Raising Tech, powered by Parasol Alliance

8: Using Technology to Combat the Silent Epidemic in Senior Living

February 10, 2022 Amber Bardon and Matt Reiners Season 1 Episode 8
Raising Tech, powered by Parasol Alliance
8: Using Technology to Combat the Silent Epidemic in Senior Living
Show Notes Transcript

A staggering 80% of people over the age of 85 experience hearing loss, but only 1 out of 5 who could benefit from a hearing aid are using it. This creates a gap of over 60% people who remain unplugged from their environment. As a result, this barrier leads to increased social isolation, decreases in quality of life and ultimately comorbidities and negative long-term health outcomes. The good news is, there are technologies that can bring people out of the silence and back into the world around them.

In this episode, Matt Reiners, Co-Founder of Eversound explains it all!  Matt shares the research, and the data that supports the positive impact of using assistive hearing technology, case studies illustrating the real impact made at the community level and best practices for communities looking to take their resident programming to the next level using technology. And perhaps most importantly, Matt shares some guiding principles and best practices for how providers can approach this journey to identify the right partner and strategy aligned to their community’s resident engagement goals and philosophy overall. Raising Tech is powered by Parasol Alliance, The Strategic Planning & Full-Service IT Partner exclusively serving Senior Living Communities.

Rachel 

Hello, and welcome back to Raising Tech. I'm Rachel Lugge with Parisol Alliance, where we help senior living providers maximize their use of technology through strategic planning and full service IT support. In today's episode, we are going to explore an important aspect of resident engagement, specifically assistive technology, and even more specifically wireless hearing solutions to help combat untreated hearing loss. And to help us explore and better understand why this topic is so important for the senior living field, I am joined by our friend Matt Reiner, co-founder of Eversound. Matt, thank you so much for being on the show today and helping us better understand the importance of assistive hearing technology.

Matt

Thanks so much for having me, Rachel it's an honor, and a privilege

Lugge

I'm really looking forward to this conversation. So I'm thinking, why don't we just like dive in and start with Matt. Maybe you can tell us just a little bit about yourself and about ever sound and kind of your journey in, in starting the company.

Matt 

Absolutely. So a little bit about myself is I have no idea what I'm doing. I just keep showing up and trying to learn fast, fail fast, and try and improve the quality of life for older adults. With Eversound, we are dedicated to a improving this quality of life, and we kind of walked into it in a in a very strange and kind of amazing way where my co-founder Jake and I had started another company that was doing things in a special events space, helping people throw silent disco events around the country. Jake was still in college at the time. It was kind of an undergrad project that he put together and asked me to come help start it so he could still focus on class and pass which I think we all wanna accomplish while we're in school.

Matt

But as we were like doing this company and kind of running it successfully year over year, we started seeing a few things happen right around the same time where we started receiving phone calls from senior living communities, basically asking for help. What they were experiencing was that hearing, especially in group program, so think resident council meetings, worship services, BINGO, I know we can't forget about BINGO. They started calling and asking for help because what they would say is like everyone's hearing was at different levels when it came to these group programs and they needed a wireless headphones system designed for groups with individual volume control, which was pretty much the system we were using on the silent disco side. And then right around this time I saw what my grandmother was going through.

Matt 03:06

She happened to be 93, lived in a senior living community and frankly her quality of life wasn't good. She would just isolate herself to a room, blast her television or listen to romantic fantasy novels through her own headphones system. And I would try to better understand why she wouldn't go out. It all stemmed from this idea of like, “I can't hear what's going on, so why should I even bother?” And then right around the same time too, Jake and I were kind of thinking like, “huh, I wonder if there's an opportunity here to help more are people and kind of expand the business.?” And we probably walked into every senior living community in upstate New York, where we were based at the time in Ithaca, New York. And some of these early demos would just leave your jaw on the ground. You would see staff crying, you'd have residents coming up and thanking you. You would see people thought to be nonverbal, start singing along with music and really set us on this, this crash course over the last five or six years to where we're now impacting over 1100 communities in all 50 states and seeing measurably improved quality of life enhancements.

Rachel

Oh my gosh. That's an incredible, what an incredible journey. So what what year was this? When everything, when you started on this journey?

Matt

So on all of our LinkedIns, we've got different start dates, but it was about 2015 or 2016 since ideation and then started creating a product that was more tailored for an older adult user in a senior living community.

