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Raising Tech 5

On Ep. 5 of Raising Tech, Rachel Lugge is joined by Haider Mahmood, Senior Director of Vinson Hall Retirement Community in McLean, Virginia.

Haider describes the journey their team embarked on to cultivate the right buy-in from residents for new technologies and the right mix of hands-on technology support this military community needed to ensure the technology they were bringing to their campus had true sticking power. Haider describes touching before and after scenarios of residents who were once tech-adverse, now using technology with confidence and creativity. Haider credits this transformation of technology culture to involving residents in the planning process from day one and enough ongoing hands-on technology support to ensure new technologies can be learned, practiced and used on a consistent basis.

In this episode, Haider shares how Vinson Hall is measuring the RoI for their resident tech program, the practical advice and the tactical steps any community should consider when looking to incorporate new technologies, and the lessons they learned along the way.

Learn more about Vinson Hall Retirement Community and the work that Haider and their team are doing by connecting with Haider Mahmood haiderm@vinsonhall.org.

Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance.

Rachel 

Hello, welcome back to Raising Tech. I’m Rachel Lugge with Parasol Alliance and today’s episode covers part two of All Things Resident Technology. We’re breaking this topic into two episodes because there’s simply so much to cover regarding resident technology programming. The options are truly limitless when it comes to how a community designs a resident technology program that will fit their unique needs for their residents, as well as their organizational philosophy. In last month’s episode, we talked with Laura Edwards from Clark-Lindsey in Urbana, Illinois, and we learned how Clark-Lindsey infuses technology into their campus culture. We covered everything from strategic partnerships with a local university to one-on-one hands-on tech support for residents, and how Clark-Lindsey was integrating technology into their future care and lifestyle models for their campus expansion. It was really a rich discussion. So if you missed it, please be sure to go back and check out episode four. So today we are excited to be joined by our guest, Haider Mahmood, Senior Director of Vincent Hall Retirement Community, in McLean, Virginia. Haider, I look forward to learning more about your community’s approach to hands on, on campus resident technology support. Before we dive into the discussion Haider, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and Vincent Hall, what listeners might need to know about you and your community?

Haider 

Thank you for having me on here today to discuss a very important topic. And a little bit about myself, I’ve been in the senior living world for almost 20 years. That has been my very first job, and I never left the aging industry. A little bit about the community in McLean, Virginia. Vincent Hall retirement community has been here for over 50 years, but it is a continuum or a life plan community with roughly about 400 residents. The beauty of our community as a military community, you have to be at least GS 14 or higher level to be able to qualify to live in this community. I’ve been here for roughly about three years now. It is a beautiful 22 acre community, and I encourage everyone to look it up and the rich history that it has.

Rachel 

Excellent. Thank you. Well, yes, we love your community and we love your military residents. And I wonder that demographic that you serve, your military population, what type of programming do you have in place for, for your residents? And this can be general, your general programming and then how does technology factor into that programming?

Haider 

Sure. I mean, we have a vast array of life enrichment programs, whether it is the shows that they attend down to opera shows, or if it is a wine pairing meal happening in another part of the state, as well as on campus programs like our IT committee working with other different residents to incorporate a different technology and the impact that it has on the day-to-day residents lives here. And we have a full fledged fitness program that we’re working to also include additional technology to manage some of the additional data points for more or tech savvy residents as well. This community has almost, if not, more programming, just like any other life plan community might have from a life enrichment program to a chaplain program, to a full-pledged dining program that the residents are engaged in on a day to day basis, whether it’s learning how to cook or taking part in the culinary program within our different dining venues.

Rachel 

Wow. That’s fantastic. How has technology, how has your technology programs, so you kind of mentioned there’s the technology committee you have, I know your residents are highly engaged and have a higher need for technology amenities, and then, kind of have expectations or how your community can support them in using that technology. So can you tell us just a little bit about how your technology programming has evolved? Maybe where it is right now, but also how, how has that evolved over the last couple years?

Haider 

Sure. So we do have a residence called a technology IT committee, and they’re very engaged. I think the last 18 months to two years has triggered further engagement in that area as with the pandemic and lockdown and lack of ability to move around or go into or see family members. I think that helped a lot of our residents to trigger, to learn the additional aspect of technology, where we have created classes on how to utilize, whether it is an iPhone, or a tablet, or any technology that they may have. And not only that we helped support purchasing technology for them along with their family members as well. And tech at home has been a huge component in advancing that growth on campus for our residents, where their family members weren’t able to come and teach them how to utilize, whether it was Skype or Zoom, 

Haider 

it was our onsite IT that was able to provide that support and say, “here’s how you create a username for yourself.” Here’s had to do a couple of these different things. We didn’t have that much of a need for residents here didn’t want to have that level of technology usage before the pandemic as well. Where now technology has driven a lot more on campus to help combat a lot of their day to day, whether it is loneliness or depression for certain residents, and it has an impact in a positive way where they can FaceTime their family, they can instantaneously FaceTime other residents on the campus. So from where the program was say, couple of years ago where those infrastructures and things were not to the level where they needed to be to now, we’re able to support and conduct classes based on the need of our residents, as they determine and send those information out to tech at home or ourselves that we like to learn a little bit more on how does our wifi work? Or how to work an iPhone when these different things happen to them more. How to fix these things? They are leaps and bounds from where they were several years ago.

