Technology Archives – Page 2 of 3 – Varsity Branding

Category: Technology

Eaton Senior Communities is home to 164 residents and, occasionally, a socially assistive robot called Ryan, now being developed at the University of Denver. In a series of posts, I’m talking to people involved in this fascinating project and getting their perspectives on how this lifelike “companionbot” may transform the lives of seniors living with depression and dementia.

Today, I’m talking to Diana Delgado, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Eaton Senior Communities.


Wayne: How did the robot pilot study come about?

Diana: Back in 2014, we received an inquiry through our Contact Us page. It came from the assistant of Mohammad Mahoor, PhD, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Denver, reaching out to senior housing communities to see if any would be interested in a pilot project for companion robots for the elderly. We were the only senior living community that responded to his request, and in the beginning, Eaton was the sole pilot project site.


Wayne: Why do you think you were the only community to respond?

Diana: I know that, at most communities, we all get bombarded with spam emails. You tend to just hit the delete button. Our community is good at reading emails, and we thought, “Should we at least explore it a little?” When we heard more about it, we thought it was a very innovative idea and that our residents would be interested in it — and they are!


Wayne: What surprised you about the residents’ reaction to the project?

Diana: We didn’t expect people to bond with the robot, but they did. Our residents were not only excited to be part of creating this whole project, but they expressed that they missed the robot when it was removed. That just goes to show how open-minded people of any age can be when embracing new technology.


Wayne: Was Ryan the same for each resident?

Diane: No. What was nice is that the team customized the robot to the resident. Family pictures and favorite movies were uploaded that they could watch on a screen on the robot’s torso. One resident liked cooking shows, so they were included in her case. Ryan could give reminders to take medications, play games, make conversation; she was truly a companion. The residents could also name the robot whatever they wanted, and it was unisex, so they could make it a male or a female. One man named it after his wife, Annie. Another woman named hers “Isabelle.” One woman wanted it to be a man, whom she called “Jasper,” because she said women were too hard to live with. Each of them got to add little personal touches, like a scarf or a hat. They felt like the robot was a friend.


Wayne: How does Ryan help people with memory issues?

Diana: If residents have short-term memory issues and forget that they’ve said something, Ryan can remind them that they’ve already said that — it’s a way to propel the conversation forward so they don’t get fixated on that one question.


Wayne: How can Ryan help caregivers?

Diana: Ryan can give caregivers time to take care of their own needs. We’ve had one instance with a sister of a resident who felt that she could take an extra hour to do her errands and not feel so guilty because she’s seen the positive impact that Ryan has been making in her brother’s life.


Wayne: From your perspective, what was the value in having the robots at Eaton?

Diana: The team listened to what residents had to say and improved robot interactions based on that. Residents gave input about some of the facial expressions, the hair, the voice. They see real value in being heard and being listened to — they love that they’re contributing to the future of robotics.


Wayne: What qualities does a community need in order to take part in projects

like these?

Diana: It has to be able to embrace some innovative ideas. I guess I would say I attribute our participation to a culture of curiosity.

Stay tuned for more posts about Ryan, the companionbot. 



Now that the holidays are over, my resolution to spend less money on gifts next year is in full swing. It’s not surprising that a recent survey tells us that shoppers spent more than $850 million — a 5.1 percent increase in holiday spending from 2017. One of the most-talked-about best sellers was the smart speaker: For the third straight year, Amazon’s best-selling product was the affordable Echo Dot. Interestingly, several commercials depicted Boomer and senior parents using smart speakers to connect with their children and grandchildren — like this spot about a grandmother connecting with her family, and this one, featuring a daughter interacting with her dad as she cooks.

When it came time to buy my Boomer mom a gift, I fell for the marketing hype myself. I know Mom loves listening to music in the kitchen, and seeing her old-school boom box made me think it was time for an upgrade. I got her the Amazon Echo Dot, influenced by the commercials that made using it seem so easy. Although my mother is quite averse to technology, I had a hunch she’d be comfortable with the Dot. I was right. Once I got her set up with it, she loved it. “It’s so easy to use — you just talk to it!” Mom said.

