What started as a simple solution to enable video calling at Lutheran Services aged care facilities soon became a social lifesaver when Coronavirus hit.

Lutheran Services was already in the process of engaging with Data Lync to set up user-friendly communications technology – a combination of tablets and smart TVs – in an attempt to address the issue of loneliness for residents. Data Lync worked with the Lutheran Services Creative team to provide training and support across nine sites, enabling them to provide technology that didn’t just mitigate isolation but enhanced the social experience of residents regardless of whether they were under a lockdown or not.

A loneliness epidemic

Even in pre-COVID times, The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found, “One in three Australians reported an episode of loneliness between 2001 and 2009, with 40 per cent of these people experiencing more than one episode.” These statistics are compounded for older Australians with at least 8 per cent of people over 65 experiencing social isolation before the pandemic.

The Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission in 2019 reported, “Social connection, communicating and interacting with others are important parts of the informal support provided to older people as it counters their risk of social isolation.” It’s not just mental wellbeing that’s supported by a strongly connected social network. Studies show loneliness and social isolation are also linked to premature mortality, dementia and a wide range of illnesses. Unsurprisingly, for many aged care residents, Coronavirus lockdowns increased their feelings of loneliness and isolation. This was further compounded by the fear that this virus disproportionately impacted the older population. So how did Data Lync go about designing systems that could be quickly up and running and in common use for Lutheran Services?

User-friendly design

Data Lync deployed relevant apps using Microsoft Intune and Apple Business Manager.

The design was broken down into different categories to reflect the varying needs and desires of the residents and staff. The categories were: video calling, adventure, cognition, entertainment and games, relaxation, language and staff tools. Data Lync deployed relevant apps using Microsoft Intune and Apple Business Manager. That enabled the team to provide a consistent user experience, remotely troubleshoot and mitigate the support burden on Lutheran Services’ internal IT resources. Data Lync also provided protective keyboard case combinations that were waterproof so the devices could be safely sanitised.

While the systems were primarily focused on improving the quality of life for residents, a surprising added benefit was in staff morale. The coordinators and facilitators appreciated the investment in technology upgrades. They quickly adapted to the technology and grew in confidence in supporting residents to use their iPads and Apple TVs. Many staff were able to integrate technology into their day-to-day tasks.

Even more connected 

Video calls were a big hit with residents and staff, with Zoom discussions and dances happening between residents living at different facilities, supported by Microsoft Teams. Aside from Zoom, Data Lync provided video call apps for FaceTime, Google Duo, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx, and Skype to ensure family members could talk with residents regardless of their platform of choice. In some cases, providing this technology increased the amount of contact between residents and family members. 

Residents enjoyed activities that supported their cognitive and relaxation needs such as puzzles, games, meditation and colouring.

Access to Apple TV and iPads also helped enhance activities that already took place at the facility, such as the Gardening Club having the ability to stream Gardening Australia and make beautiful Kokodama during one episode, by mirroring the instructions given during the show. Residents could maintain activities they looked forward to from external providers, such as tai chi and dance classes delivered remotely. They enjoyed activities that supported their cognitive and relaxation needs such as puzzles, games, meditation and colouring. These were found to be especially beneficial for responsive engagement of disorientated residents living with dementia.

Data Lync provided apps for those with adventurous spirits too. The adventure apps enabled the residents to feel like they were being transported anywhere in the world. Google’s Arts and Culture and Google Earth allowed residents to escape to their favourite museums or just explore the planet. Using the iNaturalist app, residents explored the plants and animals in the world around them, connecting with other users to geographically tag or identify different species spotted in the area. The technology proved to be a big hit with everyone, and staff and residents are having more and more fun with it every day.

“Data Lync delivered the project in a timely and efficient manner, constantly going above and beyond in delivering real value to our staff, residents, and customers,” ICT Strategy Program Manager for Lutheran Services, Michael Colin said.

Data Lync connects aged care providers with technology that offers more. More choices, more savings and more control over how you operate, report and respond to the needs of your residents, patients and staff. Call 0409 027 637 or email for a free consultation or find out more here.