Rachel:

Oh that's impressive. That's incredible. And then to be at in 1100 communities to date. Wow. What would you say is the biggest pain point that you see in communities? I mean I'm just kind of envisioning like you're in the former company and you're getting calls from senior living communities. They're asking you for help. So, so what specifically was the pain point that, that the community is needed help with? 

Matt

Yes. So I think the pain point can be best described and pun intended as a “silent epidemic” in senior living communities today. And it all stems around this idea of hearing loss. So when we were starting Eversound, we started looking into more of the data behind it, coming from people way smarter than us. What they were basically saying was that 80% of people over the age of 85 have some sort of hearing loss, but what the hearing aid adoption looks like, it's about one in five that could benefit from a hearing aid are actually using one on a consistent basis. You know, price, quality, accessibility, you know, the stigma around it is why we see this gap of about 60 to 65% of people that have some sort of hearing loss that aren't being proactive in finding solutions to help them.

Matt 06:08

It's pretty amazing when you think about it and you look at the data around some of the comorbidities associated with hearing loss, and I know correlation and causation, we definitely have to think about the differences between that, but hearing loss has been tied to an increased risk in falls, an increased risk of developing dementia. If have moderate or severe hearing loss, you're three to five times more likely to develop dementia, which is kind of blows my mind whenever I see that. But hearing loss is also tied to of course, isolation. I think it's definitely a hot topic in senior living communities today. If someone can't hear they're more likely to isolate themselves in and hearing loss has even been tied to increased risk of mortality, which is kind of wild, how one sense can really impact everything. And it's really everything between the ears. So the brain that's being engaged and stimulated when someone's hearing might be a little bit better.

Rachel 

Wow. That just some of those statistics are staggering, to know that that's, that's probably one of the biggest factors for engagement overall is the sense of how as somebody's able to hear and understand and process what's happening in their environment. That's incredible. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you partner with communities and maybe like some of the key outcomes that highlight the impact of your solution?

Matt

Yeah, absolutely. I think when we partner with communities, what we try to identify in the frontrun end is what are some of their key business objectives right now? You know, is it driving occupancy? Is it helping with engaging? Is it helping with the resident experience? Maybe family visits look a little bit different right now, beause every sound could definitely be used to really enhance any level of communication. Right? I think some people just kind of get stuck in their brain that this is just a solution for BINGO, which it definitely can help with BINGO. We've heard stories of people winning for the first time in years where, hey, I'll always support that, but this is really a tool that's being used across the care spectrum and wherever communication is used. Those PT or OT appointments, those tours to give them more experiential, or someone might come in who might be a little bit hard of hearing.

Matt

We're also finding that people are, are using it as a tool to, I think wheret he best kind of case study that we've done, and every group we work with has gathered their own data or kind of wanting to test the efficacy of this new technology. But one group that really stands out is the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing. Based in California who do an amazing job in terms of really vetting tech. And they did a 12 month case study with over 600 residents that showed ever sound improved engagement by 76%, improved understanding of the event by 76%, improved mood in those living with dementia by 64%. And then they had some other positive indicators that ever sound was actually helping. And we've had other communities do other studies, right? Whre they're kind of making sure that this technology piece works.

Matt

We've also seen increased attendance again, increased engagement. And when you kind of get to the simple idea, right, the inability to hear is detrimental to how we experience the world around us. And if we can give a tool that can help for a community to really experience that and a tool that's tailor made for an older adult user and tailor made for a senior living community. So it doesn't need wifi, doesn't need cellular reception, can be used anywhere, just a click of a button plug and play. That's where we really start to see this positive experience of residents lives being better because they can actually hear what's going on around them.

Rachel

That's amazing. I love the research aspect and the partnership with those institutes that I can imagine just how powerful that is and you sharing your story and the impact with communities. So can you, I'm just curious, can you tell us a little bit more about like how the technology works?

Matt 10:10

Absolutely.The way that it works it's similar to Bluetooth, but it's actually called DECT so digitally enhanced cordless technology. You can actually think about it as like an old cordless phone, but the way that it works is that there's a transmitter or the base unit and whatever you plug into that AV systems, computers, laptops, iPods, microphones, you can plug in directly in AV systems, so if you have microphones are using, whatever's plugged in that transmitter would then broadcast to all the headphones simultaneously. In each headphone you can turn it up or turn it down helps to block out some of that background, ambient noise that might be too much. But it's really just amplifying what people should be listening to at a level comfortable to them. And then the range you're looking anywhere like 250 to 300 feet in all directions, so about the size of a football field. And then you can have up to 120 headphones to one transmitter. So it's not just like a one to one, but it's a one to many. And that's where we start to see people doing it. Because, maybe Ruth Anne might need it a little bit higher than Betsy, because like they all want to hear the same thing, but they have different hearing profiles of, of what makes sense for them.