Rachel 

I think there’s probably listeners that are on the same journey and feeling and experiencing the exact same scenario that you mentioned where technology is now, it’s a must have for our residents and as a result of the pandemic. So what I think is unique about Vincent Hall and your approach is you have this, you have, your residents are pretty heavily involved in the technology planning and programming and help identify what supports need to be put in place. Can you tell us a little bit more about that resident, the IT Tech Committee and how maybe that sparked the evolution with the on campus tech support program?

Haider 

Sure. Yeah, our residence IT committee, well, first off it’s extremely important to have the buy-in of your residents, the stakeholders for any program to be successful. You have to have their buy-ins as they are the end users. It’s important for them to understand what that technology is going to look like and the impact it will have on their day-to-day life. With that in mind, it was important to have them as the main stakeholders initiate and be part of the process and understand their needs and wants in terms of overall quality of life on our campus and beyond. And so that was one of the main highlights for engaging our residents and them wanting to be a part of it. Again, they took time out of their day-to-day routine to, A. learn the technology, a different technology aspect of it, and then form a committee to say, “we like to be part of one of the IT committees, and we will just be an additional wing of Tech at Home so that if there are certain things that we can help other residents and educate, we want to be able to do that.”

Haider 

So while Tech at Home can also concentrate and work on expanding the program and educating and training on the other things. It’s a rewarding feeling for all of them to be able to help their colleagues and their neighbors with the advancement of technology.

Rachel 

Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned Tech at Home and just for listeners who might not be aware, Tech at Home is actually the technology on campus resident support program offered by Parasol Alliance. However you could create or develop an on-campus resident technology support program without using tech at home, but to have this dedicated resource onsite. Now that involves something else I think that’s interesting about your evolution in your technology programming, is this a tech at home person. So this technician that was coming to your community was early on a part time person who was maybe coming to campus one or two days a week to meet with residents one-on-one to help troubleshoot with technology problems and teach an occasional class that has now grown because of the outcomes of your IT committee and identifying that there’s a bigger need. And there’s more opportunity for advancing technology on your campus.

Haider 

No, absolutely. I think it was extremely important for the success of the program and advancing our technology and need and want of our residents on-campus. It’s so important having that person on campus because it improves efficiency. It builds that person-centered relationship with that resident when they see that individual on a consistent basis, yes, and that trust level with them. So it was extremely important for us to be able to have that dedicated and consistent full-time person rather than for those residents. I think as we continue to get residents involved in technology and be part of the technology, you have to have additional support, hands on support for them to be able to feel comfortable, to be part of that technology move. I think without it, it wouldn’t be where it is right now. Our residents or residents in general will just not want to engage in it just for the fear of it’s too hard or too difficult to learn because somebody’s on a remote and is trying to teach it, rather than a one-on-one with a resident and where they’re able to ask questions in the comfort of their own home as well, and feel that high level of comfort and security, and that has helped a lot in in our community.

Haider 

I mean, I can tell you, I have seen more residents with their iPhones and tablets within the last two years on our campus than I have probably ever done before. And it’s amazing. I mean, you have a hundred year olds walking around with their iPhones, and they’re taking pictures and using technology to enhance their quality of life on a day-to-day basis. Whether they’re taking pictures from outside and utilizing that picture in the art studio to create, make that into a real life art. That wasn’t part of their day-to-day living before the introduction of that technology. So it was huge.

Rachel 

That’s great. And what a Testament to be able to witness that, and just say like, there’s a clear difference between prior to having the technology available and the support, because that’s as you identified key, key to the success of having these technology amenities on your campus is the proper support. I love that. And I think it’s also influenced some of the new programming that you’re bringing to the campus and the willingness and openness of your residents to receive that new technology. So I think more recently you launched a resident engagement platform. Can you share a little bit about how your, the receptiveness of your residents, how they were involved in that as well as your tech at home technician on campus support?

