In this profile, we look at the Pluss Communities app and its unique place in senior living organisations to help facilitate communications and build community. Pluss won the Consumer Experience category in the 2023 Future of Ageing awards.
Pluss Communities provides customised, branded apps for senior living organisations, facilitating efficient communication between staff and residents. The Pluss app serves as a unified platform for all aspects of community life, including news, maintenance requests, facility and event bookings, and third-party service payments. This intuitive and user-friendly app fosters high resident engagement, reducing the workload for staff and enhancing the quality of life for senior community members.
Why it came about
The senior living industry has been slow to embrace digital communication due to the perception that older individuals might not adapt to technology. As a result, many organisations persisted with manual processes, straining staff resources and limiting the potential for residents to engage in a vibrant community. The COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly accelerated digital skills among older adults, demonstrating their willingness to use smartphone apps. This shift in perception led to increased app usage across various categories, and it became evident that seniors desired tools that empowered them to manage their community experiences.
Pluss recognised that a successful communication app for seniors should offer a simple, intuitive, and engaging user experience. Older residents often struggled with multiple processes, but adopting a single platform was well-received. Pluss incorporated familiar user experiences, such as Facebook-style comments and likes, WhatsApp-style chat, and Gumtree-style Buy, Swap, and Sell features, to ensure high engagement.
How it works
The Pluss Communities app is fully customised for each organisation and community. It is branded with the community’s logos and assets, providing residents with a personalised experience. The onboarding process includes aligning the app’s functionality with the community’s specific needs and training sessions for staff and residents.
The app serves as the primary communication tool between management and residents. It offers a scrolling news feed, allowing residents to read, comment, and like posts. Urgent messages can be sent via lock screen push notifications, eliminating the need for in-person visits.
Residents can book and pay for community events and facilities, while committees can manage finances via split payments. Even third-party services like yoga classes and hairdressers can be booked and paid for through the app.
The app also streamlines communication with maintenance teams, making it easy to report issues. Additionally, it supports messaging features, allowing residents to connect with each other.
Who was involved
Pluss Communities was founded by Martin Smee, with technical development led by CTO Thorbjorn Kappel Davis. The company collaborated with leading senior living organisations in Australia to develop the app. Partnerships typically start with a pilot phase before a full rollout, allowing for testing and improvement of functionality.
Pluss collaborates with clients to develop an app analytics platform, providing insights into user engagement and content strategies. This collaboration ensures that the app meets the needs of its users.
Evidence of success
Since its launch in 2019, the Pluss app has been adopted by over 50 senior living communities in Australia. Large organisations like Bolton Clarke, Bethanie, and Aveo, as well as independent operators, have embraced the app. Communities that actively engage residents through the app have achieved over 85% weekly usage, dispelling the myth that older Australians resist technology.
Scalable and sustainable
Pluss has prioritised a familiar and intuitive user experience and developed a scalable back end to ensure long-term partnerships with senior living organisations. The company has obtained ISO27001:2022 certification and is working on further security enhancements. The support of philanthropist Andrew Brice AM has helped shape a sustainable strategy for the future.
The senior living industry is on the cusp of significant growth, driven by the baby boomer generation’s evolving expectations. Pluss Communities is poised to assist the industry in meeting the communication needs of this cohort and redefining community life.
Key Success Factors:
- Provide individualised onboarding for residents.
- Post engaging daily content to encourage resident interaction.
- Empower residents to contribute and organize events.
- Enable transactions for event bookings and services.
- Promote an “app-first” philosophy for community information.
- Build for the majority while supporting the minority.
Pluss Communities’ growth has largely been fueled by referrals and positive word-of-mouth recommendations within the industry, reflecting its success in meeting the unique needs of senior living communities.