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Senior living facility uses new ways to engage residents

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ALBERT LEA, Minn. (KTTC) - Technology and senior citizens is not something you normally see together. Thorne Crest Senior Living Community is working to change that. It recently received a McKnight's Excellence in Technology award for the innovative approach.

"It does help with removing isolation that sometimes people feel," said Thorne Crest sales and marketing director Catherine Buboltz. "Sometimes, it's a way of opening up conversation."

Residents now have the chance to see the world from their rooms with the Rendever Virtual Reality Program.

"It was fun," said resident Patricia Benson. "I felt like I was falling off my chair."

"We went and visited different countries. That was kinda nice," said her husband, Thomas.

Some use it to take a trip down memory lane.

"I've had a resident who was from a different country and we were able to take her back to her hometown," said Thorne Crest wellness director Leah Atz. "She was able to identify all the buildings around and she was saying 'That's where I went to school'. I think it's great for social well-being and reminiscing on memories."

"You know you move out of your house that you've been in for 50 or 60 years and it's kind of different," said Thomas Benson. "You have to get used to it."

Another popular piece of technology at Thorne Crest is the Eversound. Unlike a traditional hearing aid which amplifies all the sound in the room, the Eversound headphones only work with what is coming from the microphone. It also has an adapter which helps it work with any device with a headphone jack.

"As we all know, [being] hard of hearing can lead to isolation or residents not wanting to go to social groups because they can't hear," said Atz.

Thorne Crest also has a portable computer experience, tailored specifically towards the older generation.

""You can go in if you want to listen to music, old time music, it has an old jukebox on there that plays all the old, good tunes," Atz said. "It has fun trivia about things that happened in the '40s, '50s and '60s."

How do the residents feel about the modern devices?

"A lot of the residents really enjoy it. There was hesitancy at first because you're putting something on your face and technology," said Atz. "A lot of residents were worried about what [the Virtual Reality Program] was. We explained it as the old View-Master but a lot cooler now."

"We're open to it but I haven't got a smartphone," said Benson.

Thorne Crest also received a 5-star rating from US News and World Report and was named Albert Lea's Large Business of the Year for 2018 by the local chamber of commerce.

Alex Tejada

Alex Tejada

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