Lutheran's newest senior housing options, Smartments, have garnered the attention of LeadingAge, which sent representatives for an evaluation and to gather research.
Lutheran of Jamestown staff recently met with LeadingAge representatives Robyn Stone, senior vice president of research for LeadingAge, and Alisha Sanders, managing director for LeadingAge, who traveled from Washington, D.C., to discuss the precedent-setting technology Lutheran has shared with a number of its residents.
According to Sharon Hamilton, vice president of senior housing for Lutheran, hosting a LeadingAge visit was both an honor and a very exciting opportunity that could benefit seniors in rural communities nationwide.
Lutheran of Jamestown staff are shown meeting with LeadingAge New York representatives in one of Lutheran’s Smartments, which are independent senior housing apartments equipped with helpful technology. From left are: Patricia Eckwahl, director of marketing for Lutheran; Sharon Hamilton, vice president of senior housing for Lutheran; Robyn Stone, senior vice president of research for LeadingAge; and Alisha Sanders, managing director for LeadingAge.
P-J photo by Dusten Rader
"It's wonderful because what we want to know is, 'Does it really work and how effective is it?'" Hamilton said. "We needed an objective group to come in and give us an evaluation to see if we're going down the right path. We would like to get something that is appropriate for a broad range of people. We're a small city in a rural community, and we know that it's not going to work for everybody, but is there a group that it will? Is this something that would be adaptable to the community at large? We don't know, and that's why we were very happy to belong to an organization that has this research component."
One of LeadingAge's goals is to create a center within the organization that would look at what could be learned from the members of the organization. Specifically, the center would look at topics that were innovative, creative practices which could provide lessons for the senior health care system as a whole, Stone said.
"What are the successes and failures, and how do we take what they are learning to help them improve as well as take those learnings to share them with other members and public policy - the bridge between policy, practice and research," Stone said. "Sharon (Hamilton) approached us last year to take a look at the Smartment building, which was designed specifically with some intentional technology to really look at aging successfully in the community, as well as the role of technology and the larger support system here, and how this might create a better aging in place for folks. Then to think about how you might apply it to the larger community here, and the community beyond the campus."
After touring the facility and interviewing its residents, Stone was quite impressed with what she found, she said.
"I think it's incredible," Stone said. "Not really just for the technology, but for the innovation of recognizing the potential for the future in terms of people remaining in the community, and trying to avoid unnecessary events like hospitalization. Thinking about how we integrate technology into living spaces and people's lives to provide a feeling of safety and security, and not just for the elders but for their families."
According to Stone, she has seen other members of LeadingAge experiment with technology similar to the Smartments. But, the beauty of the Lutheran program, she said, is that there was state money available to take advantage of as it shifted from nursing home to home- and community-based services.
"I commend them on recognizing an opportunity," Stone said. "And, also the notion that this isn't something that was going to be done once and it's over, rather that it's going to be an interactive process. It's hard for an organization to be a guinea pig, so to me that's one of the assets of many of members - that they're willing to think about the investment to really make this work. That is what I call continuous quality improvement."
Smartments are independent senior housing apartments equipped with helpful technology. The aspect of the housing option under the most scrutiny includes the Grand Care Systems touch screen computer, which has been specifically designed for the aging population. The computer connects with sensors around the apartment which monitor behavior patterns of tenants to determine changes in health.
The sensors located around the apartment, called Quiet Care, are part of a passive monitoring system that utilizes unobtrusive motion detectors which track important daily activities such as sleeping and eating. The data gathered by the sensors is available for viewing via the Internet for wellness coaches or family members to monitor the status of residents. Changes in behavior can signal an alert to check on the individual in case of a change in health status.
The computer is also connected to the Internet, allowing users to stay connected to family and friends via social networking, video chat, send messages, play games, videos and music, as well as manage medications.
Other amenities are also available in the Smartments, such as: an emergency alert system, walk-in showers, a washer and dryer combo, central air and more.
The Smartments are located in a 14-unit building on Lutheran's campus, 737 Falconer St. in Jamestown. For more information, call 665-8197 or visit www.lutheran-jamestown.org.