I caught up with Mom again after the holidays to see if her experience was still going well and asked her how she was using the gift. “Right now, just for music,” she said. (Mom likes to listen to country songs while she’s cooking.) “But sometimes I ask Alexa what the weather is.”

“What do you like best about the Dot?” I asked. “The ease of using it,” my mom said. “It’s hands-free. I can change volume, change music, easily. I don’t have to yell. I just talk, and she listens.”

One of my co-workers’ parents also got a smart speaker system for Christmas. Her report? Her parents like having it play music but don’t see it playing a large role in their lives. “My dad may ask about the weather, but he still goes into the kitchen to watch the weather on TV,” my co-worker said. “He’s not going to say ‘turn on the lights.’ He’s going to flip a switch.”

My mom is a little more adventurous. Although she’s sticking to music and weather for now, she said that she’s interested in using the Echo Dot for other home tasks as well. “If I had the hook up, I would use it to work lighting for more efficiency,” she told me. “I’d also like to use it to put the garage door up and down.”

I’m glad that my mom’s getting comfortable with voice assistance now — in case she needs more help later to make her life easier and safer, whether that means turning on lights in the middle of the night or saying, “Call 911” to summon help in an emergency.

According to this recent survey of industry leaders, the trend to voice will move forward faster than we can imagine. If, in turn, that can give older adults more of a voice in their lives, I think that’s a good thing.




How do you define “seniors” for the purpose of marketing a product or service?

Are they age 55 and over?

Past the age of 62?

65 and up?

Our society has created several colloquial break points in age that serve to denote when someone becomes a “senior.” But, as aging services marketers, we know that the views of a 55-year-old are very different than the views of a 75-year -old. Heck, would you lump a 25-year-old person into the same demographic as a 45-year-old? Probably not! Yet, a significant number of marketing platforms do just that.

Take Google Ads, for instance. This platform is responsible for delivering most search engine marketing ads, sometimes abbreviated SEM (or PPC, for pay-per-click.) Within Google Ads, you can target your messaging to specific age ranges. These are:

  • 18-24
  • 25-34
  • 35-44
  • 45-54
  • 55-64
  • 65+

This provides a real challenge for those working in our space. If someone is retiring at 62, they are lumped in with people who are only 55, and might be several years away from retirement. Alternatively, someone who just turned 65 will not be receiving ads that could be meant for a far older crowd. This really makes marketing products to so-called “seniors” very hard, as Google’s arbitrary age break doesn’t follow standard societal conventions.

Google isn’t alone in this, however. Facebook uses the same arbitrary age break points that Google does. In fact, most online (and even some offline) marketing services use these categories. This puts us in a quandary – how do we, as people working in this space – advocate for our needs and still find success in the meantime.

At Varsity, we are taking a two-pronged approach. First, we are beginning to advocate to our partners for more granular demographics, especially for those in the over-65 category. At least give people over 65 the same 10-year break points that others get! We are also gathering demographic and psychometric data for those over the age 65. This data will continually impact our digital marketing strategies. We are always learning and trying to work smarter for our partners, and this kind of data forms a cornerstone of our success.

We are calling on other senior living marketers to advocate for this change as well. The more voices that can be heard, the better! 65+ isn’t an age. It isn’t a mindset. It’s an arbitrary demarcation that doesn’t represent the vibrancy, intelligence and diversity that older adults show.

We hope you’ll join us in making our voices heard and providing a “fresh perspective” to our media partners.

Aging services marketing is becoming more sophisticated each day. Providers continue to add tools to their marketing toolboxes, including a plethora of new digital marketing options. From IP targeting to marketing automation and display retargeting, each of these tactics comes with benefits as well as costs. How well do you understand them?

Created by our in-house communications team, and based on real-world experience in managing digital marketing campaigns for aging services organizations, we believe this publication will be an excellent tool for you and your team to better understand the digital marketing options available to you.

If you’d like to receive a copy of the guide, complete the form below, and we’ll send it your way!
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Earlier this week, Mozilla and Google announced changes to their internet browsing products and user accounts. These changes are empowering users who don’t want to see remarketing advertisements, such as display banners that are used to target advertising to previous website visitors. These changes are coming as a direct response from users who have shown a desire to have more control over their web browsing experience. By giving users the ability to control their ads, these companies hope to maintain their market share.

