“Alexa, Call My Grandchildren,” Seniors and Technology During the Pandemic

Asian girl with elderly women

“Alexa, Call My Grandchildren,” Seniors and Technology During the Pandemic

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The pandemic was particularly cruel for older individuals living alone in housing communities because it alienated them from family and friends.

Two Maryland-area AHC communities and one in Ohio benefitted from a technology and seniors pilot program that brought connectivity and needed recreation into their solitary days. Amazon Echo Dots were provided to residents in these communities, bringing music, jokes, information, and connection to their days.

“Our residents use these devices for so many things,” said Melanie Ficke, assistant director of residential services for AHC. “They can set medication reminders or alert them to important dates. And learning how to use these devices gives them mental stimulation that improves the quality of their lives.”

Ficke says that with the involvement of AARP and the funding from NeighborWorks, AHC (NeighborWorks network organization) was able to continue to operate and serve its residents by providing seamless coverage and keeping their residents connected to family and friends throughout their pandemic confinement.

“Social connectedness was important to our residents and the technology also afforded them some recreation which provided a bit of light during this dark time,” says Ficke.

Two AHC communities received free Amazon Echoes and technical training on the telephone to set up and use these devices. These two Maryland communities are Charter House in Silver Spring, Montgomery County and Monte Verde in Baltimore.

“We always rely on our partners for assistance to keep our residents healthy and safe,” explains Ficke, “Especially in times of need.”

Tim Bete, president of St. Mary Development Corp., a NeighborWorks network organization in Ohio, says his community greatly benefitted from the access to free Wi-Fi and the Amazon Echoes. “Without funding from NeighborWorks, we could not have provided these services to our residents.”

During COVID-19, low-income seniors were largely cut off from their worlds due to lack of access to technology,” said Bete. “We did a technology study in 2019 and as a result we were aware we needed to integrate technology knowledge and knowledge into our residents’ lives. The situation become more crucial during COVID-19 and this program made a huge difference in our seniors’ lives.”

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