Despite the advantages of remaining at home, for a senior who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can be lonely and isolating. For their caregivers too.
Seniors with cognitive decline are rarely offered opportunities to socialize or interact with those beyond their immediate network.
Developed in 2010 by SelfhelpCommunity Services, Microsoft, and the City of New York, the Virtual Senior Center uses the power of technology to connect and enrich the lives of “homebound” seniors across North America.
The innovative program is incredibly simple
The pre-configured touchscreen computer, programmed with a user-friendly interface designed specifically for seniors without computer experience, turns one’s home into a virtual classroom, in which participants from around the country can see, hear, and interact with each other.
The program provides easy access to Skype, email, and the web, allowing participants to easily stay in touch and communicate with friends, family, and their newly expanded social network.
Equipped with these customized computers, participants are provided with home access to interactive online classes on topics ranging from music, cooking, exercise, health and wellness, to history and yoga. Current events seems to be very popular.
Pilot versions of the Virtual Senior Center are providing free computers and training in New York, Chicago, San Diego and Baltimore.
Though still in its early stages of development, pilot versions of the Virtual Senior Center are providing free computers and personalized training to eligible seniors in New York, Chicago, San Diego, and Baltimore.
Andrew Weisman, Chicago project coordinator
The coordinator for Virtual Senior Center’s pilot program in the Chicagoland area is confident that with the right training and some assistance, even those who are most apprehensive about technology can participate.
“The computer functions basically like a really big tablet,” he explains.
“There are big buttons and a simple layout. It’s much easier to learn to use than a PC or a Mac.” The touchscreen tablet is 23 inches.
“There are live concerts, music therapy classes, exercise and memory classes,” explains Weisman. “Our programming is all across the board.”
The Chicago pilot program, which began in partnership with CJE SeniorLife in October of 2013, currently provides service to over 50 participants.
According to Weisman, the Chicago pilot project has demonstrated an ability to decrease feelings of isolation and depression, to increase socialization and connectedness, and to alleviate caregiver burden.
For more information on the Virtual Senior Center program in Baltimore:
For more information on the Virtual Senior Center program in San Diego:
Richie Assaly is a freelance reporter based in Toronto.