In our role managing retirement properties across the UK, we’ve seen first-hand how developing a sense of community and providing the space to foster positive neighbourly relationships is so important in creating somewhere people want to move to and stay.

We understand the pandemic has been a catalyst in bonding our communities, and people now value neighbourhood connections more than ever.

What we’re now seeing is online platforms are becoming an increasingly important way neighbours communicate with each other, particularly in recent years when the absence of face-to-face contact has affected us all. It is so important that we can support our residents to embrace this.

Connecting communities

Today, technology is an essential part of building community connections. Recent research we commissioned at FirstPort showed that a third of Brits (33%) thank technology for giving them a sense of local community, with 54% saying they exchange more messages with neighbours now than pre-pandemic.

It also emerged that three in ten (30%) feel using online platforms has helped tackle crime in their area, and four in 10 (45%) said they feel safer having a strong neighbour network around them. As managing agents, the responsibility lies with us to ensure residents feel safe and secure in their homes, and technology can play a huge role in this by giving people the opportunity to share intel in real-time.

The ‘digitally-savvy’ resident

We’ve seen just how beneficial it is for our residents to be digitally connected. From using the internet to stay in touch with family members, see photos of their grandchildren far away, or even just staying up to date with news and entertainment – these are simple things that make a huge difference to our residents’ quality of life. However, there are still many older people missing out and we want to make sure we’re creating the right opportunities and environment to support digital inclusion.

In recent years, we’ve been encouraged our residents to embrace the safe and efficient use of digital technologies, both for social interaction, and for convenient access to goods and services – including, more recently, how they can communicate with us as their property manager.

An example of this is the FirstPort Digital Eagles initiative, aiming to strengthen digital awareness and confidence across our communities. FirstPort was the first organisation outside Barclays to adopt this programme, which benefited over 2,000 retired residents through its hugely popular Tea & Teach sessions.

The increased focus on digital technology in homes

We think the use of digital technology to provide unobtrusive support and reassurance to our retired residents and their relatives is key to the future of retirement living and we’re pioneering ’People First’ technology to better support our customers now and in the future.
Looking to the future, the introduction of digital systems – which could include touch screen tablet technology, emergency digital alarms, video door entry, and room to room video calling between residents and with Development Managers – could have the ability to improve residents’ wellbeing and safety, help combat isolation, and assist us in providing a more enhanced service to residents.

‘People First’ technology

There is a great opportunity to use technology as an enabler to help improve the experience of living in a managed property, but it is all about balance.

Whilst we should enjoy the benefits of technology, we shouldn’t lose sight of the power of face-to-face meeting for building a meaningful rapport. Despite the increasing number of neighbours connected online, we understand that not everyone uses tech the same way. The research also shows that face to face connection is still as important as ever as nearly a third (31%) would like to catch up with their neighbours over food and drink. Our aim is to make sure our residents have options that allow them to connect with their communities in the best way for them.

About the author

FirstPort is the UK’s leading residential property services provider, caring for 310,000 homes in England, Wales and Scotland, across 5,600 developments.

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