Of course, any time major changes like this are announced, blogs and writers try to look at the story from all angles, including from those who claim the sky is falling and that remarketing advertising is going to die out. After taking a look at the facts of the changes, we at Varsity are confident that this remarketing remains a viable means of reaching the right market for our clients.

First, let’s look at the actual announcement from Google:

Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them. A new control within Ads Settings will enable you to mute Snow Boot Co.’s reminder ads.

This position makes total sense. If someone isn’t interested in or shopping for an advertiser’s products anymore, then he or she should be able to turn off the remarketing ads. As an advertiser, this actually makes us very happy, because it means that our ads are getting smarter. Rather than serving an ad to someone who may no longer be interested, there is now a way for the person to opt out of the ads, ensuring that our ad dollars aren’t being spent on someone who we have no chance of converting.

This change is about quality over quantity and how organizations measure success. Ad impressions are one way to measure success, but they concentrate on quantity. If your key performance indicator (KPI) is serving more ads, then yes, this change is going to hurt your KPI, as your ad will be served less.

But, at Varsity, we believe in quality-based measures of success. If 1,000 people see your ad but don’t act on it, was it worth it? Or would you rather have 10 people see your ad, and three people make a connection with you? Of course, you’d prefer to have three out of 10, rather than zero out of 1,000.

By giving users the ability to say no to your ads, Google and Mozilla are actually helping organizations spend their ad dollars more efficiently. So, don’t let the reports fool you — this is an important change, but not one that you should be worried about. Remarketing ads will continue to be an effective way to keep your brand top of mind with your target audience.



Smart homes are all the rage these days, with many nearly constructed dwellings having built-in smart technology, such as connected thermostats, locks and lighting. For individuals or communities looking to retrofit existing structures with this technology, the price tag can be pretty high. However, there are ways to add these amenities to existing structures without breaking the bank. For less than $850 per home, an existing unit can be upgraded with smart technology. Here’s how.

Amazon Echo Show with an additional Echo Dot — $270

The Amazon Echo was an amazing device, but Amazon really upped its game with the Echo Show. This new piece of technology incorporates a screen, along with voice command capabilities.

The Echo serves as the hub for smart home technology, syncing seamlessly with key devices in your home. By using voice commands, the unit will turn lights on and off, change the temperature, provide reminders and much more.

We also recommend the addition of an Echo Dot, which will expand the systems capabilities by adding a satellite station. The Echo Show unit should be placed in a common area, such as a living room or kitchen. The Echo Dot is a smaller, voice-only-activated device that is perfect for the bedroom. The Dot can perform nearly all of the functions of the larger unit, but in a size more suitable for the bedside table.

Nest G3 thermostat — $250

Nest is the industry leader in smart home heating and cooling. This thermostat will sync wireless with the Echo unit, allowing you to raise or lower the temperature of your home with a simple voice command. The Nest also learns the patterns of your home, raising the temperature during key awake times and lowering it automatically when you’re sleeping or away. This automated learning helps to save money on costly heating and cooling bills, making it a no-brainer for inclusion.

Philips Hue starter pack with two additional bulbs — $110

Philips has developed a very sharp product with its Hue range of light bulbs and accessories. Each bulb fits into a regular, existing fixture, whether it be a table lamp or an overhead light. Once installed, the bulbs will sync with your in-home system so that you can order the lights on, off or dimmed with a simple voice command. If you want to get even fancier, you can upgrade your bulbs so that they can change color, providing hues from across the entire spectrum. One of the best features of these lights is that they can also be controlled from your smartphone, so if you’re coming home late, you can turn on all of the lights in the house before you even open the garage door!

Schlade Z-Wave Connect Century Deadbolt — $200

Have you ever settled into bed for the evening and wondered, “Did I lock the front door?” Of course you have! It’s at that moment that you have the conversation in your head about whether or not to get up from your cozy spot to go check. With the addition of this Schlade lock, however, you’ll never have to do that again. The lock connects to your Echo system, allowing you to open and close it with a voice command. It also offers the convenience of a keypad for an unlock code, in addition to the use of a regular key. Our favorite feature, however, is the built-in alarm system. It operates in three modes — alter, tamper and forced entry. This will allow you to know if someone happens to come through your door (such as a neighbor or maintenance worker) or if someone has tried to breach the lock through devious means. Oh, and it will send those alerts to your Echo and your smartphone, giving you around-the-clock notice of everything that is happening in the home.

