As reliance on streaming services and other internet-dependent devices grew among residents of Eskaton’s affordable housing communities, a networking upgrade was sorely needed.
What the organization had installed over a decade ago met the needs of the time, says Therese ten Brinke, executive director of innovation and impact, but now they needed to adapt to changing expectations for high-speed internet.
“Even the idea of having many devices in an apartment was this foreign concept 10 years ago,” she says. “When we initially decided we were going to pursue a tech-enabled apartment, we had to have some candid discussions about would our infrastructure be able to support it? We recognized that the infrastructure really needed to be in place to ensure that it could support the different types of tech initiatives that we were pursuing at Eskaton.”
For Eskaton Lincoln Manor, an affordable housing community for older adults in Placerville, Calif., improved connectivity was especially important for residents who needed specialized care, used telehealth or just wanted to get to and from nearby Sacramento. Though there is a bus serving the complex, COVID-19 concerns meant many residents were limiting their use of public transportation.
“Ubers are very expensive for someone who’s living on maybe $800 or $900 a month,” says Executive Director Shannon Piexoto. About half of the community did not have Wi-Fi access before the infrastructure upgrades, and those who did had to find their own internet providers, a considerable expense.
Now, with internet provided by the community, residents have made a dent in their cable expenses, Piexoto says: “I’ve had a number of residents who had a monthly bill of maybe $150 or $200, which is a significant portion of their monthly income, and they’ve cut it down to $65 a month.”
Staff members have also welcomed the upgrade. “Even with my community being about an hour away from our main office, it can be a challenge to find time for an IT person to travel out to handle some kind of IT concern. Now that we’re so much more connected and online, we have so many more remote abilities,” Piexoto says.
So, what advice does ten Brinke have for other senior care organizations that may be considering a networking infrastructure upgrade? Transparency and clearly communicating goals to staff and residents are key.
“Are you doing it for safety reasons? For enhanced security? What are those goals? It’s really helpful for leaders to know the why behind the initiative,” she says.