Technology helps seniors maintain vital social connections

Angelena Iglesia

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the most important ways to benefit one’s mental health — it lowers stress, anxiety, and helps everyone feel less lonely and more connected, with or without an active pandemic. © Provided by Chron However, during the current stay-at-home orders, staying […]

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the most important ways to benefit one’s mental health — it lowers stress, anxiety, and helps everyone feel less lonely and more connected, with or without an active pandemic.



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© Provided by Chron


However, during the current stay-at-home orders, staying in touch could be a challenge for many. However, through technology, which has seen a major uptick in usage during the pandemic, people have been able to stay in touch quite well.

Those of all ages, especially many seniors, have had to “shift gears” and learn how to use technology that is available.

‘Embrace technology’

“Our residents have had to embrace technology a lot the last few months. We coordinate Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype calls for our residents and their families seven days a week. Plus, our wellness team has taught a lot of our residents how to use Zoom on their own computers, how to create an account, etc., which they appreciate so much,” said Amy S. Ward, senior director of operations at Holly Hall Retirement Community.

Holly Hall residents have also used Zoom for meetings, book clubs, happy hours, and other activities in their own homes.

“We have several resident committees, and those meetings have continued to happen on Zoom. We offer Bible study and devotion once a week through Zoom, which is conducted by our chaplain from his home. We are working on figuring out how to have bingo through Zoom. We have scheduled a Zoom karaoke/sing-along too,” Ward said.

Some Holly Hall residents have begun to use Instacart and online grocery shopping from H-E-B. Staff are assisting residents who are not comfortable navigating the app or computer on their own.

“Our bridge and mah-jongg players have had to move their gaming online since they couldn’t play in person. The bridge players are very serious, and it took time for them to figure it out how to play using technology such as Zoom,” Ward said.

Ward also has helped teach technology to residents.

“I helped a resident learn how to work her new Kindle her daughter gave her so she could play bridge, mah-jongg, shop on Amazon, and send photos back and forth with family. I was very impressed with how quickly she learned,” Ward said.

Holly Hall’s facility wellness coach has recorded most of her classes on video so residents can exercise while staying in their homes. Classes can be viewed on their personal computers.

The facility wellness coach also held a class on how to use the iPhone.

“During the pandemic, we launched a program called CATIE that is on an iPad in every independent living room. Residents can email each other through it, view the calendar, order meals, request services like transportation and maintenance, view the exercise videos, listen to music, and play games, etc.,” Ward said.

Residents at Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor are tech savvy and have been using FaceTime frequently with their families and friends.

“Our care teams assist those residents in higher levels of care in doing FaceTime with loved ones so they can stay as connected as possible. We frequently utilize Zoom to share activities all residents use to participate in person in our events center,” said Michelle Watkins, director of marketing at Brazos Towers at Bayou Manor, a senior living community.

The events center usually holds 180 people. However, these days there is less capacity because all the chairs need to be 6 feet apart.

Instead, residents stay in their apartments and take exercise or dance classes there or participate in the weekly devotional service. These things are very important to them, so they are participating however they can.

“We are continuing to use Zoom to facilitate book clubs, lectures and an array of other things on a regular basis,” Watkins said.

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