If the 20th century is known as the “century of progress,” then the 21st century must be the “century of digital transformation.” Even though new technology is often geared toward young people, at Blue Skies of Texas, many of our residents spent their careers working at the forefront of innovation and know their way around a computer. More and more seniors are online and engaging with internet-based technologies. Over the years, we’ve implemented new and convenient digital ways to communicate and interact, and what we’ve found is that people like what they can do with their tech devices.
Meet Jan—the “computer lady”
Longtime resident Jan Olsen had a career in cybersecurity auditing computer system mainframes used by the U.S. government—tech is her thing. Jan and her husband now reside on the East campus, where she spends some of her time helping neighbors navigate their smartphones and tablets.
“Quite a few people would probably say I’m their tech support,” Jan laughs. “And as long as they’re willing to learn, I’ll continue to help them. I won’t just do it for people; they must want to learn it for themselves.”
According to a statistic from AARP, 70% of today’s seniors have a smartphone, but how many know how to harness its full power? Jan sees many folks struggling with smartphones given to them by their adult children.
“Most of the stuff people ask me for help with is pretty simple, like how to get pictures from their phone to their computer. Anyone can learn this stuff if they have an open mind about it,” Jan says.
Touchtown Touches Down at Blue Skies
At a conference a few years ago, Jan saw a presentation about Touchtown, a platform designed specifically for senior living communities to keep residents up to date with events and announcements. Since then, Touchtown has been adopted by many retirement living communities nationwide. Touchtown has evolved over the years and now offers even more useful services.
“When I first saw it, I knew we had to have it at Blue Skies, and I love seeing people use it,” Jan says.
Jan is happy to help people learn how to use the app on their devices. She stresses the importance of Touchtown to her neighbors because it gives them valuable information immediately versus waiting for a monthly newsletter in their email. It’s also a way for residents to learn about and register for classes and activities.
“We can use it to see what our meal plans are for the week. And we have a complete roster of all the residents on both campuses where we can put pictures of ourselves and list our contact info. You can also find the community policies listed there. Touchtown is accessible on desktop computers too for those that don’t have a smartphone,” she says.
Jan is a Touchtown cheerleader and encourages everyone on campus to start using it if they’re not. “Usually, I tease people who aren’t on Touchtown if they miss an event. I joke, ‘If you’d have looked at Touchtown, you’d have seen it!’ Or sometimes, when I know someone doesn’t use the app, but I know they have a friend who does, I say, ‘You know, so-and-so has learned it, and so can you!’ I always remind people they can’t break anything, so what’s the harm in trying it?”
When people are ready to learn, Jan’s there to help. She’s done individual and group trainings; some of the people she’s trained are now training others.
“When someone comes to me, I don’t try to overwhelm them. I show them one part at a time. The settings page is the best place to start because it gives you a good feel for the way everything works. I ask them to get comfortable with that and then come back with questions rather than me trying to teach the whole thing all at once. I’ve noticed that If I can show someone one thing in the app that speaks to them, they’re more likely to keep using it,” Jan explained.
Not Everyone’s a Stranger to Tech
Jan isn’t the only tech-savvy resident at Blue Skies. Plenty of folks just like her are using smart home products like Google and Nest. She loves the ease of using Google Home to control the lights right from her phone.
“We also use the Google intercom feature. We’re in a three-bedroom home, and I have a sewing room in the back. When my husband would try to talk to me, I couldn’t hear him over my sewing machine. Sometimes he needs help on his computer too. I’m also his tech person, and rather than getting up and finding me, he can call and ask the question from the other room,” Jan said.
Many residents enjoy streaming entertainment apps like Netflix, Hulu and HBO routed through their TVs via Roku and other devices. Although you’ll have to pay monthly fees for most entertainment apps, not all subscriptions cost money. Libby is a free platform that allows anyone with a public library card to check out audiobooks, ebooks and magazines to stream over Wi-Fi and offline. It’s become hugely popular with residents who love getting new reads without driving to the library.
Some apps might seem frivolous, but Jan can’t stress enough how imperative it is for seniors to familiarize themselves with digital banking apps and medical patient portals because they’re the best way to stay connected in an ever-digitizing world.
As for Blue Skies, Jan has big plans for keeping our community aligned with current trends. “I’d like to see something similar to what you see on cruise ships, where you don’t need keys. You can walk up to your door, and a sensor unlocks it, as well as smart listening devices, so we don’t have to wear a pendant around our neck to push if we need help—all we have to say is, ‘send help.’ I see our next investment in those types of things,” she said.
The data are in, and seniors are an expanding demographic of online shoppers, social media users and digital media consumers. People just like you are joining the digital revolution. What can seem intimidating at first can become second nature when you approach it with a positive attitude—and a great teacher like Jan to show the ropes.
If you’re looking for a retirement living community that embraces technology, check out Blue Skies of Texas, where our goal is for every resident to feel connected. See how we accomplish that every day by calling 866-553-5389 to book your tour.