September 1, 2021
High Touch vs. High Tech: Maximizing Interactions with Seniors
If you’ve read some of our previous posts like Buzzworthy New Tech for Seniors or Why You Should Make Dad’s Data a Kitchen Table Topic, you’ve probably gathered that we <3 data and technology. While we are big believers in the power of technology to enrich lives, we also appreciate the very complex, very human aspect of supporting people as they age.
If you work with seniors, there’s no doubt you’ve heard both schools of thought. One is that using gadgets and tablets can be a big turnoff and can derail a client relationship. The other school of thought emphasizes the efficiency and time-saving benefit of using technology is worth the risk.
Since technology choices are constantly changing, new and veteran practitioners alike are constantly navigating the best tools and tactics. You have a new client, but maybe you’re not sure whether to jump right in with some high-tech tools and ideas or stick to old fashioned notes and eye contact. When deciding the best approach, keep your goals in mind.
When should you go it alone without technology tools?
Limited Prep Time
If you don’t have time to test out something new ahead of time, default to your authentic, analog self for successful interactions with seniors. You want to avoid fiddling with user interface and figuring out how to properly use the technology in the middle of your client interaction. Trust your training and experience (maybe a notepad, too) to collect and store the right information.
Keep in mind that living environments may not be equipped with high speed Wifi. Don’t plan to rely on websites, apps or Wifi-dependent Bluetooth features when the space you are using is not connected.
During your first few interactions, make a special effort to spend the majority of time connecting human to human. Body language, eye contact and genuine expressions tell clients that you have their best interests at heart.
To sum it up, if you want to establish a trusting, authentic relationship, leave the gadgets in your bag.
When does it make sense to amp up your interactions with technology?
When you need to communicate data with multiple stakeholders
One of our favorite enablers of digital technologies is data output that can be stored, shared, formatted into infographics and analyzed over time to develop useful insights. Depending on the technology you’re using, you might be surprised to learn what data comes standard with the subscription.
The important caveat here is that personal information is highly sensitive and should be handled with extreme care to protect privacy, especially if it’s being stored or sent via the internet.
When the technology is non-invasive
Consider that every person is on a spectrum of tech savvy. Regardless of age, some people simply prefer old school methods, some may have adopted innovative technologies such as video chatting or Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids, and some might be first in line at the Apple store to be the first to snag the latest device.
You know your clients best, try things out when you feel it is appropriate. As long as the technology you’ve selected to facilitate interactions does not intimidate or detract from a personal relationship, go for it. And remember to explain what you are doing with the technology and invite the client to experience and participate in the activity.
When you have limited time
We could all use more time in the day, and when it comes to maximizing a 15-20 minute interaction, technology empowers us to stay organized and stay on track. Here are some examples:
- You can develop a digital agenda or checklist ahead of time and add bullet point notes to later revisit or report.
- Key learnings, contacts, and resources can be filed and organized and shared via collaboration tools like Google Docs or Microsoft Sharepoint for peers or care teams, saving time for future needs.
- Multi-user dashboards or apps can fill the gaps between live check-ins. Many new “smart” electronics like medication dispensers and fall-prevention scanners have built-in reporting capabilities for care teams for remote monitoring.
High Touch vs. High Tech – The bottom line
Technology such as tablets, mobile devices, robotics and apps are great for supporting an established relationship. If you’re short on time, or need to track and report data, identify the best options through research or professional networks and be choiceful about how and when they are incorporated into your interactions with seniors.
Above all, keep the end game in mind and find the right mix of high-touch and high-tech strategies that work best toward your shared goals with seniors, staff and their care teams.