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2021 ARGENTUM BEST OF THE BEST AWARDS BEST OF THE BEST


Connecting Residents During the Pandemic Merrill Gardens Senior Living


A SMART DEVICE DESIGNED WITH RESIDENTS’ NEEDS IN MIND


New technology did a lot to connect all of us during the pandemic. But new technology is not often created with older adult user in mind—and sometimes can be nearly impossible for older adults and new users.


To make it possible, Merrill Gardens went to the source: Volara, the largest provider of customized voice-activated solutions to the senior living industry, and Google. The provider, along with CDW Healthcare, worked with Volara and Google to create a specially designed Nest Hub Max solution that would make communicating with loved ones, enjoying entertainment, and getting information easy and safe.


The beta went into 900 apartments—and it was so successful that it’s now a standard at Merrill Gardens communities. A few reasons why they work so well:


• Pre-programmed by Volara with up to 12 resident contacts


• Other connections such as favorite music sites, a hometown newspaper, and museum or concert connections also preloaded


• Contact lists are secure and centrally managed by community teams to stay safe


• Functions are pared down to the few most popular and needed


• All functions are accessible with voice commands or by swiping left or right—no tiny-keyboard-finger-tapping required


• When a resident calls, family and friends can see them in their apartment


• Video space is larger and easier to handle than a typical mobile phone—so phone calls are more rewarding for residents, as well.


“The Google Nest Hub was also a game changer for our team members, particularly the care teams and the active living teams,” Merrill Gardens writes.


Residents quickly got used to using the Google Nest Hub for communication, music, and more.


SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021 ARGENTUM.ORG 19


“We had tried other ways of videoconferencing and connec- tions for residents, but they required a large amount of team member time to connect, as they could be more confusing for residents. While we still offered iPads and large screens for Zoom calls, residents found that with Google Hub, they could connect as needed on their own, without team member assis- tance. This was very important, as our teams were pushed to the limit during the pandemic.”


The devices hit 50 percent adoption early, and quickly went to 80 percent. “It is surprisingly simple to use,” said one resident soon after the community active living director brought over her Google Hub. “She showed me a lot of ways to use it. You just talk to it, and it comes on. I can’t believe it! I am overwhelmed with joy.”


“The key to a successful technology initiative, or any initiative at our communities, is whether it can be used long term,” the provider wrote. “The Google Nest Hub passes that test for us. Even as residents are vaccinated and restrictions begin to loosen, we still see great value in these devices. It is something that residents actually use on a daily basis, in many cases making it a critical part of their daily lives.”


“During the pandemic, the world quickly became accustomed to doing business via Zoom or Teams and with the Google Nest Hub, the Merrill Gardens residents were not left behind.”


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