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The Burning Question Senior Living Needs to Ask: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Our Residents?

“It’s so hot in Arizona, doctors are treating a spike of patients who were burned by falling on the ground.”

This excerpt is from a recent CNN article detailing the heat-related risks associated with living in Maricopa County this past July. But extreme heat isn’t isolated to Arizona. This past July was the hottest month on record for the entire planet. And if climate patterns hold, 100º temperatures won’t be noteworthy; they’ll soon be par for the course.

This poses a unique threat to senior living communities. Because older adults can’t sweat as effectively as young people – an issue exacerbated by many medications older patients take – it’s difficult for them to regulate their bodies and stay cool. Senior living communities must carefully regulate temperatures for them. And that means ensuring every aspect of community life accounts for extreme heat and resident health.

Here are four ways your community can do just that.

1. Broadcast Heat-Related Risks with Emergency Communication Tools

When extreme weather is on the horizon, you want to ensure your residents have ample warning to prepare and fit their routines around it. That starts with using a reliable communication tool. With the right senior living tech, you can:

  • Segment audiences (residents, staff, families, etc.).
  • Craft reusable templated messages.
  • Send emergency messages over various channels.

For extra visibility, you can use digital displays and in-room TVs to broadcast heat warnings. This way, every person onsite can reliably see what’s going on with the weather and what steps your community is taking to address it (setting up a cooling center, patio umbrellas to outdoor spaces, etc.).

The takeaway here: the right communication technology helps you deliver important messages at the right time, in the right place, to the right people.

2. Recommit to Hybrid Life Enrichment Activities

For the past several years, communities have offered hybrid programming to help curb illnesses and infection rates. But the foundations of a hybrid life enrichment program can also benefit you when dealing with extreme heat. Reason being: it lets residents engage in an environment that’s most comfortable to them.

Lots of life enrichment activities during warm weather seasons involve being outside. But on days when the weather makes this tough, consider which aspects of those activities you can translate to an indoor environment. For instance, maybe you turn a community garden day into an opportunity to cultivate and propagate plants in a shared resident space.

In cases where the weather may be too hot for some residents but not others, think of remote alternatives to your outdoor events. (This is where virtual fitness classes and in-room TVs can make a huge difference.) For instance, if you’re offering an outdoor pilates class, you can either stream it for residents to complete in their own dwellings or give residents access to a platform, like Spiro100, with hundreds of on-demand fitness classes.

3. Implement Smart Home Technology for Efficient Cooling

Smart home technology has become a more popular investment for senior living communities in the past several years. But it’s not just helpful for promoting resident autonomy or saving staff time; it can also help residents efficiently regulate their living environments.

Programmable thermostats, for example, let residents check their unit’s temperature and adjust it accordingly. The energy efficiency, in this case, comes from the programming schedule. If residents are out of town, there’s no reason to expend energy on cooling their units. So you or those residents can schedule the air conditioning to turn off during that time. And with certain thermostats being controllable via voice command, residents can quickly make temperature changes – without even needing to get up.

This also applies to technology like smart roller shades and ceiling fans. Is it getting hotter outside? Help residents program their blinds to close when the sun’s out, which will help limit thermal heat gain. Feel humid? Residents can get the air moving with a tap of their smart fan’s remote.

4. Monitor Resident Health with Wearable Devices

The most recent data from AARP shows that more than 20 percent of older adults own a wearable device. This tech isn’t just helpful for responding to text messages (in the case of Apple Watches) or checking daily steps, either. It can also share the user’s biometric measurements with their community’s onsite care team.

We know these wearables were particularly useful during community quarantines, as they let staff remotely monitor residents’ vitals. But they’ll also be a valuable resource as the weather heats up and communities make an even more concerted effort to manage and promote resident wellness.

Here are some common biometric measurements that wearables can share with medical teams when wearers are exposed to excessive heat:

  • Low blood pressure.
  • Rapid or abnormal heart rate.
  • Elevated body temperature.
  • Increased respiration rate.

Outside of biometric tracking, wearable devices can also let residents transmit medical alerts to staff – whether with the push of a button or a voice prompt. In both cases, wearables help you regularly assess residents’ health and give your residents the peace of mind that, should any emergency occur, you’ll keep them safe and healthy.

Emergency Preparedness Is Key to Enhancing the Aging Experience

We’re entering a new era of senior living. And it’s not just due to the silver tsunami or influx of higher-acuity older adults. Temperatures have been steadily rising for several decades. While plenty of older adults appreciate the heat, scorching temperatures are a safety hazard – and they don’t appear to be subsiding.

In many ways, 2020 forced communities to rethink their emergency preparedness. How can we reliably communicate with residents? Their families? What technology will help promote a safer environment? How can we continue to deliver an engaging, enriching senior living experience?

The coming years will test the effectiveness of those considerations and the plans that sprung from them. The most prepared communities will, very likely, be the same ones that draw the most interest from older adults. Why? Safety is one of the top concerns for prospective residents and their families.Want to learn how the right senior living technology can future-proof your community and promote resident health? Reach out.


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