Welcome to Bridge the Gap with hosts Josh Crisp and Lucas McCurdy. A podcast dedicated to inform, educate and influence the future of housing and services for seniors. Bridge the Gap aims to help shape the culture of the senior living industry by being an advocate and a positive voice of influence which drives quality outcomes for our aging population.
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AI and Tech Solutions for Aging Services with Joe Velderman of Cypress Living

Gain valuable insights from this week's conversation on AI and the future of tech in senior living.


We've got a totally different demographic of residents.

Joe Velderman

Guest on This Episode

Joe Velderman

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Josh Crisp

Owner & CEO Solinity

Josh Crisp is a senior living executive with more than 15 years of experience in development, construction, and management of senior living communities across the southeast.

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Lucas McCurdy

Owner & Founder The Bridge Group Construction

Lucas McCurdy is the founder of The Bridge Group Construction based in Dallas, Texas. Widely known as “The Senior Living Fan”.

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What I think we're missing when we talk about this boomer generation is that this is a totally different consumer from a technology perspective than what aging services is used to.

Quick Overview of the Podcast

What does AI and electricity have in common? Joe Velderman, Vice President of Innovation at Cypress Living, shares insights on consumer technology expectations and practical application of artificial intelligence in aging services. Plus, how sales and marketing in senior living is directly impacted by tech.

Free resource: Responsible Use of AI in Aging Services 

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Welcome to season seven of Bridge The Gap, a podcast dedicated to informing, educating, and influencing the future of housing and services for seniors. Powered by sponsors Accushield, Aline, NIC MAP Vision, Procare HR, Sage, Hamilton CapTel, Service Master, The Bridge Group   Construction and Solinity. Produced by Solinity Marketing.


Lucas McCurdy

Welcome to Bridge the Gap Podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. It’s an exciting episode today, on a very important topic related to tech in senior housing. I want to welcome a good friend, Joe Velderman of Cypress Living. Welcome to the show.


Joe Velderman

Hey guys, it's great to be with you this morning.


Lucas McCurdy

It's good to see you. You know, Josh, technology and senior housing is not a new topic, but it is a very much emerging and evolving topic, and Joe is a great mind and has great experience in this background. Today we're going to go over a lot of different topics related to tech and senior housing, including some AI, which is a hot button these days in so many ways. So Joe, we'd love to unpack some of these concepts but before we do, tell us about Cypress Living and what kind of processes and technologies y'all are implementing in some of your communities there in Florida.


Joe Velderman

Well, Cypress Living, we're located in southwest Florida, specifically in Fort Myers, Florida. Fort Myers, Florida is in Lee County, Florida, and I just read an article earlier this week about Lee County, Florida being the number one fastest growing county in the entire United States. I believe it just sitting at red lights in the county as I drive around. So, what's interesting to me about that demographic, though, is that 85% of our growth has been, age 55 plus people moving to our county.

 So we are definitely a retirement destination here, and we're feeling the impact of that. You know, not only personally as we drive around the county or go to Costco or what have you, but, just with the services that we provide and the interest that our organization offers, we've had a lot of momentum, which is terrific. So, Cypress Living kind of sits between two not-for-profit operating entities. One is a life plan community, here on the beautiful health park, Florida and southwest Florida, called Cypress Cove, and Cypress Cove is actually celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. So it's, single site, life plan, community, and we have the privilege of serving, right around 750 residents at Cypress Cove, on a daily basis. So it's an exciting time at Cypress Cove right now, we're doing some campus expansion. We're developing. We're in the bottom of the ninth inning right now, developing a 12 acre parcel of land with 48 new, independent living homes, a new clubhouse that will have a new independent living restaurant, some great new amenities, outdoor pool, fitness center, all that kind of stuff as part of that campus. 

