Whether ordering a pizza or buying a home, the advent of technology means you can pretty much find whatever you're looking for online, without ever leaving home.
Even communities like Oak Crest, an Erickson Living-managed continuing care retirement community located in Parkville, Md., is using technology to help prospective residents explore the community and find their new home.
"Technology has allowed us to connect with our clients in ways we never could before," says Melisa Batac, sales counselor at Oak Crest. "If you live out-of-state or when challenges like the recent coronavirus pandemic arise, you don't have to put your plans to move on hold. There are alternatives to visiting the community in person and sitting down face-to-face with us."
Whether it's emailing photos, sharing video links, or giving a live tour through apps like FaceTime or on Facebook Live, Batac and her colleagues in the Oak Crest sales office are using creative ways to make their clients' dreams a reality.
"I recently helped a couple reserve an apartment by making a 100-page photo book tour with photographs of every angle of the apartment, including views from outside," says Batac. "I've hosted several virtual tours and I also work with people through the mail, email, and over the phone."
Recent Pew Research Center surveys find that seniors are moving towards more digitally connected lives. Around four out of ten (42%) adults ages 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Internet use and home broadband adoption among this group have also risen substantially. Today, 67% of seniors use the internet, a 55% increase in just under two decades. And for the first time, half of older Americans now have broadband at home.
Howard and Danielle Haines moved to Oak Crest in 2018 from Hilton Head Island, S. C. Although they had visited Oak Crest once or twice over the seven years that they were on the priority list, the first time they set foot in their apartment was the same day they took their keys.
"It is a nine-and-a-half-hour trip one way from Hilton Head to Parkville, so instead of traveling back and forth, we decided to do everything electronically," says Howard.
With the guidance of Batac, the Haines were able to execute their long-distance move with ease.
"We used Facebook Live to communicate with Melisa on our iPad. She took us on a tour of our apartment in real time and she was able to show us the views out the windows from inside the apartment, as well as what the outside of the building looked like. We also were able to pick out the paint colors, and select the flooring via Facebook Live."
Initially, there were two floor plan styles the Haines were interested in—both featuring two bedrooms. Because they had joined the priority list years prior, Howard and Danielle were in a position to get their first choice of apartment homes when it became available.
"The one we liked the best and ended up choosing was the Lancaster floor plan," says Howard.
As a corner unit with double exposure, the Lancaster is filled with natural light, which is amplified by the open-concept floor plan. Two large walk-in closets and two linen closets provide abundant storage space, along with a coat closet located in the foyer and a designated storage room. The full-sized washer and dryer are located in the hall leading to the bedrooms, just past the guest bath.
Using their imagination
The specific unit Howard and Danielle selected was undergoing standard lifecycle renovations at the time of their virtual tour, so they relied on floor plans and their imaginations.
"We weren't worried about not seeing it beforehand. We were able to get an idea of the layout of the apartment from the tour Melisa shared with us and by looking at the floor plan on paper," says Howard.
An engineer by trade, Howard took the Lancaster floor plan and drew their furniture to scale and then cut out the furniture pieces to see what would fit where.
"We were able to bring most of the things we wanted. But no matter how much preplanning you do, when you actually get here some things aren't going to fit the way you want or look right, so you have to adjust and make changes," says Howard.
Two years after their move, the Haines have settled into their new home at Oak Crest. They enjoy the on-site pool, fitness center, and are involved with several groups on campus. Although they still hold Hilton Head dear in their hearts, they are happy to be closer to family.