New iN2L Research Demonstrates Vital Role of Social Connection and Engagement for Older Adults

December 16, 2020

Surveys of community leaders, residents, and family members reveal what’s most essential in the senior living experience

Denver, CO – Dec. 16, 2020 – The number of residents in senior living communities who reported always feeling lonely more than doubled during the pandemic, according to a new research report released today by iN2L, the leading provider of person-centered digital engagement to the senior living market. The report, Bridging the Loneliness Gap, examines the experiences and perspectives of three groups before and during the pandemic: senior living residents, residents’ family members, and senior living community leaders.

Key findings at-a-glance:

  • Before the pandemic, 39% of residents said they were often or always lonely, compared to only 1% of senior living community leaders who estimated residents were often or always lonely.
  • 50% of senior living residents have never felt like they had any friends in their community.
  • During the pandemic, the number of residents who reported always feeling lonely increased by 230%.
  • 62% of community leaders reported being less able to create tailored engagement activities for residents compared to pre-pandemic times.
  • Only 42% of family members are very satisfied with staff knowledge of their loved one.
  • Less than three-quarters (72%) of operators say they have a method in place to keep staff informed of residents’ personal interests.
  • Only 24% of family members give top marks to the community’s use of resident information to tailor and assist in picking activities and creating individualized care for their loved one.

“This data shows how critical social connection and engagement are to the senior living experience,” said Lisa Taylor, iN2L’s CEO. “Not only are these experiences essential for residents’ wellness, but also for family decision-makers’ satisfaction with their loved one’s care and their willingness to recommend the community. The pandemic has made it even more clear that residents’ friendships and feelings of social connection are a vital part of how communities can differentiate themselves, maintain capacity, and thrive.”

Loneliness remains a prevalent issue

Older adults are lonely—and were even before the pandemic. Of those residents surveyed, half say they have never felt like they ever had any friends in their community. “Even before COVID-19 hit, 39% of residents reported they often or always felt lonely,” added Karen O’Hern, iN2L’s Vice President of Product Management. “Remarkably, before the pandemic, only 1% of operators believed this to be the case. The huge divide between what community leaders are observing and what residents and their families report presents a tremendous opportunity. You can’t address what you can’t see.”

Opportunities for social connection among residents are important, but lacking

The findings in Bridging the Loneliness Gap indicate that opportunities for social connection are critical. Family members reported that the number one reason not to recommend a community would be if opportunities for residents to socialize with each other were lacking. “We see 99% of community leaders agree that having friends impacts a resident’s well-being,” continued Taylor. “At the same time, two in five believe that giving residents the ability to digitally connect with one another is of average or little importance. These leaders may not yet have made the connection between providing technology-enabled connection opportunities for residents and how that can support them in having thriving friendships within the community.”

Tailored engagement is essential, but communities are challenged to deliver

Almost three quarters (73%) of residents and 78% of family members say activities specifically tailored to the resident are absolutely essential or very important to their well-being. During the pandemic, 62% of communities said they are less able to create tailored engagement activities for residents compared to before the crisis​, though 79% of leaders said characterizing their community as a lifestyle product is still a high or top priority​.

“The juxtaposition of these data points is important to note because family members’ second most cited reason they would not recommend a community is if their loved one was not provided with opportunities for engagement and activities that fit their personal interests,” continued Taylor. “Individually tailored experiences are one of the most important things a community can offer, but there’s a gap in their ability to collect personal information about each resident and their ability to use it.”

“In addition, though 92% of community leaders believe using residents’ backgrounds and interests to personalize care is extremely or very important to recruitment, only 33% say it’s very feasible,” continued O’Hern. “Communities must collect and store resident information in a way that’s easily accessible and used by all staff as a part of their daily workflow.”

The ability for communities to cultivate residents’ friendships and provide personalized engagement are two key issues that, while not new, have been highlighted due to the ongoing pandemic. “It’s clear that solving for these two factors is foundationally critical for resident and family satisfaction in their community of choice,” said Taylor. “Despite significant challenges, we see communities embracing these opportunities to optimize resident care, using engagement technology to make an impact not only on resident well-being but also on community operations as a whole.”

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Media Resources

  • Download the full report, Bridging the Loneliness Gap, for a deeper look at the findings: https://hubs.ly/H0CqBzP0
  • To arrange an interview with iN2L leadership to discuss these study findings in more detail, please contact Vanessa Ulrich at vulrich@sage-growth.com, or by calling 410-534-1161.

About the iN2L Study

Bridging the Loneliness Gap  is based on three surveys conducted by Sage Growth Partners, a healthcare consultancy, on behalf of iN2L. The surveys were administered using an email invitation and an online survey, to three groups: senior living community leaders, residents of assisted living and continuing care retirement communities, and family members who are a sole or joint decision-maker for a senior living resident. Quotas were set to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the U.S. population. For more information on methodology, please download the full report.

About iN2L

As the market leader in content-driven engagement for seniors, iN2L has been creating possibilities, enjoyment, and connection for older adults since 1999. iN2L’s expansive content library promotes wellness, empowerment, and engagement among older adults and is the foundation for activities that facilitate social interaction, cognitive and physical exercise and therapy, education, reminiscing, areas of interest, and memory support engagement. iN2L is a critical part of the resident experience in more than 3,700 nursing homes, assisted and independent living communities, memory care settings, and adult day programs across the U.S. and Canada. For more information, visit www.iN2L.com.