So, it’s really exciting, it's been really rewarding for me to help 48 new families come to Cypress Cove and get moved in and get settled in, and start to experience some of the tech that we've been carefully thinking about and planning for so long. I really enjoyed doing those technology orientations with all those new residents. And then our other not-for-profit entity is called Cypress at Home. And this is a really innovative suite of services that are meant to go out into the greater Southwest Florida community and help people who may be making the preference or decision to prefer to stay at home, or just, you know, not being able to afford a platform or product like Cypress Cove, right. Aging services, as we know, comes with a price tag, and not everybody can afford that, and some people prefer to stay in their homes. So, we really wanted to wrap our services around those people as they make that decision to age in place and try to help them do that as successfully as possible while maintaining independence. We use a tagline internally here. We do our best every day, coming to work every day, trying to create better tomorrows for older adults in southwest Florida.


Josh Crisp

Wow. Well, I love your mission. And, Joe, I've enjoyed following you and getting to know you since we met years ago, and I've always enjoyed it. You've got a very strategic mind, and obviously you deal in the world of tech, and we've been talking in our industry for a long time now about changing consumer expectations. And, you know, specifically, we would like to dive in and understand from you what you're seeing, as you have kind of a pulse of such a large demographic specifically, that's moving into your area, as you mentioned. And how you're seeing those expectations from the consumer, whether that be the actual resident and or their family. I'm assuming, given probably some expectations changing on the part of team members in that community and how you guys are tackling that, how you're strategically thinking and processing, on all the variety of tech that's out there and and how you're going to use that. And if you wouldn't mind, kind of opening up the tent and letting us all in this morning and, and kind of, expressing what you guys are doing.


Joe Velderman

You know, guys, we've talked for a long time in this industry about the term that I actually don't really like that much, but people have called it the ‘silver tsunami’, right. And what folks are referring to is the boomer generation, I think, and we know there's some really great data about the boomer generation, specifically, our friends over at Nick, routinely publish that information. So there's this bubble or balloon of citizens in the United States who are part of that boomer generation. 

Anybody born between 1946 and 1964. And there's like 76 million of them, it's the single largest generation of people that our country has ever seen. And, you know, there's a lot of excitement about that as those people age, you know, there's going to be a lot of opportunities for aging services to provide services for that population of people. Unfortunately, that's kind of squarely in contrast with the challenges that our industry faces around staffing right now, right? And finding adequate, qualified, engaged staff members who are, you know, willing to come in and take care of this incredible population of people that we anticipate over the next five, ten, 20 years. What I think we're missing, when we talk about this boomer generation, is that this is a totally different consumer from a technology perspective than what aging services is used to, right? These are people who retired before, I'm sorry, after the iPhone was released. So the iPhone was released in 2008, the oldest boomer right now I think is 80 years old. And so, you've got people who were working when the iPhone came out and they're used to having technology in their pocket, in their purse, in their hand at all times. And, there's an expectation that comes along with that. I think when they're, considering aging services, whatever flavor that may be, that aging services providers are going to have some digital front door access for them. So, I was recently up at LeadingAge Minnesota presenting at one of their technology conferences, and I prepared a whole bunch of stats, about the boomer generation. I think you'll find this interesting. 

So, you know, 61% of boomers own a cell phone. I think that number is kind of low, actually, I think that's quite a bit larger number, actually. 44% own some flavor of tablets, 75% use the internet, 45% of them use social media, and an astonishing 51% of boomers are utilizing some sort of smart home technology today. Which is, as Amazon is measuring, it's the fastest growing segment of consumers that they have, utilizing smart home technology.


Lucas McCurdy

Joe, with technology involving older adults, can you give an example of maybe a typical, or even an extreme example of an older adult and the types of technology that they are utilizing inside your community?


Joe Velderman

We just had a new resident move in a couple of months ago to our expansion project, the Oaks at Cypress Cove, and he and his wife have really challenged some of, you know, even my expectations of what residents are bringing into our community. So, Charlie's 84 years old, and he and his wife have two iPhones, two iPad Pros, two MacBook Pros, and a wireless printer. Charlie likes to fly drones, too. So he has three drones. They have digital cameras, they have a storage NAS in their home for all of their digital media. They brought four smart TVs with them. 

