Many health risks facing older adults are simple problems with complex solutions. These health risks have only been amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Falls are a great example of this. One in 4 Americans 65 and older fall each year, and an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 11 seconds. Every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall. While falls aren’t entirely preventable, senior living and care communities can lower the risk in a number of ways. One way is the adoption of smart home solutions that make it easier for seniors to navigate their environments.

But to implement smart home solutions and other innovative technologies, a senior care community needs a robust IT infrastructure to support them. This includes a wired network that can handle high-bandwidth applications such as video and wireless networking to enable mobile, flexible deployments.

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Here are four ways that a robust IT infrastructure is integral to supporting senior care.

1. Smart Home Solutions

Smart home solutions give older adults greater control over their physical living environments. Using voice-activated devices, older adults can call family members, set reminders to take medications and easily access entertainment and information. These solutions also allow residents to use their voices to turn on lights, rather than fumbling in the dark for light switches that may be across the room from their beds. When a resident can say “turn on the lights” and automatically light up a hallway, that can be the difference between an uneventful midnight trip to the bathroom and a trip to the emergency room.

2. Video Visits

After many years of false starts, video calling has finally penetrated the consumer market. Many of these solutions are incredibly easy to use, making them an ideal fit for older adults who want to keep in touch with their loved ones. The value of these solutions is readily apparent for older Americans whose families live far away, but the ongoing COVID-19 situation really underscores how important it is to give older adults good ways to stay connected. Many senior care, assisted living and nursing centers have been forced to ban visitors completely, increasing loneliness for a population that is often already isolated. This loneliness can also lead to depression and suppression of the immune system, further compromising the health of this population. But for facilities with robust networks and smart devices at the ready, virtual visits have helped residents to stay connected with their loved ones.

3. Virtual Reality

While virtual reality is probably more commonly associated with young gaming enthusiasts than with people in their 70s and 80s, the technology can be a source of entertainment, enrichment and even medical treatment. For instance, one assisted living community near Boston partnered with a technology startup to use VR to allow residents to virtually attend the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory parade in 2019. Samsung partners have developed an application that helps people with severe macular degeneration to see clearly again, and another that uses VR content to manage pain.

4. Telehealth

Strong IT infrastructure is essential for supporting telemedicine and remote patient monitoring solutions in senior living communities. According to one survey, more than half of older adults are open to the idea of telehealth appointments, with older adults citing benefits including faster service, convenience, cost savings and better access to healthcare professionals. And it’s important to note that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services. Telehealth support is a crucial tool in any response to the COVID-19 virus.

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