Rachel

You mentioned that the solution can be used pretty much across the continuum and in a variety of settings. How are communities most frequently using technology? Yeah. How are they incorporating it into their programming?

Matt 11:41

Yeah. So I would say it's pretty much been incorporated to help with things that they're already doing today. Right? The nice thing about Eversound, it enhances things that are already happening. So wherever there's been a situation of using communication, right? Which is pretty much every and any program that's happening today, we see Eversound as kind of being as a tool to enhance that. And then we've also got like an online database of grabbing go programs that people can use to really set them up for success that way. So our whole goal here to improve the resident engagement and make the activity professional’s life that much easier, helping to curate all this content for them and that they can maximize their time being spent with the residents and not going and finding YouTube playlist or some of the other stuff that might be out there.

Rachel 

What are you hearing from the communities when, after the program's been implemented? Thetechnology is in use. I can imagine this is a bit of a game changer for the life enrichment team.

Matt 

One of the most positive compliments that we've gotten is people don't have to lose their voices anymore. Because usually right, if you're talking about BINGO or doing something, you're having to elevate your voice. And especially now in a world where we're still practicing physical distancing, but need to stay socially connected. So we start to hear things like that. We actually have heard compliments that they're getting more residents out to their program than ever beforen because people can actually hear what's going on. And then I it's like almost every other day we hear a story that would just bring like tears to your eyes because they saw a loved one or a resident that they thought were disengaged due to reason one, but then realize that they just couldn't hear what was going on and then they start to see these, we call them our Ever moments. They start to see their Ever moments you know, front and center within their own community. And that' just feel good moments all across the board.

Rachel

No, that's absolutely. That's incredible. Can you tell us, I'm just curious too about your team. If a community is looking to partner with Eversound, what are the steps and who might they be working with to get the program launched?

Matt 

Absolutely. Myself or Eversound would not be where we are today without the team behind it. We've got about, I think just over 30 people full time working with us today and really what that looks like, of course we've got the, the community advisors or our sales team that are really working with the community to identify what problems are going on, what packages might make sense for them. And then kind of once we get through that, we hand them off to our community success team, which are really there to help the communities feel comfortable and confident with Eversound. What we've learned is that with technology adoption, especially in senior living, there needs to be that coach or that, that extra help there to really help with utilizing help with retraining help. If there's someone that might leave a community and a new person comes in. So our community success team is the most like amazing people that I think that I've ever met. A lot of them are former program directors themselves, and they're really there to make sure that the communities are able to fully utilize the technology and making sure that it is improving that quality of life for their residents.

Rachel 

That's fantastic. We touched on our ROI. I mean, there's a lot of it, there's a lot of return here for communities and impact. Engagement goes up, quality of life goes up, isolation goes down, there's the team even workforce, you know, this is impacting workforce, this is impacting a high value ads for the life enrichment team. What a tool. Can you give maybe a few guiding print of advice that you might offer a provider who is looking to enhance their resident experience through technology, what they should consider?

Matt

Absolutely. So I think one of the things that I've seen, you know, we're definitely still, I would consider a young startup, but as these reports are coming out about the aging demographics, right, and you start to see more and more of these tech companies and these startups popping up into this space where I think a lot of 'em are really cool in concept, but I think I've heard horror stories of communities start working with companies that are startups that end upnhaving a three month runwayand  aren't around for the long haul. I always like it when we have new partnerships or even current partnerships that are asking us about our what's our one year, our three year, our five year, 10 year plans, just to make sure that they're, they're investing in a company that's gonna be around for the long haul and not just gonna be there for a year or so where you invest invested all this time and money.

Matt

And then that solution is no longer available, which is just definitely something. So I guess the advice would be to a provider is just press those newer companies. Even the older companies, are they going to be around, are you investing your time and energy with the right company? I would say another just piece of advice is looking for solutions or companies where they're actually working or talking at least because I think you're finding more and more companies coming out, popping up that are pretty much designing their solutions in a silo. Which every time I talk to a community or provider, I think of my friend Scott Smith with Five Star basically said collaborate to automate, so us as vendor companies need to be having those conversations and really aligning with what that looks like and making sure that we're creating a solution to make life easier within the communities and, and not doing that.