So, there you have it. For a mere $830, any home can be upgraded to include the key features of modern smart homes. Plus, by offering the Amazon Echo as the key component of the system, homeowners can continue to add additional devices to the system. This makes a great marketing tool for retirement communities, as for just a small investment, they can advertise a modern (and expandable) product to potential residents.

Or maximize Medicare reimbursements? Or know early if a resident is unhappy? You can accomplish those goals and more though the power of data.

The benefits of big data analysis were explored in “Data-driven Decision-making: Gaining Clarity for Your Organization’s Direction,” a session at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting & Expo.

The presenters were Chip Burns, President/CIO, The Asbury Group Integrated Technologies; Kevin Purcell, PhD, Chief Data Scientist, Varsity; and Ed Lamberton, Application Development Manager, Asbury Communities Integrated Technologies.

In case you missed the session, here are a few quick takeaways:

  • Commitment to data is a competitive advantage in the ever-changing retirement living/health care space.
  • Data analysis should not be about a few canned reports at the beginning of the year, but about giving you the power to explore data independently.
  • Understanding connections in data can help you adjust quickly to changes in your local markets, meet new regulations and measure progress against strategic goals.

For the rest of the session’s insights, contact us for an in-person presentation.


Undoubtedly you’ve heard about Google’s “Mobilegeddon” – we’ve been working with our clients to stay ahead of this curve. Well, we wanted to break it down and help you be mobile-savvy.So, what is “Mobilegeddon” all about? Google has changed its algorithm related to mobile search and smartphones — desktop and tablets will be unaffected by the new algorithm, for now. 

Moving forward, when searches are conducted on mobile devices, Google will flag the mobile-friendly sites and give them higher priority in the organic search listings. Higher organic search rankings equates to a much higher likelihood of click-throughs (awareness) and leads (purchase intent) and vice versa for non-mobile-friendly sites. Considering how the top #1 and #2 organic search spots attract an average of 20-30 percent of the first search results page’s clicks, this only amplifies the importance for your company to ensure your site is mobile optimized.

​Depending on your industry, smartphone users can make up a significant portion of search volume. In fact, mobile constitutes roughly half of all Google searches. Furthermore, on the consumer side, over half of Boomers now own smartphones, while overall penetration in the U.S. has grown to 77 percent. The tides of device preference and usage are certainly changing, and your brand will ultimately benefit by rolling along with the tides.

A nice bright spot in this is that, with all things digital, this can be addressed in real time. When you’re ready to roll out your mobile-friendly site, Google will begin to recognize the change and incorporate it in higher into the search results. Also, the tweaks to the algorithm began on April 21 and will be rolled out over the next few weeks. So a dramatic change might not appear right away. But, at the same time, this doesn’t mean you should wait to react. Proactive planning is a must in today’s ever-changing online world.Time will tell regarding the true impact of this shift on search results for each website, but this would be the ideal time to refresh your website as it relates to mobile responsiveness. But with Google accounting for nearly three-fourths of the total search engine market, this algorithm change is not something to be ignored.

How can you tell if your website passes the mobile-friendliness test? Just click here and enter your website address. In a matter of seconds you’ll know if you get the message “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly!” or “Not mobile-friendly“.Don’t wait to see what impact this has on your site. We’ve already analyzed this and discussed the rise of mobile device website visits with a number of clients, now whom are highly interested in moving forward with this strategic investment. Give us a call to discuss how Varsity could help you ensure that this Google algorithm change isn’t going to hurt your business and give your competitors an unfair advantage — our interactive team is ready and has the chops to help you be even stronger in the all important search and mobile worlds.

new lifestyles iphone app In the past year alone, we’ve seen a number of online research portals dedicated to helping find and review senior care options, and an even larger number of apps dedicated to everything from specialized caregiving to therapy plans. Now, one company is combining the best of both platforms.

