Engaging Seniors in a Digital World

February 10, 2022

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Member engagement is a two-way street in which sponsors and members work together to improve health outcomes, reduce costs and build relationships. As the health care space introduces more digital solutions to reach members, we wondered how this impacts seniors.

“We need to focus on simplicity and access when engaging with seniors.”

“Engaging with seniors in our digital world can be a complex problem to solve as this generation did not grow up with computers and smartphones…We need to focus on simplicity and access when engaging with seniors” said Kimberly Averett, palliative care social worker at The Southeast Permanente Medical Group.




We sat down with Kimberly to better understand how our strategy for engagement differs across generations and how we can meet members where they are.

What makes engaging seniors different from engaging another age group?

Engaging seniors is unique because their medical and social needs are often greater than other age groups. We may encounter computer literacy challenges, which make it difficult to engage with them in our digital world. I have many patients who either don’t own a computer or smart phone or if they do, may not know how to use it appropriately.

 “I think the key factor when engaging with seniors is simplicity.”

What is the most difficult part about engaging seniors? Why do you think this is?

The most challenging part about engaging seniors is often lower access to resources such as technology and transportation. Seniors often deal with limited income and chronic health conditions which may hinder their ability to access a computer/smart phone and reliable transportation.

 Has the pandemic impacted engagement?

The pandemic has certainly highlighted the gaps in our ability to engage with seniors. For example, when the pandemic first started in early 2020, many face-to-face medical appointments were cancelled, and appointments were shifted to telehealth. We found many of our senior patients had trouble accessing their telehealth appointments because they either didn’t have a computer or smartphone to do a video appointment or they didn’t know how to operate the technology. Therefore, many of those patients were lost to follow up.

How do we increase engagement among seniors?

 I think the key factor when engaging with seniors is simplicity. The simpler the technology, the increased likelihood they will use it. Instead of a complicated website or even an app, providing seniors with a telephone number they can use to bridge the access is the best way to go. As I said before, many of the seniors I work with don’t have access to the technology or don’t know how to operate it. Therefore, we need to meet them where they are, which is usually through simple technology.

“Therefore, we need to meet them where they are, which is usually through simple technology.”

What questions should we consider when utilizing technology?

1.    Do they have access to the technology?

2.    Do they know how to use the technology?

3.    Do they want to use the technology?

4.    Do they have a support system who can help them with the technology?

5.    Do they have chronic conditions that impair their ability to use the technology – hearing, vision, or functional impairments?

Kimberly Averett, LCSW

Palliative Care Social Worker, Inpatient Palliative Care Team Lead – The Southeast Permanente Medical Group

Kimberly Averett, LCSW has over 10 years of experience working with seniors in the home, hospital, and clinic settings. Kimberly’s experience spans hospice, palliative care, and heart failure clinics. Kimberly received her bachelor’s degree with Magna Cum Laude honors in Social Work from the University of Georgia and her master’s degree in Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kimberly lives in Atlanta, GA where she loves reading fiction books, binging Netflix shows and spending time with her husband and 2-year-old son.