He has no interest in the cable TV service that we provide here at Cypress through Comcast, he only wants to stream TV. They have five Alexa devices that they brought with them, and he was pretty passionate about wanting to put a smart doorbell with a camera on it on the front door of his house. So, I think it's just, maybe an extreme example, but I think it is an example of sort of what some of the expectations are of some of our future residents. Charlie was telling me a story, actually, a couple of months ago before he moved in, he and his wife wanted to go out to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants across the river in Cape Coral, and he called the restaurant to find out how long the wait there was going to be to, you know, get on their waitlist and nobody answered the phone. 

So he flew one of his drones across the river to the restaurant to see how many cars were in the parking lot to find out if the wait was going to be too long for them to go to that restaurant or not. I just think that's cool. Again, probably a little bit extreme, but I think it really kind of speaks to, you know, the evolving consumer technology comfort level that a lot of people have, and correspondingly, the expectations that many of our future residents will have.


Lucas McCurdy

I think that's such a great example, you know, and I'm sitting here, I'm smiling, thinking about it. The fact is, the truth is that is 99% of all of our homes. Why would it really be, why would we be surprised that it's, you know, an extreme example? Just because they're 85, I think it's really more of a precursor to what will be the norm, giving that example. So I really appreciate that insight, Joe, and a fun conversation to have.


Joe Velderman

I think it's just incredible that, you know, we've got a totally different demographic of residents that are considering some of the services that we provide, aging services. And I think that we're woefully unprepared to meet some of the expectations that some of those, or nearly all of those boomers have. When you think about, you know, what future residents have accomplished in their lives and what they're accustomed to as part of their every day. 

They've shopped online, they've used social media, they've accessed their electronic health records electronically, whether it be through Epic, MyChart or any of those companion softwares that hospitals and physician offices use. They've likely shared wearable tech information with their primary care physician. They've most certainly used virtual presence services, whether it be zoom or something more formal, like a Teladoc or something like that. They've experienced artificial intelligence already in their lives, so they've potentially used virtual reality. They've undoubtedly had their information stolen in the cyber attack. And as we start to see more and more robotics, in our world, they're appreciating what robotics can do for them. So, you know, all of those things kind of, put all those things into a blender and it's like we've got a much more technologically sophisticated resident with higher expectations about what aging services providers can offer them from a technology perspective than what our, our previous or current residents have have ever had before.


Josh Crisp

Wow. So painting that picture, Joe. I mean, where do you begin? I mean, where did you guys begin? I know you've been thinking and working on this for years, but right now, in the modern era, I mean, where are you focusing? Like what is the challenges that you're actually trying to meet and, you know, then talk about this whole concept of AI, which is everywhere you turn, there's some new AI solution. And I think there's a lot of questions around it, you know, not only what is responsible and how to use AI responsibly and effectively, but also how do you make it practical, for your team members and for the residents and for your operations?


Joe Velderman

So, you know, in terms of trying to meet consumer expectations here at Cypress, we've been on a multi-year journey that's been sort of, very strategically laid out. You know, it's as you guys are aware of, technology has a lot of dependencies in it, right? You can’t access the web without a computer, can't get on the web without the internet. I need some sort of connectivity for that. So, you know, we've been trying to, and have been successful in building a foundation for technology to sit on here at Cypress, that, you know, took a lot of work, took a lot of effort, took a lot of support from the rest of the organization. And for us, you know, it started, probably about five, maybe even six years ago now, laying a great infrastructure foundation. You know, we really wanted to have incredible, reliable, robust, fast infrastructure. So we spent a lot of time and a lot of energy, a lot of resources, pouring into our network. You know, we probably have one of the best networks in all of aging services today. You know, we have, on our 60 acre campus, we have something like 650 WiFi access points, and we're delivering, you know, multi-gig, speed to the homes in many cases through fiber optic cable, really trying to future proof that as much as possible. 