Matt 17:26 

So I guess the advice to a provider would basically say, ask them who their partnerships are, who are they friendly with? Who are they talking with? What other technology solutions you already have and making sure that it aligns and helps with that and just doesn't become a deterrent and makes it that much more difficult to operate. And then I think third, and this really comes from my conversation with Amber and I completely agree is that these providers need to identify their tech strategy and their tech roadmap, and then find technology vendors to help make their vision come true. There's been so many times where, I'll talk to somebody and try and ask about what their vision or their strategy looks like for their technology. And they're pretty much asking us to dictate that for them, Where we can do that, but granted they and their leadership team have the best knowledge of what their community looks like. Of course I want them to work with Eversound, I definitely see the benefit there, but I think providers need to take a step back and really look at what innovation means to them, not just give the innovation, the title to someone, because it's part of your key values, but just making sure that you're embracing that and coming up with your own strategy and then finding technology providers to help you make that vision come alive.

Rachel

I mean, that's fantastic advice and in line with what we see as well, for sure. Especially on the strategy piece. We've been beating that drum now for six years and it's just really interesting that the more we have these conversations with providers, the more we find that everybody is aligned in that need. Yes, we need to understand what the end goal what's the vision and then who are the right partners in helping us get there? And make sure we have that comprehensive strategy in mind along the way. So, okay. So you mentioned your one year, year, three year five, your plan anything you want to share in regards to what's on the horizon for Eversound?

Matt

Yeah, so I think with Eversound, our mission is to improve quality of life, right? And whatever we can kind of figure out or product suite that we can create towards that, I do see us, not to distill too much information, but moving to a more all encompassing healthcare solutions provider and really trying to become the company that destigmatizes hearing loss because I think hearing loss is still unfortunately stigmatized. We've talked about the data and I mean, everyone wears some form of of glasses of some sort, myself, I can't drive at night without my glasses or it's illegal. But I think trying to be a company that helps to destigmatize hearing loss, bring forward some good information and good products around that. Because I think what you'll find is the communities that are prioritizing finding solutions for their residents to help with the more all encompassing census will be communities that continue to stand out in the communities that have higher census because they're looking for the whole person and really finding solutions like that.

Rachel

You started out this conversation by saying, “I don't really know what I'm doing. I dunno anything I'm just kind of like have a lot of passion and move forward.” You have a mission, you have a passion that is moving, but you're incredibly bright in how you've gone about building this concept and launching it into the field and injecting this into senior living. So thank you for that. Matt, as we close up, what I hope you know, we have one question we generally close each conversation with what excites you about the future of technology and senior living?

Matt

Yeah. So I think what really excites me is, I think senior living communities up in until recently, especially like before the pandemic, it was a really micro approach, right? So everything that's happening within the community, what BINGO game are  we running? What outside entertainer is coming in to deliver an experience? But where I think technology and what I'm really excited about is how does that open up the world, right? How does that not just open up the doors to the community, but to the overall world where, people might go take a trip to a virtual trip to Australia, a virtual trip to Paris, and giving people the experiences to really do that. Because I think the point of going into senior living in addition to the care is to continue to have these social experiences. And if we can give communities the tools to really just broaden their horizons and make it that it's not just what's happening within that community they've got a penpal across the country in Germany. Like I just think it opens up a lot of opportunities for, for social engagement. That's not just the happy hour that's happening within a community today.

Rachel

Excellent. I love that. I love that vision. And I agree with you. I think that's, that's so exciting. There's so many possibilities on the horizon and I look forward to, I think we're gonna see just rapid, rapid movement towards that future as well. It's, it's now gonna be accelerated based on what's happened in the last, just within the last two years, I think we've had a lot of destruction.

Matt

One of the things I've heard, one of the silver linings coming out of it that I heard from some of our partners was that technology was a nice to have. And then during the pandemic, it became a need to have, and it was a silver lining that it definitely saw tech adoption really skyrocket, and we just hope that it can continue because I think there's, there's definitely a lot of great companies out there doing really amazing things and continuing to partner with each other and work hand in hand and side by side to deliver these solutions. I think will set us up as an industry for the better.

Rachel

I couldn't agree more. Matt, thank you so much for being on Raising Tech and having this important conversation, helping us better understanding. 

Matt

Amazing. Well, thank you so much for the opportunity and keep up the amazing work Rachel with Parasol Alliance. 

Rachel 

Thank you. All right. We'll see everybody next time.