In this time of trying to achieve “physical distancing” while minimizing true “social distancing,” communication technologies like Wellzesta are providing significant benefits to senior living communities and their residents. Wellzesta in particular has been working to help communities address socialization challenges by making portions of its engagement solutions available to communities for free during the COVID-19 crisis. To help communities understand how this technology can help them and their residents at this time, we invited Kyle Robinson of Wellzesta to write this guest blog. Please reach out to Kyle if you would like more information on Wellzesta’s special offer.
– Rob Love, President/CEO, Love & Company
The impact of social isolation and loneliness on populations of older adults has received a great deal of attention in the news, especially in the wake of COVID-19. Social distancing, a term commonly used to describe an approach for combating COVID-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus), has been advised to avoid further spread of this contagious disease.
Social isolation isn’t just a new problem. In fact, before the pandemic, one-quarter of our aging population and one-half of those living with physical and cognitive disabilities report living in unwanted isolation. Many reports and articles have clarified the symbiotic relationship among technology, social isolation and health outcomes.
Perhaps the term could be redefined as “physical distancing,” since complete social isolation can have negative effects. While we should stay six feet apart from others physically and remain home as much as possible, we shouldn’t lose contact with the outside world. Luckily, technology offers a wide variety of solutions such as in phone and video calls, online learning resources, virtual group connection, and real-time messaging that can combat loneliness and depression from prevailing during these tough times.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, technology platforms of all kinds have experienced elevated use. With personal contact restricted, technology is helping people stay connected regardless of age or other factors. For example, each day tens of thousands of senior adults and their caregivers use Wellzesta products to stay informed and engaged. The mean age user of the Wellzesta Life software solution is 84, and 75% of subscribers use the app daily. Here at Wellzesta, a health-tech company working with eldercare organizations coast-to-coast, we know how important it is for senior living communities to be able to provide immediate health updates via our software platform, so the right message gets to the right person at the right time.
Today, it’s more important than ever to leverage technology to stay connected to your support network including family, friends and colleagues. Seniors who experience social isolation or loneliness may face a higher risk of mortality, heart disease and depression, says a 2019 report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, nongovernmental organization.
Over the last month, we’ve seen a distinct increase of ‘time in app’ for both seniors and caregivers. The average engagement time has increased by 65%, with the average user spending up to 55 minutes per day in-app. It’s imperative that the community gets out timely and important messages daily, but just as important is providing uplifting resources that engage, connect, and inspire.
Staying engaged and consuming information that is both positive and uplifting is paramount. Technology companies across the world are offering open services and free courses/resources to help connect people during this time. As eldercare professionals, industry experts and family members, our collective experience has helped us better understand the intimate relationship between socialization and good health as we age.
Humans are indeed social creatures, and communities have traditionally grown to accommodate our need to socialize throughout all phases of life, dynamically shifting to meet the specific needs of those aging or less capable around us.
According to a 2019 National Poll on Healthy Aging, more than one-third of adults over the age of 50 feel a lack of companionship, while 27% feel isolated in their day-to-day lives and 28% reported having social interactions once a week or less. These statistics are even more amplified during times of crises.
And when our lack of connection, physical and mental impairments, lack of access to technology and other factors limit our ability to engage, they restrict—at a fundamental level—our somatic potential to live the lives we deserve—to age with dignity and autonomy.
In times like these, technology and software companies like Wellzesta provide platforms for virtual socialization with capabilities to bring people closer together, while providing meaningful care and attention when and where we need it the most.
In light of the fact that social isolation figures continue to rise, there is room for optimism in the growth of new technologies, the emergence of new care methodologies and in the measurable fact that this “stealth crisis” is rousing the public consciousness in ways we never thought possible only a decade ago.
This pandemic—although scary and difficult—may ultimately offer greater energy and capital applied to solving the problem of isolation and access to technology, thereby connecting individuals and communities in a defining, significant way.
If you have any questions or are interested in learning more, I’d be happy to connect. I am always open to chatting about how to create relationship-rich environments for the elders we serve.