Enhancing quality of life with Bigleaf’s network optimization solution in senior living communities

In senior living communities, reliable internet connectivity is not only important to residents’ quality of life but also plays a critical role in their health and safety. Bigleaf works with several organizations who support the needs of aging individuals, from traditional senior care residences to assisted living communities to memory care facilities. For these communities, many with multiple locations across county and state lines, ensuring that reliable connection is a complex task.

Elderly woman with caregiver learning to use a tablet on a sunny assisted living facility porch, with senior men conversing in the background.

Addressing “The Internet Problem” head-on in senior living communities

There are over 30,600 active assisted living facilities in the United States alone and the market is expected to expand at a compound growth rate (CAGR) of 5.53% from 2023-20302. When we started working with one senior care facility, they initially consisted of a couple of communities in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Since then, they’ve added more than 20 new locations. Like most fast-growing organizations they experienced technology challenges, the most glaring centered around what employees and residents referred to as “the internet problem” — the reliability of its in-building Wi-Fi and VoIP phone systems and the impact it had on staff productivity and residents’ quality of life. 

Fixing “the Internet problem” has become a fundamental strategic imperative

In a cloud-based system, when the internet goes down, so, too, do the phones. For elderly care communities, that means adult children are unable to call their family members and nurse call systems are rendered inoperable, taxing both staff and residents of each community. 

Adding to the challenges, when a company has broadly distributed locations, they rely on different local internet service providers for their cloud-based phone and IT systems; meaning problems can’t conveniently be solved by any single ISP. 

When internet problems occur, their IT departments also get hit with a constant stream of internet-related support tickets. Frustratingly, all they can typically do is call their local ISP and hope for a resolution, which doesn’t often come. Rather, they’re given the run around as ISPs try to absolve themselves from blame or responsibility, which leads to frustrated employees and residents. 

IT teams tell us, “When the internet is unreliable, people complain. Phones don’t work. Computers slow down. And staff respond by either finding a work around or just ignoring the problem. Then they stop complaining to IT because they assume IT can’t help. They just accept that this is the way it is, which doesn’t allow us to create long-term and reliable solutions.” 

Putting network optimization to work for “Mom’s Kitchen Phone”-level reliability

For one of our customers with a lean IT team who manage more than 700 computers across their company’s 38 locations, the IT director ripped out the existing infrastructure and installed new phones and better connectivity. He also introduced redundancy and intelligence into the IT system. The strategy behind this solution was rooted in an unlikely place — his mom’s kitchen phone. 

The Kitchen Phone Philosophy is a throwback to the days when the IT director could pick up the phone in his mother’s house and knew it would work every time. He wanted to architect an infrastructure that would give every employee and resident that same sense of predictable performance. 

Close-up of a vintage rotary telephone amidst a softly blurred background of household items and a window that suggests a cozy, lived-in space.

To make the IT system as reliable as his old kitchen phone he needed to redesign the whole system from the ground up by upgrading the Wi-Fi, network, and firewall systems. But he knew that none of that would matter without a reliable internet connection at every location. For that he needed two things:  

  1. Redundancy 
  2. Something that could make use of the redundancy in real-time without his limited team getting involved.  

For redundancy, he added a second circuit to each community location. To manage those circuits, he installed Bigleaf’s network optimization solution at each location. With those two components in place, the communities were equipped with multiple paths to the internet and real-time, bi-directional QoS, load-balancing, and failover to ensure that those paths were used to provide a flawless user experience. 

Their network had now become as reliable as Mom’s kitchen phone! And that’s when they began to notice something interesting. 

Reaping the business benefits of truly reliable internet connectivity

“Since installing Bigleaf, we don’t get calls about internet problems. We get calls about people thinking that the internet is down. But it always ends up being a computer has lost its Wi-Fi capabilities, or somebody misconfigured something while they were working on something else. The internet just doesn’t go down anymore.” 

No longer confined by low expectations, the residents and staff started paying attention to the network again. 

“When we would get calls about network problems, we’d ask people about their experience: when was the last time they remembered the Internet going down or where does the WiFi not work in their building. And they’d have a hard time recalling when that was. That was when I knew what we had built with Bigleaf’s network optimization solution was a success — because they started thinking about it again.”

Fixing “the internet problem” has become a fundamental strategic improvement for the company. Shoring up their network meant they now have time to think strategically instead of reactively, as many IT departments are forced to do. 

Several IT directors we work with agree, “It allows you to take a proactive approach to technology when you’re not constantly putting out fires. That’s the real value of Bigleaf.”  

Since deploying Bigleaf’s network optimization solution we’ve heard from customers that their help desk tickets have dropped an astonishing 30%, even as network usage increased. IT is now seen as a source of solutions and innovations.  

More strikingly, this has inadvertently created a competitive advantage for these senior care facilities. The reliability of Wi-Fi and internet connectivity has turned into a key, competitive selling point used to attract new residents and provide comforting assurance to their families that they were all in good hands. 

The outcome of the kitchen phone approach, using Bigleaf’s network optimization solution, extends far beyond the network. Staff at senior living facilities can now provide better care for their residents, and their residents experience a better, more connected quality of life. 

Ensure internet reliability for all assisted living communities

Enhance the quality of life for residents and staff across various types of long-term care facilities, including assisted living homes, memory care centers, and recovery and rehabilitation facilities.

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