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Residents of The Legacy Willow Bend enthusiastically adopt new online engagement system.

A newly installed online communication portal at The Legacy Willow Bend has residents defying the stereotype of seniors and online engagement. Younger folks may believe that most people in their 80’s and 90’s have no interest in the Internet of Things. They often conclude that a “digital divide” exists between older and younger generations.

At The Legacy Willow Bend, the “divide” is not the wide river many believe it to be. Think babbling brook instead. The adoption rate of a new system called Ripple, is making waves among the resident population here, with more than 80 percent diving into the program — and loving it.

The Legacy Willow Bend is one of only 13 retirement communities in the country to install the program, and the only one in the Dallas area.

“The whole idea is to encourage residents to combine logging in to Ripple with their cup of coffee in the morning,” said Lisa Harris, the community’s Lifestyle & Member Assistance Coordinator.

Ripple features a dashboard of options to help residents plan their day, week, month, or even year. They can sign up for events, classes, or outings and also make reservations in the community dining room or submit take-out orders. A wealth of helpful information is at their fingertips, including a resident directory, a staff directory and a department directory. Each directory provides names and contact information, all of which helps residents become better acquainted with both staff members and fellow residents. It makes engagement across the community quick, simple and easy.

Residents can also access documents like minutes from meetings of the Resident Advisory Committee, the community newsletter and activity calendars, all of which they can print if desired. They can view a photo gallery of the latest community events and even order prints, or more commonly, download and forward photos to family members.

The interface provides a feedback and suggestion feature, too, along with a bevy of helpful links to a variety of online resources such as weather, the Plano Symphony, the City of Plano website, and the community’s clinic doctor. Additional links are added as residents suggest them. Ripple is also available as a smart phone app.

“It’s fun to see residents with their iPhones, pointing to features and talking to each other about all the things they do on Ripple,” said Harris. “We see more and more of our residents, as well as prospective residents who visit the community, using smart phones, ordering app rides like Uber and using other online portals.”

Harris notes that Ripple has dramatically reduced the amount of paper waste produced by the community. Prior to its adoption, Harris printed hundreds of documents monthly, but now prints only enough to fill a central binder of information. The small percentage of residents who do not use the system can still access information there. The paper reduction also aligns nicely with the community’s new Green Initiative that kicked off in June.

“We began one-on-one training for Ripple in May, with very little pushback from residents. Some, like Maggie Armstrong, jumped in by serving on the training team and making house calls to show fellow residents how to access and use the system. Other residents, such as 95-year-old Elinor Benton, decided it was time to learn how to use the computer in the community’s library. She set up an email account just so she could log in to Ripple.

“Our world today is continuing to move further in a digital direction, and we want to do everything we can to ensure our residents are equipped to meet the latest changes in technology head on,” said Laura Levy, the community’s executive director. “We’re privileged to have individuals like Maggie Armstrong who are willing to make sure that everyone is able to use Ripple and any other technologies that come along.”

“They have come to view Ripple as a friend, and they have adopted it wholeheartedly,” adds Harris.