Dallas, Texas--For Bill Connell, using the internet is part of his daily routine.
"Technology with a purpose is a great tool," says Connell, who lives at Highland Springs, the Erickson Living community in North Dallas. "It's useful for accomplishing day-to-day tasks, as well as communicating effectively and efficiently."
Connell is part of a rapidly growing cohort of seniors using technology to send and receive emails, engage with others via social media, browse the web, shop through e-commerce, take advantage of online banking, and correspond with health care providers using a patient portal.
A report from the Pew Research Center found that 67 percent of those 65 and older use the internet, a 55-point increase in just under two decades. Three-quarters of internet-using seniors go online on a daily basis.
Learning something new
"Technology has evolved tremendously since I first learned to use an IBM 360 computer with punch cards in the 1960s," says Connell, who attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and enjoyed parallel paths as a Navy reserve officer and program manager for Fortune 500 companies in the telecommunications industry.
These days, Connell has added a few more tools to his technological tool belt as he's developed confidence in his digital skills.
"Throughout my career, I became familiar with the Microsoft Office suite of programs," says Connell. "It's a gradual process. As I needed an application, I learned how to use it."
When Connell moved to Highland Springs in 2011, he says his computer skills were "average."
"A friend asked me to help him create a blog, so I learned how to build a website," he says. "That's when I started to understand the internet's reach."
Connell started his own lifestyle blog, Weight Matters at HSD, detailing life at the North Dallas community. He's a founding member of the Highland Springs Communications Committee, the managing editor of the Voices of Highland Springs newsletter and a social media ambassador for the community.
"Social media gives us a bigger microphone to share our experiences and connect with one another," says Connell, who interacts regularly on the Highland Springs Facebook page.
'Meet residents where they are'
At Highland Springs, Connell enjoys a community with a solid IT structure committed to providing exceptional technology options for residents.
"Our goal at Erickson Living is to meet residents where they are in their technology adoption, and, for those interested, offer opportunities to increase their digital skills as they enjoy an engaging lifestyle," says Hans Keller, Chief Information Officer for Erickson Living. "By providing state-of-the-art technologies and onsite support services, our campuses are ideal settings for residents to utilize an array of digital devices, including smartphones, tablets and voice activated assistants."
Guest wi-fi is available in both clubhouses at Highland Springs, and high-speed wireless internet and phone is available in resident apartments through local providers.
When residents have technology-related questions, they can call or email the IT site manager for free or request support in their apartments for a nominal fee.
Innovative services at Highland Springs
Earlier this year, Highland Springs rolled out a new app, MyErickson, that allows community members to access dining menus, activity calendars, group fitness schedules and resident & staff directories from their smartphone or tablet.
By year's end, the app will be integrated with Alexa, allowing residents to ask Alexa what's for dinner or what's happening on campus.
"The MyErickson app puts so many resources at residents' fingertips and is continually expanding," says Andréa McCarther, Associate Executive Director at Highland Springs and staff liaison to the Communications Committee. "Residents like the convenience of being able to quickly access community information in one, easy-to-use app on their personal devices."
For Connell, the MyErickson app is one more way technology is proving its worth.
"It's easy to open the app and see the menu and nutrition facts for each restaurant on campus, as well as the daily activities," he says. "I can check it from anywhere and stay informed about what's happening at Highland Springs."
About Highland Springs: Highland Springs, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 89-acre campus in North Dallas, Texas. The not-for-profit community of more than 1,000 residents and 520 employees is governed by its own board of directors, affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of Highland Springs. Additional information can be found at http://highlandspringscommunity.com.