According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, seniors are more connected than ever. Forty-two percent of adults aged 65 and older own a smartphone — and approximately 70 percent of those seniors surveyed use their phones to make travel plans, restaurant reservations, and more.
As they transition into senior living communities, older people want to remain just as engaged with their interests as they’ve always been, but they often find that on-site technology leaves a lot to be desired.
Enter entrepreneur and developer Patrick Smith, who learned about the back-end of senior living and continuing care retirement communities through his wife, Missy. After years in the industry, she’d become frustrated with the difficulties in managing senior residents’ activities, like dinner reservations, through current processes.
“There’s Open Table, Facebook, and Meetup, but there was no tool designed and built explicitly for the senior living space at the time,” says Smith.
About three years ago, Smith conducted extensive customer discovery with the residents and administrative staff within his wife’s senior living community. He found that the community needed a solution that would easily integrate into their residents’ lives to help plan their days. His team built that solution based on resident feedback and implemented it to great success.
Smith founded Carrboro, North Carolina-based Viibrant to commercialize his resident engagement platform for senior living communities after receiving inbound demand from other communities following its launch. Now, the platform is available in nearly 80 communities nationwide — a figure expected to double in 2020.
Simplicity lies at the heart of Viibrant’s platform. One sign-in helps residents access their social calendars, get reminders, make requests, see announcements, manage their community profiles, and more. A digital directory feature with built-in messaging also helps residents identify new faces and connect with others based on common interests.
“We want to simplify their lives and help them enjoy retirement,” Smith says.
The customizable end-to-end platform also helps community staffers stay organized by syncing all digital signage, dining menus, marketing materials, resident profiles and statuses, resident onboarding, and more. Once residents have more needs, the platform helps staff members transition and track residents within the community to assisted living and hospice.
Smith explains that he also wanted to make Viibrant accessible. The platform’s intentionally simple UI helps seniors gain confidence as they interact with the platform — and voice technology makes engagement even easier.
“Integrating Amazon Alexa and Google Home was really important to us,” says Smith. “It was one of the first times that somebody could move in to the community healthy and using their mobile phones, and as they transition into a different level of living, they can use voice [technology] to communicate.”
This works especially well for residents with mobility issues.
Smith invested in voice technology early so Viibrant could grow with it. Now, residents can ask about today’s menu, RSVP to upcoming events, make dinner reservations, arrange transportation, call in maintenance requests, and more.
“Learning how to use Alexa brings [residents] a whole new level of wellness and socialization,” says Smith. “One 91-year-old resident lost her husband and enabled Alexa to say good night. It brought her a sense of belonging and connection that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.”
Viibrant has a SaaS revenue model with its senior living community partners. To date, the North Carolina startup has grown organically through word of mouth and remained mostly bootstrapped. The team is currently examining funding opportunities it will use to expand and onboard nearly 400 communities.