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Combining the human touch with technology to improve quality of life – Guest Columns – McKnight’s Senior Living

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Combining the human touch with technology to improve quality of life - Guest Columns - McKnight's Senior Living

During their military careers, residents of our life plan community used the world’s most sophisticated technologies to fulfill their mission of defending our nation. Today, they have access to equally important technology, this time in support of our mission to improve their quality of life.

To infuse technology into delivery of services wherever possible, it’s important to invest in programs to make innovation a part of the community culture, through partnerships with some of the most advanced technology companies in the world. The result is a level of care that you simply won’t find in other life plan communities. The innovations are everywhere, from programs to common areas to apartments.

A visitor to campus (when visitors are permitted) might see a resident walking upright with the assistance of a wearable robotic suit that helps patients relearn correct step patterns and weight shifts to counter lower extremity weakness or paralysis.

This is a game-changer for anyone whose mobility has been in decline – especially for those who thought they may never be able to walk or stand again – and Knollwood, at the time of this writing, is proud to be the first and only life plan community to offer this innovation as a part of in-house physical therapy.

Stevie can perform a variety of tasks.

During that same hypothetical visit, you might encounter a robot named Stevie that can perform a variety of tasks, from entertaining and keeping our residents company to reminding them when it’s time to take their medication.

A strategic partnership with Trinity College, Dublin, in Ireland enabled Knollwood to be the first life plan community in the world to host this technology. Stevie employs state-of-the-art AI to improve resident safety, mitigate against social isolation and facilitate games and activities. His capabilities also extend to playing music and reading books.

“What we’re trying to achieve here is to try to improve the quality of care that residents have, and Stevie is just a part of that picture. Technology like Stevie is something that we’ve developed with therapists and nurses, and we’d like it to be able to develop senior-specific applications. We can disseminate it so that the knowledge that gets put to the test here can be spread further in the field,” said Conor McGinn, Ph.D., the leader of the team that built Stevie and our partner at Trinity College, Dublin.

Another technology that really can make a difference in our residents’ lives – which we were first in the United States and among the first in the world to use – is a smart lighting system we have installed to help prevent falls.

One of the challenges we as an industry face, whether it’s independent living, assisted living or skilled nursing, is mitigating the risk of falls. Thirty percent to 50% of falls in older adult communities are due to environmental causes, such as poor lighting, making this technology very important for falls prevention.

Located strategically between bedrooms and bathrooms, this new IOT lighting technology uses infrared sensors to detect movement and then provides a lighted visual pathway. Its AI also establishes a baseline and tracks changes in normal movement patterns, facilitating a proactive response to those changes which can help prevent a fall. And in the case of a fall, an alert is emitted to staff for assistance, which minimizes emergency response times.

We constantly are collecting, analyzing and sharing falls prevention data from this new technology and will share it with others for the betterment of other older adult communities.

We are not just on the receiving end of these advances in humanized technology. More recently, George Washington University approached Knollwood, asking for residents to participate in a study led by their team of cognitive neuroscientists and physical therapists. The researchers want to understand what factors influence the capacity to perform simultaneous movement and mental tasks in older adults.

Navigating a busy environment becomes increasingly difficult due to the multitude of changes in both the brain and the body that are associated with aging. The resulting lack of movement causes a downward spiral, further decreasing function and increasing health risks.

The study will include pre- and post-study MRIs to better ascertain the structural parts of the brain which are engaged in multi-tasking. Participants also will undergo memory tests developed by the National Institutes of Health.

We are more than happy to help, and participation in this study brings an added benefit: engaging residents in our mission is a boost to their overall wellness. It just feels good to know your efforts are shaping science which in turn will help others in the future.

This focus on technology – especially humanized technology – reflects what we are all about at Knollwood as we carry on with our mission to offer the full continuum of compassionate, innovative, health and wellness care.

So what do we do with all this valuable information? Our plan is to disseminate it as widely as possible to improve the quality of life for older adults across the nation.

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Technology

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