New technology program helps seniors reconnect

Staff says program aids engagement, memory

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-LeAnn Bjerken
Tina Mouser and Jacob Bonagofski, both of The Rennaissance at Coeur d’Alene retirement complex, say the center has put in place five interactive devices for residents.

The Renaissance at Coeur d’Alene, an assisted living and memory care community in northwest Coeur d’Alene, has begun using a new technology engagement program called iN2L that’s designed to help its residents feel happier and more engaged.

“For us, this program is a way to step into these people’s reality and help them reconnect with things or people they’ve lost touch with,” Tina Mouser, executive director at the facility says. “The learning and interactive activities help everyone to have fun and find joy in the here and now.”

The Renaissance’s life enrichment director, Jacob Bonagofski, claims the program has been beneficial, with residents who participate becoming much more engaged and having a significant improvement in overall quality of life.

“The program helps break down barriers between generations, stimulating conversations and keeping residents connected with their past as well as what’s happening in the outside world,” he says. “It’s done a lot to change the mood and the energy in this community for both residents and staff.”

Bonagofski says the iN2L program was developed by Colorado-based It’s Never 2 Late Inc., a technology company that builds senior-friendly computers to help older adults stay connected to their families, hobbies, and interests using personalized technology.

The program itself is an interactive touchscreen-based computer that can be adapted to individual and facility needs. Bonagofski says the Renaissance currently has five iN2L units, one for each of its buildings.

“We have two 60-inch screens, and three 40-inch screens,” he says. “One is mounted on a cart that can be easily moved and adjusted so individuals can access it from their bed if needed.”

Bonagofski says all new residents and employees start learning the program using a My Story app, which asks them to share facts about their life with others in the community.

“Users can choose what information they’d like to share and what they’d prefer to keep private, and those stories help us get to know one another better,” says Bonagofski. “Once they’ve created a My Story (profile), I also work with each resident individually to help them personalize their account, so it links to the applications they’re most interested in working with.”

Bonagofski says the iN2L system offers over 3,000 pieces of content with everything from music and movies to games and exercise routines, within its applications. 

“Residents can use the internet tools for email or accessing websites, and each unit has a camera to connect with family and friends using Skype,” he says. “But even without the internet access, the content that’s available in the program is more than enough to connect with residents in many other ways.”

The Renaissance is located on 5 acres of land at 2772 W. Avante Loop, a couple of miles north of Interstate 90. The Renaissance campus includes five resident houses with a total of 7,700 square feet of living space, and each house has 16 resident rooms. While the facility has capacity for 80, it currently houses 63 residents.

Bonagofski says the program also has applications that help residents to recall memories of places they’ve lived or times they’ve spent with friends and family.

“Many of these applications really do strike good memories and inspire some good talks, which increases socialization between residents,” he says. “The great thing is they have the freedom to choose which apps they’d like to engage with based on what they enjoy or are passionate about.”

Bonagofski says the program can be used to aid in both physical and mental stimulation, with applications that focus on activity including realistic flight, driving, and cycling simulations, as well as games, trivia and memory-retention tools.

“Some of the tools and information in the Lifelong Learning application are helpful because it’s been proven that learning new things helps slow depression and increase memory retention,” he says. “Even if the resident doesn’t have memory issues, these tools can help stimulate them and give them the joy that comes from sharing their stories or memories with others.”

Bonagofski says that while the program is accessible to patients at all times, it’s new enough that not all residents understand its full capabilities yet. He says the iN2L program can be used individually or in group activities, depending on the application chosen.

“You’re never going to have 100 percent participation in these things, but, depending on the popularity of the activity, we get a good majority ... who take part in group activities,” he says. “Some of our more popular are the gameshow contests and sing-alongs or karaoke.”

Because the platform is picture based, with a touch-screen interface, it allows users to interact with certain applications. 

“Some of the applications are interactive, such as the lagoon and the fish tank, so residents can touch and react to the screen,” he says. “Those selections are helpful in calming residents who have dementia, who are looking for familiar sights or sounds in their environment.”

Bonagofski says the staff often uses the program to play calming or mood music at various times during the day or night.

“It’s a good support system for setting the mood,” he says. “Choosing the right music can help residents wake up and be more energetic for the day or settle down in the evening for dinner or sleep.”

Bonagofski says the iN2L program is updated every two months so that users can view new content.

“As the program continues to update and expand its capabilities, we can grow along with it,” he says.

Going forward, Bonagofski says he’d like to do more to incorporate Skype video conferencing for residents, as well as daily group learning activities.

“It’s all about getting to know people and creating a community environment,” he says. “We try to be understanding of how each person wants to spend their time, so we can help them lead happier and healthier lives.”

Radiant Senior Living Inc., a Portland-based, senior living community services company, acquired The Renaissance in July 2018. 

Bonagofski says Radiant’s COO Jodi Guffee plans to implement the program in all 19 of the company’s senior-living communities, which operate in five other western states, including Washington.

“We’re not the first facility to start using this, and we definitely won’t be the last,” he says. “We have definitely seen how it’s increased cognitive levels in residents and it’s a tool that can be used both by life enrichment staff like myself, and nursing staff.”

LeAnn Bjerken
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Reporter LeAnn Bjerken covers health care at the Journal of Business. A Minnesota native and cat lover, she enjoys beachside vacations and writing poetry. LeAnn has worked for the Journal since 2015.

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