Because, you know, we had a vision of being able to do a lot of things with that connectivity, right? We think about IoT devices and resident connectivity and RPM technology. All of that stuff depends on really reliable, robust Wi-Fi. So we invested, you know, like I said, a lot of time, energy, resources, into creating a great infrastructure here at Cypress and, you know, we depend on that every single day now, right. We do our best to maintain connectivity. We've got three carriers. We had Hurricane Ian move through our community about a year and a half ago. We lost literally every major utility, when Hurricane Ian moved through our community. We lost power, we lost water, we lost cell phone service, we lost telephone service. But the one thing that worked through the storm and in the days after the storm was our Wi-Fi network, right. And that became really, really vital to be able to communicate with the outside world. We were able to get supplies and get resources, reach out to family members and let them know that everybody was okay. 

So that was, you know, an incredible success story and a testament for, you know, the work that we did to build that Wi-Fi network out. But beyond that, you know, we're looking at ways to really engage with our customers very intentionally. I mentioned, I think social media is huge, right? From a marketing perspective as we go into this boomer era, we've got to have really polished websites. People are shopping online for our services. We have to have great resources available. We have to be able to compete in the SEO world. We have to be able to, you know, engage socially, whether it be through Facebook or Instagram or TikTok or any of those platforms, we have to be able to engage socially with our customers and our future customers and their family members. I'm a big believer, too, in that, you know, aging services providers have to provide some sort of digital front door access to the community. We all think about and spend, you know, tremendous resources on our actual front doors, right? 

We spend a lot on landscaping and the way the front of our buildings look, and that's great, but we also have to provide beautiful digital front doors, the same way that companies like Starbucks have an incredible app experience on their iPhones or their Android phones or, you know, target has a great app experience, very transactional. It means a lot to the customers and it helps to engage with their consumers electronically. So we spent, you know, a good amount of time reviewing all of the different tech solutions that were out there from a resident engagement perspective. But less from the perspective of being a resident engagement platform and more from the perspective of how can we bring an app into our community and really have it be our digital front door for consumers and their family members? So, we partnered with a company called K4Connect out of North Carolina and we've had K4Connect now for about two and a half years. It's been a tremendous experience. You know, there's a social element of their platform that kind of feels a lot like many of the social media platforms that are out there, but there's also a lot of great transactional things that you can do inside of that app. You know, you can make dining reservations in the dining room, you can order food online, you can request transportation, you can put in requests for facilities, you can put in requests for technology. You can engage, you know, with the smart home piece of K4, right. So we're putting Amazon Alexa devices in all of our independent living units, two devices per home. We're putting in smart light switches, we're putting in smart thermostats. 

We want people to go into that app and be able to use their voice to be able to control their home and provide convenience, but we also want to provide a lot of concierge through that Alexa device. So, with the Alexa device, you can ask her things specifically about Cypress Cove. You can say, Alexa, what's for dinner tonight at Captain's Table? And she'll read back the menu for you, and you can ask her if the mail's been delivered or not and she knows the answer to whether or not the mail carrier's dropped off the mail. You can ask her questions about activities that are happening. And, you know, that's AI in the background that's running those Alexa devices. And I like to remind people that the AI that we're using today in 2024 is the worst AI that we're ever going to use for the rest of our lives, right? 

So Alexa is going to continue to get infinitely better, and she's going to be able to do way more things. I'm almost resolved to the point that for our residents, I think that the voice platform, you know, utilizing technology like Alexa or Google or Siri or whatever it may be, is truly going to become the operating system for how our residents engage digitally with our communities in their homes, right? And so I think, you know, we're just kind of in the first inning of this AI age right now, and it's just going to continue to get exponentially more effective, exponentially better, and exponentially more useful for all of us as providers. But you asked briefly about, you know, responsible use of AI, and I think, you know, I contrast to the time that we're living in right now, this new AI age as being very similar to what the internet age was in the mid 90s, right. 

You guys probably remember that a lot of homes were getting computers at that time, a lot of homes were using dial up internet or maybe getting high speed internet in their homes, and nobody really knew, you know, what the internet was going to be capable of doing for people. And looking back on it, I don't think we got it right, right. We've kind of not used the internet to the best of its ability in many cases. We do, for many things, right. We connect, you know, but there's a lot of stuff on the internet that we all wish was not on the internet, too. It's kind of a nuisance for some of us. But I think right now is our opportunity as a society to really start to define how we're going to utilize artificial intelligence. 

