Online Buddy Program Connects Seniors Care

While some nursing homes and care facilities are beginning to allow outside visitors, many elderly adults are still in isolation and low resource residences may lack the technology to support online social interaction for seniors.  The non-profit Seniors with Skills has responded to the COVID-19 crisis creating an online buddy program for isolated seniors in care homes in the United States and Canada.   Volunteers are also fundraising to supply computers to quarantined older adults and are trained remotely using a recently-developed online training module.

Computer and cash donations are currently being accepted for retirement residences in need. A desktop computer was recently set up at the Teddington Retirement Residence in Toronto and volunteers will come in once a week to offer tech lessons and help residents use Google, email, Facebook and other social media platforms. 

The online SWS buddy program has expanded to include nursing homes in Buffalo, Texas as well as Toronto.  Volunteers chat with seniors over the phone or using video call services such as Zoom.  In addition, pre-recorded craft classes and performances are also available to help isolated seniors stay engaged during the pandemic when regular activities may be canceled. 

SWS is comprised of 300 volunteers and reaches more than 1,000 seniors.  The organization was founded in 2018 by Jaya Manjunath as a high school pilot project to bring computers and technology lessons to retirement home residents.  The project grew then into a Cards and Knitting Program and now helps seniors engage socially with others while riding out this period of isolation.

While seniors living alone or in isolation may experience poorer health and well-being, a new UK study has found that the COVID-19 pandemic has had some positive effects by bringing the generations closer together.  More people are taking the time to talk with one another, reaching out for comfort, support, and guidance during these difficult times.  Younger generations may have more respect for older adults who lived through war times or The Great Depression and older adults are relying on their adult children and grandchildren for help using technology.

Surprisingly more adults of all ages are picking up the phone and calling friends, neighbors, and family members rather than relying on emails and text messages.  

What about you?  Are you calling friends and family more often?