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Charlestown residents embrace technology

September 13, 2019

Digital devices, apps and social media support community's active, engaged retirement lifestyle

Catonsville, Md. – September 13, 2019 – If Ann MacKay wants to know what the weather forecast is, she asks her Amazon Echo. If she wants to make a phone call or send a text message, she uses her iPhone 10. And if she wants to keep track of her heart rate during her water aerobics class, she wears her Apple Watch 4.

MacKay is one of many residents at Charlestown, a continuing care retirement community managed by Erickson Living in Catonsville, Md. using technology to support their active lifestyles.

"I love technology and I guess you could say I am an early adopter," says MacKay who also owns an iPad Pro and a MacBook. "I use my iPad for writing, game playing, email, reading books, instant messaging, FaceTime, and even watch Netflix on it. I also receive text messages and phone calls on my Apple watch."     

Tech-savvy seniors

Pew Research Center recently analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that Americans ages 60 and older—a group increasingly populated by aging Baby Boomers—spend more than half of their daily leisure time (just over four hours) on their TVs, computers, tablets or other electronic devices. Their research shows that over the last two decades, internet usage among those ages 65 and older increased from 14 percent to 73 percent and more than half of people in that same age group own a smartphone. 

"Age is irrelevant when it comes to each person's digital journey," says Erickson Living's Chief Information Officer Hans Keller. "More than ever, seniors are online and incorporating the internet and online activities into their everyday lives.

"Our goal at Erickson Living is to meet residents where they are in their technology adoption and for those interested, offer opportunities to increase their digital skills as they enjoy an engaging lifestyle. By providing state of the art technologies and onsite support services, our campuses are ideal settings for residents to utilize an array of digital devices that help keep them connected with family and friends, as well as for other daily activities."

User friendly

Charlestown meets the needs of residents who are new to technology through a free IT support help desk, workshops and classes, as well as resident-run programs like Tech Tutors, which helps residents with everything from selecting an appropriate device to getting a new device up and running, and troubleshooting solutions when problems arise, right in their own apartment home.

MacKay moved to Charlestown in 2012 and the following year started an Apple support group named, the Apple Charlestown User Group (CHUG) which organizes monthly meetings covering various topics.

"We celebrated six years in March. There are more and more people with devices here at Charlestown," says MacKay. "As my husband says, I can't go down the hall without someone stopping me to ask me a question."

Staying connected

Charlestown tapped into the social media market with their own Facebook page in 2014 to give prospective residents an inside look at what life is like at the community, as well as an outlet for current residents to connect and family members to see what's happening on campus. Today, more than 1,800 people follow Charlestown on Facebook.

One of Erickson Living's innovations that helps keep information at the fingertips of community members is My Erickson, a free proprietary app. The app provides up-to-the-minute access to dining menus, activity calendars, transit schedules, phone numbers, and community messages.

"I use the My Erickson app regularly," says MacKay. "I use it for my meal plan account primarily and a quick run-through on daily happenings. I also watch Charlestown's town hall videos from the comfort of my own couch."

This year, My Erickson is being integrated with Amazon Echo's virtual assistant, Alexa, so residents can get community information via voice command. MacKay bought her Echo last year.

"I got it mainly so I could listen to news or music," says MacKay. "I think voice activation is the future. People won't have to learn the language or technology of a computer, they will be able to just speak. It really gives them more control over their life."

Photo Caption:

For the last six years, Ann MacKay has led an Apple support group at Charlestown, where she helps other residents take advantage of technology as part of their active retirement lifestyle.

Photo courtesy Ann MacKay.

About Charlestown: Charlestown, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 110-acre campus in Catonsville, Maryland. The community is located in Baltimore County and is home to more than 2,000 residents who are supported by a team of more than 1,200 employees. Additional information about Charlestown can be found at