K4Connect co-founder reveals how the senior living operators’ views on technology have changed since the arrival of COVID-19.
Agetech company K4Connect this week unveiled a new report, based on a survey of staff and residents in senior living communities, which highlights the growing importance of technology in the sector. In particular, the report highlights a growing demand for those technologies that keep older adult residents and community staff connected, engaged and informed.
With the terrible impact of COVID-19 still being felt across the country, K4Connect’s report states that technology is a “universal tool for both residents and staff members to maintain and expand personal connections, better manage daily life in a community setting and increase operational efficiencies.”
Longevity.Technology: It’s common knowledge that older people have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic – not only are they most at risk from the virus itself, but they are also more likely to be impacted by factors such as isolation. We caught up with K4Connect co-founder and CEO Scott Moody to learn more.
When we first spoke with K4Connect last year, COVID-19 had not yet been declared a pandemic. Now, 15 months later, it’s clear that the period has been as challenging for the company as it has for many other businesses, not only due to delays in deployments, but also in terms of seeing the impact on the older demographic it ultimately serves.
“As a society, we were slow in the response to COVID,” says Moody. “And I do think part of that was because it was impacting a part of society that we don’t think about as much – older and less healthy older adults. And we will need to manage our way through that impact for a while. When they talk about COVID’s ‘long tail’, I think that’s particularly relevant in senior living and older adults.”
Technology for living
But, while COVID-19 is still clearly an ongoing concern, Moody is optimistic for the future.
“Now everybody’s really talking about the impact COVID is having, and what permanent impact it will have,” he says. “I think the silver lining could be that older adults are recognised as an important demographic that we need to think about when it comes to technology. And not just health technology, living technology too – engagement, video chat, and all those things that just help you live life.
“Prior to COVID, technology in senior living was seen as a ‘nice to have’ but I think that’s now become a must-have. If you think about the technology adoption curve and ‘crossing the chasm’ – the chasm in this sector has been obliterated, there is no chasm – if you’re not thinking about tech then you’re in the dark ages.”
Moody believes that K4Connect’s approach of unifying technologies under a single “operating system” for senior living communities is well positioned to capitalise on this shift towards technology.
“There are a lot of great technologies out there and technology companies are paying attention to this market,” he says. “But they’re pursuing the market the way they pursue all markets. Whether it’s a device or an app or a system, they’ll pop it in your lap, and leave and you to figure out how to use it. They’re disparate, their information is siloed, and they’re not even necessarily designed for an older adult. So I think a lot of people are looking at these technologies, and thinking ‘Hey, this is great, it could really be helpful, but we’re overwhelmed.’ And that’s where we come in.”
Demand on the rise
The company’s lead product, K4Community, brings together a wide range of smart products for residents, staff and operators in a single, simple interface. And things have picked up as operators start to look beyond COVID again.
“Demand has definitely gone up – our revenues have doubled in the last three quarters,” says Moody, while admitting that the sector also faces challenges. “Occupancies down, so budgets are tight, and there are significant staffing challenges – technology people are in high demand.”
The budgeting challenges at its target customers mean that K4Connect has adapted its strategy a little, so the company will also now do smaller installations of single technologies as well as its full platform.
“Some people are only looking for one thing, like an app, or voice, or digital signage, and so we will now do that piece,” says Moody. “Our real value add, though, is where you’re integrating a lot of technologies in a community, or you want to integrate all of your communities.”
In addition to rolling out more integrations and improving workflows to benefit both residents and staff at senior living communities, K4Connect is also looking at ways to leverage the huge amounts of data to which it has access.
“We don’t sell the data, we don’t own the data, we don’t advertise to our members – we’re there to serve them – but at the end of the day, we could use this data to help improve their lives,” says Moody. “For example, if the platform detects you’re not sleeping well because you’re moving around a lot at night, then it could recommend lowering the temperature a few degrees at night and then warm it up in the morning – and the platform controls the thermostat. Because you often sleep better at a lower temperature, and if you sleep better, you will be healthier. And if you’re healthier, you are happier.”
Targeting aging in place
Earlier this year, K4Connect announced its participation in the 2021 REACH scale-up programme run by the National Association of Realtors. This is an indication of the company’s future plans to focus on bringing its technology into the home environment and the growing “aging in place” market.
“We want to get into the home, but we want to do it in the right way,” he says. “You’ll see us moving into that area this year. I’m particularly interested in serving those that are underserved, both technologically and economically. People are retiring with a lot less money than they used to, and so we need to think about how to serve those people, on a personal level, but also a societal level.”
Our market intelligence report on aging in place will be release this summer. Pre-order your copy here and watch out for more related articles coming soon.