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The Rise of the Smart Retirement Community

By October 19, 2018No Comments

Seniors have more retirement options than ever before. The classic snowbird move to the Sunbelt is still the most popular choice, but more and more retirees are opting to live in big cities, with family members, in RVs, and even on cruise ships.

In an increasingly competitive industry, owners and managers of retirement communities need new ways to attract residents and streamline property management practices. Smart apartment technology might be the answer to both.

Renters today prefer smart apartment amenities over traditional amenities, and the trend holds true for retirees. Smart apartment technology helps senior residents live independently while keeping them safe and secure.

Property managers benefit from streamlined building management and lower maintenance costs, making smart retirement homes a win-win.

Benefits of Smart Apartment Technology in Retirement Living

Like smart apartments and condos, smart retirement communities are more energy and people efficient than traditional living spaces. In fact, according to an ACEEE report, smart buildings will save the commercial building industry over $50 billion.

Retirement communities also see several unique benefits from smart apartment technology:

Greater Accessibility and Independence

Seniors moving into retirement communities want to simplify their lives while maintaining their independence. With devices like voice assistants and smart thermostats, residents can put their homes on auto-pilot. They can use their Amazon Echo to adjust the room temperature, turn on the radio, or turn off the lights without having to walk across the room. Lights and thermostats can be scheduled, and devices like the Nest Thermostat learn the resident’s habits.

The automation features of smart apartments make day-to-day life easier, especially for residents with limited mobility. Family members and caregivers can also program the smart devices so the resident can live independently without constant oversight.

High-End Amenities for Residents

As baby boomers move into retirement, the demand for senior living communities is going to skyrocket. Many residents expect the same level of luxury as they experienced in their own home.

As Matthew Gillam, Vice-President of Development at Overland Property Group explains, “[Retirees] are looking to retire at the Ritz-Carlton and use all the activities and amenities, rather than retire at some place and sit in a room.”

Smart home amenities are a big draw for renters of all ages, and retirement communities should use them to stay competitive. “The interaction between residents and [smart home] technology is helping people simplify their lives while still getting more enjoyment than they would have before,” said Gillam.

Better Healthcare and Wellness for Residents

Healthcare and wellness is a primary concern for retirees as they age. Smart apartment technology in retirement communities allows seniors to live on their own while still having help readily available.

Ambient monitoring, for instance, is an IoT-powered system that alerts a nurse or family member if the front door hasn’t opened in several days. Other technologies focus on preventative care.

Joe Colistra, an Associate Professor at the University of Kansas, studies how medical IoT devices can help healthcare professionals remotely monitor the health and well-being of seniors. Low-cost accelerometers, installed throughout the home, can capture each heel strike through vibrations in the floor. A resident’s heel strike pattern is then analyzed for health markers in a process known as gait analysis. Gait analysis can tell caregivers if a resident is at risk of falling, or if they’re showing early symptoms of serious illnesses like diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dementia.

This technology doesn’t have as steep of a price tag as you might think. Colistra says that gait analysis systems can be installed for less than $600 per apartment.

Better Community and Social Life

One of the most common complaints in a retirement community is isolation. For seniors, social life is just as important as healthcare and simplicity. “We’re seeing people that are moving into retirement communities because they want to be more social and active, which is a departure from how most people thought of it in the past,” said Matthew Gillam from Overland Property Group.

Community managers are often bogged down with day-to-day tasks that take away from their ability to do their most important job: build community. With a smart building operating system, building staff can save hours of time by automating maintenance and management duties. Then, using the Community Events tool, managers can quickly schedule a get-together and alert everyone in the community. Residents can RSVP and will get reminders leading up to the event. Managers and residents can also use the community instant messaging tool to coordinate plans.

Challenges for Retirement Communities

Even with the many benefits of smart apartment technology, property owners must consider the potential challenges. The biggest and most obvious hurdle is helping seniors adapt to the new technology in their homes.

The technologically-inept senior citizen is a common stereotype. While sometimes true, retirees on the whole much savvier than they get credit for. According to a recent study by the Pew Institute, 4 out of 10 seniors now own smartphones– a number that has doubled since 2013– and 12% of all Amazon Echo owners are over the age of 65.

Retirement communities can help their residents quickly adapt to smart apartment technology with proper planning and the right tools. Here are a few things to consider when creating your smart community:

  • Choose a User-Friendly Interface. Any new technology needs to be simple and easy to use. Choose a smart apartment platform where residents can manage their account, control their devices, request maintenance, and check the community page from the same dashboard.
  • Prepare Your Onboarding Team. Your staff needs to be prepared to teach new residents how to interact with their smart apartment. If you are looking for training for your team, your IoT Service Provider might be able to help.
  • Allow Simple Maintenance Requests. Despite your best efforts, problems will always arise and residents will need help. Your smart apartment platform should make it easy to request maintenance. On the backend, your platform should automatically assign maintenance tasks to your staff so they can respond as quickly as possible.
  • Enable Multiple User Permissions. Some standalone smart devices make it difficult to assign multiple user permissions, but retirement communities have an even bigger need for permission levels than regular housing. Along with residents and maintenance staff, retirement communities need permission levels for caregivers and family members. Choose a smart apartment platform that makes simplifies user permissions.

Don’t let the possibility of a technical learning curve scare you away. The benefits of smart apartment technology far outweigh the challenges, and your residents will pick it up faster than you might think.  

The Future of Living for Retirees

Senior residents today expect more from their retirement communities. Like everyone else, they want to live in a place that doesn’t just takes care of the basics, but enhances their lives. Retirees want a simplified but independent lifestyle, where day-to-day tasks are taken care of and they’re left to enjoy themselves. This is the promise of smart retirement communities, and it’s just getting started.

For owners and managers of retirement communities, smart living technology is a way to stay competitive, streamline operations, and provide better care for your residents. With the help of experts like Homebase, your next community can be smart-enabled, whether you’re retrofitting or building new. Smart apartment technology can transform any residence into a dynamic, active community.