Many of us with the senior living “veteran” badge remember how, as an industry, we played catch-up (and in many areas still are) when advances in technology presented the potential of improving our residents’ quality of life. As a self-confessed science-fiction nerd (see Trekkie), I saw this potential years ago of creating “virtual” experiences and outings for our residents. I was fortunate to have a kindred spirit as my activities manager (back in the days before we called these folks life enrichment directors).

He and I had many brainstorming sessions on topics ranging from how to re-create an outdoor camping trip, to hitching a virtual ride on the space shuttle (complete with dehydrated space ice cream), to flying our residents to Spain for the day. All of which we were able to accomplish using the technology of 15 years ago. Heck, I remember playing with the kids’ new Wii about that same time and thinking, “Gee, wouldn’t this be a great social and physical activity for our residents?”

Do you remember senior living before the advent of wireless technology, electronic health records, and mobile software designed to track delivery of care services and send real-time pictures of mom at the wine and cheese party dancing with Mr. Burns? Before wander guard systems and wearable technology products were readily available and economically viable?

In 1789, Benjamin Franklin stated that the only two certainties in life were death and taxes. We now recognize that a third—change—is not only a certainty, but a constant, varying only in its increasing speed.

Well, let me sound the alert that another revolutionary change is upon us.

Jump on the Technology in Senior Living Train or Chase the Caboose

SMAC is the evolutionary confluence of four primary technologies: social, mobile, analytics, and cloud. This new model is already driving the train of business innovation, including health care. Are you ready to hop aboard or will you be chasing the caboose?

In short, this is the creation of an ecosystem that is transforming e-business to digital, and improving performance, operations, and communication with our customer base (residents, families, employees, health care providers, etc.). An unprecedented amount of information is being captured and shared via mobile devices, wearable technology, social media, web browsing, and electronic health records. When gathered, organized, and analyzed, this explosion of information is creating new business models in many industries—and senior living is next. This new formation offers maximum reach with minimal operating expense. It is a bullet train speeding towards us.

In order to ride this train, all four of these technologies must be in place and robust. This will generate a significant competitive advantage for your company and community.

Although the term SMAC was first used in 2011 or 2012, it has recently taken on new meaning with the advent of advancing mobile technologies and cloud-based data hubs. Social media platforms, such as community Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram, etc., allow for more effective outreach and interactions with existing and prospective customers. Effective analysis of this real-time data allows for improved responsiveness to inquiries and concerns, enhanced insights into customer preferences, and predictive outcomes. “Gosh, our new virtual space station tour received 254 likes on our Facebook page. Hmm, I wonder what we should feature in our next e-newsletter?”

I love disruptive innovations (see iTunes versus CDs) and I see one roaring down the tracks with the nexus of these four technologies. Layer in the growth of both augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence systems, and robotics (e.g., “Biscuit”, the robot dog that I had my kids “train” for use in our memory care communities 10 years ago), and you may also be able to catch a glimpse of the future.

The train has already left the station, and companies still using older platforms, such as dated customer relationship management (CRM) systems, will have difficulty jumping aboard—but it is still possible. These dated systems may not need to be replaced, but they will certainly need to be adapted for this new reality.

As always, the real art behind the science is keeping the complexity of these technologies “behind the curtain” and easy to use for our customers. Granted, high tech can never—and should never—replace high touch in our business, but the combination of the two is a powerful engine.

“All aboard!”

Learn More

Health Dimensions Group (HDG) supports senior living developers and senior care and living providers from concept and pre-development to pre-opening and completion, and can provide ongoing management. To learn more about how HDG can assist you in developing or running your senior living community, please visit, or contact HDG’s team at or 763.537.5700.