Haider 

Sure. We engaged again, the residence IT committee as part of that as well, along with Tech at Home to make sure the foundation was strong as to what is it, the expectation of this portal? What is it? What are the gaps? What are we missing? What is it that residents would like to see on that portal so that it has the highest level of impact and the functionality of the portal is at the highest level. And so they have taken it among themselves, the IT committee to ask and create a survey for other residents to say, to check, “what is it that you would like to have on there?” And after they have done their survey and brought back that data and saying, “here’s some of the things that we’re looking for within the portal,” and then going through the process to selecting the right partner that’s going to be able to provide all of those different different things that our residents are looking on that portal.

Haider 

And then, of course, Tech at Home, engaging them to make sure that they’re with us every step of the way. So then they can support us and teach us as to how, from a technology standpoint, how the portal will work and the managing of that portal. And continuing education on the portal. So from day one, they were all involved, including the residence IT committee, and as we went through the project and implementation, our resident IT team was there to see how to do different steps within the portal. So that they wanted to continue to stay engaged and help their peers, those that may not have been here at the time on how to sign up on those portals. What are different information sets that can be viewed? And then our Tech at Home training residents on what is the portal, it’s a new concept in the community.

Haider 

And so what is a portal? What can be done on the portal? What’s the level of security on the portal? This is a military community with residents that have done very high level classified jobs. So safety and security was the highest sort of a pinpoint for them to make sure before signing up for it, how secure is it? So having them buy into it and having our Tech at Home educating them on that aspect of it. But that was huge for residents to be able to start signing up and start seeing the level of documentation or things that they wanted to see there. I tell you, I was so excited as soon as we had a launch and we started the whole campaign and we were having residents sign up. Within, I think it was a day or two.

Haider 

I’m seeing residents posting their pictures, family pictures, and this and that under their account. And that was amazing. I didn’t expect such a quick turnaround and its success and utilization of that portal as I did to some of these residents. Where now I think it has created so much efficiency because I can post a document in there and they will have access to it instantaneously. And then they can always reference back to. Where previously, it’s a hard copy, that’s going door to door. So the level of efficiency is huge through the portal as well. And again, it is an ongoing development off that portal because every day there’s something different than they like to see on there that would help and benefit the whole community. And so we’re continuing to make sure that we can book that program in advance with the support of tech at home. And then we continue to do classes. We do class as one-on-one education with new residents here. Here’s a portal. Here’s how we can help you sign up. And they all have, it’s their choice if they want to sign up or not. But I can tell you, we had about over 130, I believe it was last week I checked, 130 independent living residents that have signed up on the portal out of 280 some residents. That was a pretty good number to have it on there. I’m happy with it.

Rachel 

Yeah. Especially for a relatively new initiative and it took off well. So thank you for describing what elements added to the success of that launch. I think that’s great. And then having that resource, that on-campus tech support for your residents is going to help in launching what comes next after this. There’s already trust and buy-in and a feeling that there is support in place. If there’s something new that is incorporated, their willingness to move forward and try and know that they can, they have the support to learn and grow is going to help as you continue to advance technology on your campus.

Haider 

No, absolutely. I think trust, that’s a huge, huge component of it. Trust and credibility for any of those programs and the individuals. Had it just been a remote service, as a contractor where that’s implementing the portal aspect, or the software aspect of it. But our residents want to be able to know that they can go to someone here on campus, that after the implementation, that team is not going to go away. And so that trust level, they want to have that and they want to see that. That’s what makes it also such an important program and initiative. And the success of the initiative I think was driven a lot more so from that end where they’re able to see that the person is there, best support services there. If we ever need any help on it, those individuals are going to be there to help us.

Rachel 

Excellent. And also, you talked about efficiency. I think there’s also, if there wasn’t a dedicated resource or team person in place, who would that fall to? It would be like enrichment?  Your activity directors, maybe receptionists, maybe the server in the dining room, helping with an iPhone question or something. So a question that listeners might have as they’re kind of hearing you describe your program is the return on investment. So you talked about impact and efficiency. That’s excellent. And I think it’s very easy to understand that this is worth the long term investment. Can you talk a little bit about how your team kind of justified making the investment in having an onsite resource and really how you’re going about paying for that program?

Haider 

Sure, I look at the ROI, the return on investment both the tangible and the not so tangible. So implementing this and starting to work on reducing the number of flyers and number of other documents that gets printed and sent out to the residents. So, on average, what that looks like from a cost perspective, from a labor perspective, the individuals that are delivering those flyers door to door throughout our two two buildings, just alone that one area will give us our ROI on it. But then again, you look at the impact the social cycle impacts on residents’ quality of life, and the reduction in depression and loneliness. The introduction of this technology so that they’re able to be closer to their friends and family. Whether it’s through Zoom, and whether they’re playing different games with their friends on those and helping them learn that aspect of it.

