seniors don’t want to use technology. Technology is proving key to helping seniors maintain a positive quality of life.
Prioritizing the Right Senior Living Technology Investment
Of course, implementing senior living technology means investing — and for some facilities, this can be a challenge in itself. However, to remain competitive, senior living facilities will need to determine a targeted approach.
A survey of readership by Senior Housing News, in partnership with global health technology firm Philips, indicated that in the first half of 2020, 80% of survey respondents increased tech spending in 2020 to address the Covid-19 pandemic. Eighty-seven percent of survey respondents expect their organizations to improve their technology budgets in 2021. Prioritizing the most effective safety investments will be an essential priority, but these solutions don’t have to be cost-prohibitive. For example, Whiz is available on a subscription basis, allowing senior living facility administrators to pilot the solution in their buildings cost-effectively.
To discover how Whiz could help keep your residents safe, contact us today.
Written By: SoftBank Robotics Team