The Biggest Takeaways from the ‘Improving the Resident Experience’ panel at SLTS

This was our second year attending the Senior Living Transformation Summit, and we had the pleasure of hosting a panel about adopting and implementing technology in senior living, and how it can improve the resident experience. Some of the brightest minds in the industry were on this panel: Sara Kyle, Founder, and Kelly Stranburg, Principal, with LE3 Solutions, Barbara Solomon, Vice President of Revenue Operations at Benchmark Senior Living, and Aras Erekul, National Director of Integrative Wellbeing at Watermark Retirement Communities. Let’s take a look at some of the key problems and challenges we discussed about improving the resident experience:

It’s not only about implementing technology, it’s about implementing and sustaining that technology

After introductions, discussions started around the topic of technology and how communities were using it over the last year. It didn’t take long for one, glaring question to be asked. It seems obvious, but why haven’t we used the technology that’s been at our disposal before this past year? What has stopped communities from using commonplace technology like video conferencing, digital scheduling, and more? And in this modern year of 2021, there are still communities that don’t have workable Wi-Fi for staff or residents to use in the buildings. Social distancing and the loss of group interactions because of COVID-19 put a big spotlight on the need for upgrades and improvements in the technology. Not only that, the training necessary to use that upgraded technology by the staff was an issue that leadership had to act on, and fast. 


That brings us to an important lesson for companies trying to quickly implement new technology in their communities. They need to make sure that their staff can implement it into their workflows and use it correctly and efficiently. Because while these technology systems may add a lot of value to a community in times like this, special consideration needs to be placed on how  how much staff labor will go into managing the technology consistently and efficiently so it can provide said value.

Companies like Benchmark Senior Living are keeping this in mind by supporting the staff, and recognizing the need for that continuous support in order to maintain success. “We made sure moving forward at Benchmark that we’ve really supported the teams and helped them understand how to utilize and implement the technology put in place and then give them the tools and training to sustain that technology,” says Barbara Solomon, VP of Revenue Operations at Benchmark Senior Living. 


Moving forward, we can also guess that many of these providers who did implement the technology successfully will use it post-social distancing, as well.

Being reactionary with technology can do more harm than good

On the flipside, there were some providers who were eager and willing to adopt technology as quickly as possible if it meant solving their immediate activity or engagement problems. When residents couldn’t leave their rooms due to social distancing, the first thought was usually to put a TV-based content system in the rooms with the residents. But then, with that TV-based content system comes the need for constant, new content that staff needed to provide. The quick fix solution ended up becoming a long-term burden on the staff to keep the residents happy to entertain them while socially distancing in their individual rooms. 

The pandemic put a spotlight on how far away we are from person-centered care

Another hot topic of the discussion was person-centered care. Socially distancing for an entire year in these senior living communities has shown the industry how much engagement teams and activity teams were relying on group activities. Without those an an option, it became increasingly obvious to programming and care teams just how important human connections and face-to-face interactions were. When residents were lacking them, their quality of life took a massive hit.  

“Prior to COVID-19, traditional programming options were 80% group based leaving little room for small group and 1-on-1 activities.”

Sara Kyle

“Prior to COVID-19, traditional programming options were 80% group based leaving little room for small group and 1-on-1 activities,” says Sara Kyle. “As a result, the pandemic exposed just how how far away we truly are/were from person-centered engagement. I do not think we would have paused to realize this significant miss until we we did not have a choice and all group programming was suspended.  Now, 20% is group programming and 80% is that one-on-one or small group interaction. This is one positive disruption we must not lose, but in order to be successful and effective, we must better understand who our customer is and how they want to spend their time.”


As programming starts to open up in communities, we are hopeful that this new normal with the resident experience being at the center will become the status quo.

There is a dire need to re-evaluate engagement and the metrics behind it

Do you know how your residents are truly feeling? Are the residents getting the best overall experience they possibly can in your community? These are the metrics that matter. It’s about seeing the ROI of truly knowing who lives in your community and taking the guesswork out of it. 


“How do you create purpose? If that’s not there, it’s just a building filled with people co-living side-by-side,” says Aras Erekul. “It’s not a true community in the sense that people care for each other. From my perspective, that’s what the engagement teams are bringing to the table. That is essential to the whole value proposition of why we’re doing what we’re doing.”


This information can’t live in staff members heads, and it can’t live in a binder. This information needs to be accessible and needs to be presented to the staff instead of making them pull away to find the information. Innovators and technology providers like TSOLife are seeing the need to create comprehensive, resident experience platforms that can do just that for staff members engaging with residents every single day. We need to give engagement and enrichment teams at the ground level the resources to provide individualized care, at their fingertips. 

“Engagement should be full of intention and purpose with opportunities that are evidence-based to support quality of life.”

Kelly Stranburg

“The pandemic highlighted just how critical engagement is and that it must be elevated,” says Kelly Stranburg. “Engagement should be full of intention and purpose with opportunities that are evidence-based to support quality of life. These opportunities should include movement, creative curiosities, and thoughtful connection between residents and between staff and residents.”

A big thank you to these industry thought leaders for being a part of this awesome panel. We hope to see and be a part of more discussions surrounding the resident experience in the future.

About TSOLife

TSOLife is a resident insight and experience platform that leverages AI and simplified data collection to help personalize the interactions and experiences with residents. We specialize in helping communities operationalize better data capture, and we have a lot of tools to help take that captured data and create actionable steps to personalize and enhance the residents’ lives.

People featured in this post:

Sara Kyle and Kelly Stranburg with LE3 Solutions, Barbara Solomon with Benchmark Senior Living, and Aras Erekul with Watermark Retirement Communities

Published by Chelsie Rosatone

Marketing Director at TSOLife

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