You know I think artificial intelligence is going to be as impactful, as transformative as what the internet was in the 90s when that really became prolific. it will be more transformational than what the iPhone was. Somebody mentioned it in a meeting I was in one time and I kind of agree with them. AI was probably going to be as transformational as what electricity was, you know, when electricity came out in the 1800s to our society. But it may be difficult to see that right now. I know there's kind of a lot of promise around AI that we're not really seeing, as quickly as what some of us may want, but, you know, you look at the iterations of AI, it's evolving at an order of magnitude. It's not even it's not even exponential growth. It's like 10x, 100x growth, you know, year over year. So, I think, you know, right now we should be having a lot of conversations about how organizations, how individuals, how our society is going to be utilizing AI in a responsible way, going forward, right. We're going to be challenged with positioning information to AI to process that. And, you know, is that the right thing to do? Is it, you know, ethical for us to be doing that? Are we meeting regulatory statutes by doing that?

 AI is going to challenge a lot of workforce members, right? Hopefully not in aging services because we need them, but it's going to challenge a lot of jobs that are out there. And, what's an organization position going to be on that, right? I think AI has an opportunity to make many of us lazy from a thinking perspective, if we're going to depend on tools like ChatGPT or Copilot to do a lot of thinking for us and, what's that going to do? I think there's potential good from that or potential bad from that. So we just have to think about, you know, what's our posture going to be around AI, right. How are we going to respond to it? How are we going to use it responsibly and, and hopefully we can turn it into something better than what we did with the internet, right?


Josh Crisp

Wow. Well, Joe, you've given us a lot to think about, and it's amazing the exciting things that you guys are doing and your approach to that. I mean, you're really raising the bar, raising tech, raising the bar for tech. And, you know, Lucas, I was just sitting here thinking a lot of this stuff. I'm excited about, a lot of it I'm apprehensive about, but I'll tell you, I'm so thankful that our industry has folks like Joe in it, that are helping to lead in thought and helping us understand not only what they're doing in their communities, but how we can learn from that for the industry. That's what Bridge the Gap’s all about, is to take the thought leadership of folks like Joe and elevate that. So can't wait for our audience to connect directly with Joe. For those that aren't already connected, we know, Joe, you've been around in the industry for a long time, have a large following, and we so appreciate you taking time for us today.


Joe Velderman

It's always a pleasure, guys. I love chatting about this stuff and connecting with you guys. It's a great privilege to be able to connect with your audience. I will make it available to your listeners as well as other organizations are starting to think about AI ,you know, one of the things that we talk about here internally a lot is helping to contribute to the rest of the industry, and our CEO loves to use the term, you know, we like to be the tie that helps to raise other boats. And so, we have internally developed a posture around AI for our organization. I'm careful to use that word posture instead of policy, because it's very hard to police the utilization of AI and I don't want to stifle people's use of AI, but I want them to be thinking about it, you know, in a healthy way. And so, we have published our posture around responsible use of AI on the internet and folks can check out AI.cypressliving.org if they want to learn more about what our posture looks like for responsible use of AI.


Josh Crisp

Wow, Lucas, what a great tool.


Lucas McCurdy

Yeah, that's very forward thinking and, it's fun to have these conversations around these topics in tech, because I've been walking through senior living communities for about 15 years now, and I have seen the evolution just recently this past couple of weeks, just walking through a community and seeing residents in the common spaces on their cell phones. You know, just like you would see any person of any age and a coffee shop or something else, they have their head down, their on their phones looking at whatever, social media or making appointments or connecting with family members. It is changing, and it is changing fast, and it is fun to have these conversations and I'm sure we'll have many more. So Joe, thank you for your time today and for our listeners, you can check out BTGvoice.com. Check out this content and so much more. Connect with us on LinkedIn, we’d love to get your thoughts on this type of content and this conversation. Like and comment, and thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge the Gap.


Thanks for listening to Bridge the Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. Connect with the BTG network team and use your voice to influence the industry by connecting with us at BTG voice.com.

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