On Friday, July 23rd, seniors who reside at Fellowship Square Mesa and in the surrounding community spent part of their day traveling on grandiose adventures to places like Niagara Falls, the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, the Antarctic coasts to visit penguins, the clouds above for a wild skydiving ride, and so on. These exciting locations were experienced from the site of the Senior Tech Event thanks to the virtual reality “trips” made possible by Rendever—who helps seniors overcome social isolation through the power of virtual reality and shared experiences. It’s touching to note that one couple entertained their nostalgia as they visited their childhood homes along with the houses in other states where they raised a family together. Another husband watched with joy as his wife, diagnosed with dementia, continued to return to the virtual reality ‘booth’ for more memorable adventures she was thoroughly enjoying.
Adding to this fun technology experience, seniors had the opportunity to have their gait and balance measured in real time by a screening device in order to identify and reduce the likelihood of falls plus recommend the best fall prevention measures—or even senior-focused rehab services, if necessary. While this health-oriented technology option was new to some seniors, the majority have already utilized its benefits at Fellowship Square Mesa since Symbria is an ongoing partner on campus. Other technology partnerships represented at the unique Senior Tech Event that senior residents interacted with included SRP (one of Arizona’s largest utilities who shared some of the smart apartment features they sponsored), the Amazon Alexa for Senior Living division, Unwired Engineering (who helps deploy the “backbone” network on campus), and InTouchLink (the communication system platform that connects residents to campus amenities and each other).
One of the main highlights at this event occurred as seniors were then guided on a personalized tour of Fellowship Square Mesa’s leading smart apartment that displays many of the technology options being adopted by seniors, and even advanced into further development thanks to their usage plus ongoing input. One resident who has macular degeneration (an eye disease that affects vision) helped pioneer the concept for a smart apartment feature where the Alexa kitchen device (which comes standard in every apartment at this community) can dispense 16 ounces of water from the smart Moen sink faucet while the senior merely holds the mug underneath the spout. Then, Alexa will heat the water up in the smart microwave for 30 seconds so there is no risk of pressing the incorrect cook time due to failing vision. Or, perhaps, it’s helpful for a resident to have Alexa dispense 78-degree hot water from the smart faucet, turn on the soft daytime lighting or specified light colors underneath the kitchen cabinets, turn on the TV screen to show the daily activity options, or adjust the apartment temperature on the Ecobee smart thermostat. No problem, as these options are just a voice command away!
Meanwhile, Ryan Hendrix, the General Manager of the Arizona State University Cloud Innovation Center (ASU CIC)—which is supported by Amazon Web Services and partners with Fellowship Square Mesa on fall prevention measures—stood by in the smart apartment bedroom to demonstrate the installed motion sensors, smart lights, and related Alexa technology developments that collectively created the proprietary fall-prevention program that is underway. For instance, it allows the seniors to get up out of bed in the middle of the night to use the restroom by safely getting grounded on the edge of their bed before the bedroom, hallway path, and bathroom are automatically lit up for them to prevent any falls. All the while, the Aura Air Purifier installed on the hallway wall is recycling the air in the home every 10 minutes and detecting plus killing any viruses or bacteria down to .25 microns in an ongoing effort to purify the air being breathed. This smart apartment is truly a sight to see (and hear!) as seniors begin to welcome modern day technology into their everyday lives; thankfully, Fellowship Square Mesa provides ongoing tours of this unprecedented smart home living experience for seniors.
Amazon’s Senior Solutions Architect, John Coyne—who has been developing the state-of-the-art Alexa for Senior Living program, flew in from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters to be part of the Senior Tech Event. He noted, “Today’s event was a positive slap in the face to the notion that seniors don’t care about technology! We’re seeing a major shift in the senior living vertical here at Amazon.” Mr. Coyne has partnered with Todd Carling, the Business Development Manager at Fellowship Square Mesa, over the past few years and credits much of the momentum they’ve seen with Alexa Community adoption to the innovative implementation at this resort-style senior living community in Arizona. It was only the second senior living facility in the nation to implement the voice-activated Amazon Alexa Community technology for senior residents in their independent living and assisted living apartments on campus, and its far-reaching technology application seen at Fellowship Square Mesa surpasses what’s being done in the senior living space anywhere else across the nation.
What is truly remarkable is the fact that this is only the beginning of the technology shift among aging seniors, as ongoing developments with the Alexa for Senior Living program and smart apartment features are evolving. Tech companies will begin to understand more and more that seniors cannot be overlooked when it comes to utilizing innovative technology that is undeniably changing their quality of life…and perhaps their quantity of years, as well. Fellowship Square Mesa’s visionary leader and Executive Director, Jon Scott Williams, emphasized: “With this type of technology available to seniors, they can use their words to garner help for daily activities in the midst of their body functions slowing down or failing—which ultimately restores dignity to these insightful human beings who still have a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share with the world.” We look forward to the next technological phases to come at Fellowship Square Mesa that will further connect, support the safety, and maintain the health of senior lives.