There’s an app for that

New app gives Charlestown residents wealth of info at their fingertips

Created date

March 20th, 2019
Screen shots of the My Erickson App

Screen shots of the My Erickson App

For the last five decades, when you wanted to send flowers or needed a plumber, you let your fingers do the walking and pulled out the Yellow Pages, the household name in telephone directories. But this January, the United Kingdom’s version of the Yellow Pages, Yell, printed their last paper directory and went completely digital. 

And they’re not alone. Whether ordering a pizza or searching for a hotel, these days you would be hard pressed to find a business that isn’t online. Even Americans raised on the Yellow Pages are embracing technology.

Charlestown residents now have easy access to all kinds of information through My Erickson, a free digital app that provides everything they need to know about the Catonsville, Md., Erickson Living community.

Valuable resource

At the touch of a button on his smartphone or tablet, Howie Nixon can see what is on the menu at one of seven restaurants on site at Charlestown. While there, he can also access nutrition information for each dish and check his meal plan balance.

“I use the app nearly every day,” says Howie. “It is a convenient way to get valuable and interesting information about Charlestown.”

But there’s more to the My Erickson app than just dining information. Community members have access to event and activity calendars, group fitness schedules, resident and staff directories, shuttle schedules, and volunteer opportunities, all at the touch of a button.

Available for download on Google Play and iTunes, the free app is accessible to everyone, community member or not. Those outside the community can make a guest account to preview the offerings and Charlestown residents have full access on their tablets, laptops, or personal computers. Once a Charlestown resident signs up for a My Erickson account, a staff member helps them activate their account and download the app.

Resident volunteers, like Howie, serve as trainers, helping fellow neighbors navigate the app for the first time.

“We hold a session twice each month to help people set up My Erickson on their devices,” says Erin Morris, community resources coordinator at Charlestown.

Howie volunteers at the training sessions and coordinates with Morris to help residents set up My Erickson on their home computers.

“Residents like to be able to check the menus and use the Resident Directory icon. The Daily Happenings function seems to be gaining in popularity. But I think my favorite feature is that the entire app is searchable,” says Morris. “There is a ‘my profile’ section where residents can enter their hobbies and interests so other residents who have the same hobbies and interests can connect. If you go to the activities section, for example, and type in ‘bocce,’ you’ll see all the bocce players who have completed their profile. We have hundreds of activities going on throughout any given day, and the searchability of My Erickson is a great feature.”

Visitors to My Erickson can access general information, such as Daily Happenings, but for privacy and security, content, such as the Resident Directory, is only accessible to those who have an account. Currently about 500 of the 2,000 independent living residents at Charlestown are signed up to use the app.

“The intent was to provide information for our residents whenever they want it, however they want it, and on whatever devices they want,” says Erickson Living Director of Information Technology Systems Kerri Shirey.

“There is no doubt tech-savvy Baby Boomers expect web-based solutions to support their lifestyle,” Shirey says. “Our extensive research with current and future community members has served as an ideal pathway for making My Erickson a perfect fit to meet the interests and expectations of today’s and tomorrow’s seniors.”

Large type and an intuitive interface make it easy to use, and the wealth of information accessible with a tap of the screen makes it an invaluable resource.

Game changer

“It’s really fun to be innovative for a dynamic and diverse group like our senior population. It’s easy to make ageist assumptions when it comes to how they use technology, but we started out with a group of about 30 residents at both Charlestown and Riderwood [an Erickson Living community in Silver Spring, Md.] who gave us feedback. They were very forthright, which made it easier for us,” Shirey says.

Their feedback included comments like:

“Keep it simple, clean, high contrast, easy to understand.”

“Do not include any kind of social; I don’t need another Facebook.”

“Make it rich with information about my life at Erickson. That’s what I need.”

“That’s what we’ve done,” says Shirey. “The My Erickson App is part of an overarching technology strategy that offers information our residents can use to create a rich lifestyle. You no longer have to search through your paperwork or your calendar. You don’t have to watch a scrolling message on the television. That’s a game changer.”