Haider 

Continuing to measure that aspect, of course we’ll take longer, but there’s been absolutely studies done on that, where how technology has helped reduce loneliness and depression and therefore reduce the cost of overall healthcare. And so it’s connected in all of those aspects. But the immediate impact for our community will be, there’s a lot less printing. There’s a lot more efficiency involved in communicating our message to the broader population. There is that sense of happiness that I see in a hundred year old taking pictures, and then incorporating that into their art studio. Whether they’re painting it or whether they’re creating, working with a photography class to make it and display it on our semi-annual art show. So that is priceless. I mean, that alone covers my ROI there many times over. And so that’s how I would quantify that investment and continue to invest within a technology, whether it’s within our dining program or other program to create efficiencies. Enhance the program, enhance the quality of life for our residents. I see it going very, very far.

Rachel 

I love the story of the hundred year old, taking a picture with her iPhone and then turning that into a digital print or painting. I mean, that gave me chills because you’re right. That’s exactly what this is all about, right? This is what we’re trying to achieve, improving quality of life and opening doors and enhancing lifestyles. And I think I imagined this is also a great opportunity from a marketing perspective to showcase this as you’re part of your competitive advantage.

Haider 

Yeah, no, absolutely. And again as more and more baby boomers retire and move, getting closer and some already moving into a life plan communities like ours, this is a huge competitive edge to be able to say, “here is where we stand from a technology standpoint. Here’s our resident portal. Here’s what you’re able to do and have access to on our campus.” I’m looking to see how we can further advance that to those on the waitlist. Here’s what you have to look forward to and potentially triggering some of those wait lists, individuals say, “well maybe I am ready to move in now, or they have all these other things going on. I think I may be ready.” So, I continue to look to see how do we use technology to innovate, but also what additional competitive edge will they provide us and how do we display that to the broader community, to the waitlist individuals, to the family members? And so we continue to do it in that manner as well. So I’m looking to see how to advance it and potentially add on the waitlist member and create an additional portal for them so that as that group works to move in, they will also already have a certain level of connectivity amongst themselves as well. And to the community that they will live in, to their new home.

Rachel 

What advice would you give a listener who is exploring creative solutions for their resident technology programming?

Haider 

I would say definitely get the buy-in of the residents. You’re not going to get every one of them. So create that IT committee. Create those immediate stakeholders that are going to be your voice in the community amongst their peers to help make that program a successful program. But then also don’t think of immediate need, think of the long term next three to five years what that looks like. So that you’re investing. But that in mind, so your infrastructure is solid and is set for the future as well. So as you advance it, implement and upgrade, you won’t need to really change the infrastructure. And so there’s less costs associated and a higher level of efficiency as well. Always think what’s the impact in the next three to five years as well and build it from there?

Rachel 

Well, I completely agree with Parasol Alliance, we specialize in technology strategic planning, and so amen to that. We are always talking about making sure you have the right infrastructure and foundation in place. I think especially over this last year, there’s just been this boom in technology amenities available and technology solutions that look so appealing and so attractive, but do you have the right foundation in place to support that solution? Do you have the right infrastructure? Do you have the right resources. As we talked about, as far as human resources that are going to be available to support that technology. But that’s great advice. One final question as we wrap up the conversation. Haider, what excites you most about the future of senior living as it relates to technology?

 

Haider 

I’m excited to see how we can continue to have that personalized approach to technology so that human factor doesn’t go away. I’m excited about seeing how can we continue to advance the technology or different things that are in place without having to go a hundred percent digital for those residents? Cause I think we’re, I know we’re in the business of people, and so we need to make sure we continue to emphasize that. But I’m excited to see how technology can be further incorporated in dining, in life enrichment. In different aspects of day to day resident living. I know tele-health is huge, and there’s a lot of advancements that are happening and have happened there, robotic, AI, and the impact that it will have on residents day to day life. I’m extremely excited about seeing all of those. Some I’ve seen already implemented, whether a delivery robot and some of these other things. I’m looking forward to seeing what is a future life plan community with hundred percent or at least pretty close to advanced technology implemented already in those communities looks like.

Rachel 

How exciting, right? The future. The future is so exciting. There’s so much opportunity. Especially for senior living. I too am excited to see what comes. Thank you Haider for joining me today. This was such a great conversation. Thank you for sharing your insights, your journeys, in regards to technology. I know it’s going to be a huge value to our listeners. So I think that’s a wrap for us today. Thank you everybody for listening to another episode of Raising Tech. Be sure to tune in next month when we meet with Jack York of iN2L, as he shares his passion for engagement in Bridging the Gap between technology and older adults. You’re not to want to miss it. Okay. Thanks everybody. See you next time.

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Raising Tech 5