An excerpt from Senior Housing News

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Peace of mind and ease-of-use are “key” selling points for a hospitality industry-inspired security system some senior living providers are installing in their communities.

It might be difficult for older residents suffering from arthritis or other age-related infirmities to navigate traditional lock-and-key systems. Another common problem is key misplacement, which can run the gamut of simply being an inconvenience to the key’s owner and management, to being a danger in the event it falls into the wrong hands.

Key card security systems can serve a variety of purposes through user control and tracking ability along with general usability for older residents, says Dale Mathias, vice president of Multihousing & Institutional Sales at Kaba Access Control.

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Senior living communities are beginning to utilize security systems like those manufactured by Kaba, featuring locks that can be used both for residents’ units or for other areas around the property, including fitness centers, entertainment areas, offices, or maintenance rooms.

The system replaces the traditional lock-and-key model with an electronic key card and lock, allowing providers to configure who’s able to access certain areas—and keep track of when they do.

“We’re giving the property management team more control; any time the key card is used, there’s an audit trail that’s being compiled, and the lock remembers all the activity,” says Mathias.

What that can do, he says, is minimize liability. “We’re taking away liability or risk associated with lost [traditional] keys, or of people duplicating those keys,” he says. “When you have our products installed, you can’t do that any more, and there’s 100% accountability for all of your key activity.”
And that accountability can be very valuable.

“It offers peace of mind to residents, and also to the adult children who are helping seniors with the decision to enter a community,” says Mathias. “When [adult] children see the property has all these amenities and is a safe and secure environment, it can be used as a marketing tool to attract and attain residents.”

A Delaware assisted living worker and her husband were recently nabbed for stealing money and other valuables from a resident; in nearby Pennsylvania, an assisted living resident recently had jewelry stolen from him. Meanwhile, senior housing communities in one Washington area are being targeted by thieves, according to local police.

This is a small sample of many instances where inadequate security measures can lead to what could be preventable—or at least trackable—theft.

“If a resident says they’re missing valuables from their rooms, the management can come and audit the lock and get a read out of all the lock’s activity: date, time, and who was last there,” says Mathias. “That type of information might reveal the resident left the door open, or it might reveal maintenance staff came into the unit, perhaps when they weren’t supposed to be there.”

Using this kind of system can also be easier for residents. The devices can work by proximity, meaning the key-owner doesn’t need high levels of dexterity when using their credentials to gain access to a room or area.

Additionally, when residents lose a key it can sometimes take a while to cut a replacement one, Mathias says, but electronic key cards can be replaced almost immediately.

Senior living providers who implement the key card system recognize the many purposes it can serve, including continuing care retirement community The Mather, located in Evanston, Ill.

Residents of The Mather, a continuing care retirement community located in Evanston, Ill, can use one keycard to gain entry into their homes, purchase meals at the community’s dining venues, pay for services at its other amenities, and participate in other community programs, says Michael L. Carney, the director of development and construction at Mather LifeWays, and it’s also helpful on an administrative level.

“Building management services appreciates the system’s numerous capabilities, including ease of programming, integration with third-party applications, and detailed system-use reports,” he says.