Dallas-based New LifeStyles recently launched an iPhone app that displays senior living options in a given geographical area. A geo-mapping feature allows users to see nearby resources based on a current location, and tailor their searches to a specific region or even type of care – CCRC, assisted living, skilled nursing or memory care. Communities and services types are identified by a color-coded system, and users can receive directions on a map, visit a Web listing, and can even contact a community by calling or emailing directly from the app.

Doug Fusella, New LifeStyles president and COO, elaborated on the technology in a company press release: “An individual’s search for a qualified senior living community often begins with a sudden loss-of-health event that injects urgency and confusion,” he says, “often resulting in poor and costly choices. Even when there is time for a leisurely review, the attempt to make viable comparisons can seem bewildering. With these new digital channels, users can make fast and well-informed decisions from anywhere.”

User guides are available in printable and digital PDF versions, and for those who (still) have not gone mobile, a free app site is accessible from a standard computer. Users can locate links to other pages and websites, and can email pages from the digital guide to friends and family members.

Necessity was the mother of invention, according to company history. New LifeStyles was founded in 1987 by Les Blaser who, after a frustrating attempt to research care options for his mother in the Dallas area, published one of the first guides on nursing and senior care facilities. Blaser and his wife launched New LifeStyles Online in 1995 as one of the first online resources, and the portal now provides free information on senior communities, home health, hospice, and senior products and services for 39 markets in the U.S. and Canada.

MARKETING INSIGHT: As mobile phones become more common and content becomes more sophisticated, watch for more product and service providers in the senior care space to explore and adopt this technology. As we uncovered in our recent research, the upcoming generations are adopting mobile technology at a fast pace, for a number of daily functions, and note that they are definitely influenced by mobile content. They’re using them to download apps, read QR codes, or even enjoy entertainment – and much of the interest skews toward healthcare.

The impact of mobile internet will be a growing influence and enable marketers to communicate with this new generation of Boomers and seniors efficiently, since many enjoy browsing online in their free time and report being influenced by mobile content. For example, advertising on health or senior-oriented product sites would be one way to reach online seniors who may have a higher level of comfort with technology.

You can read more about the phenomenon in our latest white paper, The Great Disconnect.


The Varsity Team

Technology Making Much-Needed Connections in Assisted Living It’s probably old news to senior care providers that changing attitudes and trends are slowly but surely shifting independent living to resemble assisted living, and assisted to skilled nursing, forcing services to evolve from lifestyle to healthcare.

Average move-in age for assisted living has increased from 82 to 87, driven by the economic downturn, and the desire to age in place. A number of those residents require help with multiple activities of daily living (ADLs), and – like their independent living counterparts – wish to stay at this level of care for as long as possible. More residents are also entering with memory issues, causing facilities to reexamine their building design, training and technology.

Technology, it seems, could be the savior of assisted living. Given the Transitional and coming generations’ familiarity with personal technology, employing healthcare-related innovations will seem neither foreign nor scary to them.

For residents with higher acuity, having access to Wi-Fi, a personal emergency response system (PERS) and a motion monitor safety system could be all they require. Others would benefit from medication management systems, care-planning systems and electronic medical records.

Although we’re not anticipating robotic employees anytime soon, something as simple as moving to electronic medical records could be a step in the right direction. Communities that have flipped the proverbial switch report positive effects on their assisted living services in the form of controlled costs, brand differentiation, increased staff effectiveness and, because of the added safety element and higher levels of care, fewer occupancy issues and increased length of stay.

We examined the role of technology in the CCRC setting in our recent Great Disconnect research paper. See how some communities are bridging that gap in the assisted living level in a recent edition of Senior Housing Business.

MARKETING INSIGHT: Technology could be the key for providers to redefine, rebuild and rebrand their assisted living levels. Developing and deploying technology will not only improve experience for both residents and their families, but making consistent, easy-to-access technologies a priority in living and healthcare spaces will be a necessity to attract the new generations of tech-savvy adults.

Contact us to see how technology could make a positive impact on the occupancy or bottom line for your community or organization.


The Varsity Team

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