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‘More accessible and responsive’

Tech-savvy seniors redesign their community website

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March 21st, 2018
(From left) Charlestown neighbors Ann MacKay, Hope Tillman, and Sara Nixon recently redesigned the residents' internal informational website to be more senior friendly.

Residents recently redesigned the internal website to be more senior friendly.

With more than 2,000 people; 300 clubs, classes, and activities; and 110 acres of amenities, there’s always something happening at Charlestown, the Erickson Living community in Catonsville, Md.

In order to keep up with the busy campus, in 2010 the Charlestown Residents’ Council launched an informational website as a tool for Charlestown community members and staff to keep up with day-to-day community news, information on clubs and classes, and fitness center schedules. The online resource also includes a communitywide blog.

Nearly a decade later, the website recently underwent a facelift with the help of a few tech-savvy residents—Ann MacKay, Hope Tillman, and Sara Nixon—who together completely redesigned the website to meet the current needs of the changing population.

“The seniors moving into Charlestown are more and more familiar with technology, and we wanted to provide a website that was up to date,” says Ann, a loyal Apple user.

Ann became proficient in using Apple software on her home Macintosh computer as far back as 1985 and started an Apple support group at Charlestown in

2013, shortly after she moved to the community. Ann now serves as chair of Charlestown’s website committee, a subcommittee of the residents’ council.

“One of my goals for the website was to have it be more accessible and responsive, meaning it would work not just on computers, but on iPads, tablets, and smartphones,” says Ann.

Simpler is better

A retired librarian, Hope is well versed in website development and WordPress, an online website development and content management software. She moved to Charlestown from Boston in 2015 and joined the website redesign team right away.

“I knew I had skills that would be useful so I volunteered, and I guess you could say I came with a loud mouth and a lot of ideas from day one,” says Hope. “Most of us agreed that the website was too text-based and hard to navigate. We wanted to add color and graphics, and it begged for white space. It had to be something that was easy for people to use and easy for seniors to see and click on. The simpler we could make it, the better.”

Sara spent her career as a research and instruction librarian at Towson University and now serves on the website committee at Charlestown. Juggling a busy schedule, Sara manages to dedicate at least four to five hours each week posting content on the new website.

“I used the Microsoft Office Suite web-authoring programs and Internet every day in my former job, and I enjoy opportunities to continue to apply and expand that experience in new venues here at Charlestown,” says Sara. “I’m responsible for posting, editing, and updating the webpage’s content, especially any announcements and details regarding events and activities for the residents.”

The website redesign took about six months from start to finish. It went live July 1, 2017.

The website’s new homepage features large, user-friendly buttons allowing visitors to access events, clubs, volunteer opportunities, maps, menus, online versions of the community’s newspaper The Sunburst, information for new residents, and links to Charlestown’s Facebook page and even the Tribune with just one click.

“Announcements and dining are two of the most popular clicks on the website,” says Hope. “People want to know what’s going on in each of the restaurants and what events are taking place in the community.”

Direct connect

Recent Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are moving toward more digitally connected lives.

Around four in ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013.

Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the Internet, a 55% increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.

“We are just one of many information conduits here at Charlestown,” says Hope. “Some residents prefer to watch the in-house TV station, some read the digital bulletin boards. Change is hard, but we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback and enthusiasm for the website. We know we are not done. A website is never done. We are always looking for the next improvement or changes we can make. It’s always a work in progress, and it will continue to evolve.” 

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