May 19, 2024

Innovation & Tech Today

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The Rise of Tech in Senior Care Facilities

SMART Technologies and LifeLoop recently co-hosted an event in Denver, Colorado, tailored for Hilltop Reserve Senior Living Facility members. It was a perfect opportunity for seniors to experience firsthand SMART Technologies’ interactive displays. These displays provide a unique way for elders to enhance their digital literacy and overall well-being. The displays are beneficial for those living with dementia and other age-related illnesses.

This event aligns with the launch of a pilot program targeting seniors across Colorado, reaffirming SMART Technologies’ commitment as a leading tech company dedicated to crafting solutions that facilitate meaningful connections for users encompassing students, teachers, elders, and business professionals.

Director of Marketing Sarah Richards at SMART Technologies spoke with Innovation & Tech Today about the company’s innovations, the goals from the recent event hosted in Colorado, the upcoming pilot program for seniors in the area, and more. 

Courtesy of SMART Technologies

Innovation & Tech Today: Can you please provide an overview of SMART Technologies?

Sarah Richards: I’ve been with SMART for 18 years and ever since I graduated from University. SMART Technologies is a unique company, and the things that make it great are what have made my long career here so fulfilling. SMART invented the original SMART Board® in 1991. We were doing touch-driven surfaces more than a decade before the first iPhone. It’s that same spirit of innovation that keeps us growing today. We’re proud to design, manufacture, and distribute interactive displays and software used by teachers, students, and businesses all around the world.

We’re best known as an education company, but what we really are is a lifelong learning company. Outside of schools, we help businesses give their teams tools that help ideas flow and stick. Our interactive displays help businesses train, communicate, and problem-solve- and these are all different ways of learning. We design and engineer our products from the ground up, and they’re all built with the intent to create opportunities for everyone to participate, add their ideas and energy, and discover what’s possible. The tremendous engagement and trust we’ve built with our customers is something that inspires the whole team, day in and day out. And that’s what makes it a great company to be a part of.

I&T Today: How does the company continue to innovate and advance technology in today’s digital landscape?

Richards: We’ve come a long way since the first interactive touch screen, and now, in some ways, the market is overwhelmed with interactive technology. It’s so important that a technology product adds value and doesn’t just consume resources in its manufacturing and end up in a landfill. One of the ways SMART is adding value is by investing more in research and design for tools and technologies that engage all users. Creating accessible and inclusive technology is vital in ensuring that all participants have a voice and ways to learn and grow.

I&T Today: There was a recent holiday-themed event hosted by SMART Technologies and LifeLoop at Hilltop Reserve Senior Living Facility. Could you provide the goals and outcomes of this event, especially concerning the pilot program for seniors across Colorado?

Richards: We have the privilege of working with senior care facilities in several countries around the world. Most notably Spain, Australia, and, as you mentioned, Colorado. The pilot program in Colorado combines our interactive displays with our newest tools for accessibility, coupled with engaging content for seniors. We’re working with LifeLoop, a Denver company that makes software and content for seniors, to give residents and staff in these communities new ways to connect. The initiative on its surface is about more engagement and entertainment for seniors, but on a deeper level is an impactful aid for community residents.

When seniors connect with interactive technology, especially as a group, it can play a significant role in supporting their cognitive skills and well-being. The goals of the holiday event were to introduce more residents to the technology, engage through games and activities, and have fun as a community. Many of the residents at the event belong to the memory care community at Hilltop, and this was a chance for them to explore, connect, and celebrate the season.   

Survey results from the pilot phase of our work in this space to date indicate improvements in social interaction, attention, participation, motivation, mobility, physical activity, and stimulation for residents. And as a lifelong learning company, that’s tremendously meaningful for us. 

Courtesy of SMART Technologies

I&T Today: Could you elaborate on the upcoming pilot program for seniors in Colorado and the interactive opportunities that SMART Technologies plans to introduce? What impact do you anticipate these initiatives will have?

Richards: This initiative aims to enhance the quality of life for seniors by addressing their unique needs. Together with content from the Lifeloop application, SMART Boards offer a variety of activities, fostering social connection and reducing isolation in care home settings. Even something as simple as giving a resident an emoji stamp they can touch on the display or a map where they can have virtual travel experiences can open up new ways of sharing and connecting with peers and staff. 

We know isolation is a major issue for seniors around the world. One of the most powerful things we saw in surveys at these pilot sites was that respondents reported a 33% reduction in feelings of loneliness while using the technology together. 

In addition to social engagement, the program focuses on supporting cognition through activities like group trivia and collaborative word puzzles. In previous studies, LifeLoop content has shown a 78% improvement in alertness for patients with dementia, and large format, interactive displays with interactive stamps and cubes make that content even more engaging and accessible. There are also therapeutic advantages, like the resident-favorite “Bubble Popper” Lifeloop activity, which encourages specific movements when paired with a SMART Board.

I&T Today: Looking ahead, what exciting developments or projects can we expect from SMART Technologies in terms of product innovations?

Richards: As I said before, innovation is integral to SMART’s DNA. Making an impact on accessibility in spaces like education and senior care is a key driver of our exploration and design. We want learners of all ages to have access to experiences that help them grow to their potential. We call that “inspiring greatness’” and what we mean by that is giving people – all people – tools to be all they can be. 

One of the ways we’re increasing access is through our Tool Explorer technology. I spoke about it earlier, and it’s something we invented. People can touch physical stamps, cubes, and other tools on the display, and it digitally represents their ideas as a shape, symbol, or other communication artifact. This provides people who express themselves non-verbally, or people unable to grasp a pen to write, a new path to engaging meaningfully with technology through aided language. This is one of the most exciting frontiers of technology- how to give all people access to fulfilling experiences, regardless of what they are experiencing in their bodies and minds.  

Picture of By Lindsey Feth

By Lindsey Feth

Managing Editor, Innovation & Tech Today

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