“The pandemic has left seniors to struggle to do normal day to day activities such as getting groceries, ordering prescriptions, spending holidays with family and grabbing a cup of coffee with friends,” explained Marley Melbye, senior programs director at Tri-Valley Opportunity Council.
To help bring people together during these days when we all feel shut in and isolated, Tri-Valley added 90 iPads to its Caring Companion Program and Foster Grandparent Program.
The individuals are encouraged to use the technologies in many ways, but some of the most impactful include:
- Volunteers and clients are able to stay connected through socializations with each other, family and friends
- Participation in virtual counseling and virtual doctor appointments
- Purchase groceries, prescriptions, and other essentials for delivery or curbside pickup
- Find current and reliable news information
- Participate in virtual training and informative groups and classes. Many of these are at no cost.
- Learn new hobbies
The Foster Grandparent Program volunteers are accustomed to spending many hours mentoring, tutoring and developing meaningful intergenerational relationships with students to help them achieve academic success. Due to COVID-19, the Foster Grandparent volunteers were sidelined from their biggest passion, Melbye said. The iPads have provided opportunities for volunteers to support students through virtual books clubs, virtual tutoring, educational video recordings, pen pal opportunities and more.
“The iPads have always been something that we have wanted to incorporate into the programs as technologies are such an important piece to staying connected to friends and family,” said Melbye. “Many of the clients and volunteers have reservations about using various technologies. We wanted to be a bridge over those reservations.”
IPads were distributed to interested individuals with one-on-one training provided, as needed. The clients and volunteers are able to keep the iPads in their homes as long as they are enrolled in or serving in the program. The seniors involved have a wide variety of experiences using technologies so training is started at the individualized level.
“We created a simplified user manual for our iPads,” Melbye continued. “One of the first things that we teach our volunteers is how to log into a virtual meeting so we can see them face to face to support them on the device and through screenshare we can see exactly what their problem is. We try to do as much one on one supporting as possible, but also try to be creative with our education by playing technology bingo to encourage people to log on and learn in a group setting. We continually tell people we will meet you at your speed and your knowledge base. The response has been positive.”
To learn more about this program and others, contact Tri-Valley at: www.tvoc.org/services/senior-programs