ALONE BUT NOT LONELY

There’s an innovative way to keep seniors connected to each other and the outside world, and it’s at their fingertips.

Aired November 26, 2018.

TRANSCRIPT

FEELING LONEY IS MORE THAN A MATTER OF HAPPINESS.

ACCORDING TO A 2012 STUDY, LONEYNESS IN SENIORS EFFECTS THEIR HEALTH AND LONGEVITY IN LIFE.

SO WHEN MICROSOFT AND NEW YORK'S DEPARTMENT OF AGING TEAMED UP WITH SELF HELP IN NEW YORK, THERE WAS A NEED TO FILL.

THAT'S HOW THE VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER WAS BORN.

HERE'S THE STORY.

♪ EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF SELF-HELP INNOVATIONS NOTICED A CONCERNING PATTERN AMONG HIS CLIENTS.

SO WHEN SELF-HELP PARTNERED WITH MICROSOFT AND THE DEPARTMENT OF AGING, HE KNEW WHERE TO DIRECT THEIR EFFORTS.

WE RECOGNIZED THAT A NUMBER OF THE PEOPLE THAT WOULD GO TO OUR SENIOR CENTERS WOULD FULLY STOP GOING, AND FOR ANY NUMBER OF REASONS, NO LONGER BE ABLE TO ACCESS THE SOCIALIZATION, THE EDUCATION, AND THE ENRICHMENT THAT WOULD HAPPEN FOR THEM AT THE SENIOR CENTER.

SO WE SAID, WHAT IF WE WERE TO USE TECHNOLOGY TO ESSENTIALLY BRING THE SENIOR CENTER SERVICES TO PEOPLE IN THEIR HOME.

GOOD TO SEE YOU.

THE FOCUS OF HIS CAREER HAS BEEN UTILIZING TECHNOLOGICAL INNOVATIONS TO HELP OLDER ADULTS LIVE SAFELY, INDEPENDENTLY, AND WITH DIGNITY.

WHAT WOULD BECOME THE SENIOR CENTER, BROUGHT WITH IT SOME UNIQUE CHALLENGES.

MOST NOTABLY, CREATING AN INTERFACE WITH A GENERATION THAT DIDN'T GROW UP WITH COMPUTERS AND SERVING SOME USERS WHO WERE UNFAMILIAR WITH HOW TO USE ONE.

VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTERS USE A CUSTOM MADE INTERFACE THAT BRINGS CUSTOMERS TO THE HOME SCREEN.

FIVE YEARS AFTER LAUNCHING, HE STILL LOOKS FOR WAYS TO IMPROVE THE SYSTEM.

WE WOULD DO A LOT OF IN-HOME SORT OF TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE CALLS FOR PEOPLE, WITH THE PURPOSE OF WATCHING THEM USE THE DEVICE TO SEE WHAT WAS THE ACTUAL PROBLEM THAT THEY WERE EXPERIENCING.

AND THEN FIGURING OUT HOW WE COULD USE THE TECHNOLOGY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM INSTEAD OF TRAINING THEM ON HOW TO USE IT DIFFERENTLY.

THAT MENTALITY HAS CUT TRAINING TIME FOR SENIOR USERS TO JUST AN HOUR AND A HALF.

COMPUTERS ARE SOMETIMES FREE OR PROVIDED ON A SLIDING PRICE SCALE.

AND SET UP IN TRAINING ARE INCLUDED.

WHAT STARTED AS A PILOT PROGRAM OF ABOUT SIX USERS, LAST EXPLODED INTO A FULLY ACTIVE TRUE VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER, WITH OVER 400 MEMBERS AND ABOUT 40 CLASSES A WEEK.

USERS ARE EQUIPPED WITH A BUILT-IN CAMERA AND MICROPHONE TO JOIN IN ON LECTURES, DISCUSSIONS, CONCERTS, AND EVEN FITNESS LESSONS.

WHERE AM I IN THIS THING HERE?

BOTTOM RIGHT?

I DON'T KNOW.

I'M PETER MARSHAL, THAT'S ALL I KNOW.

IT'S BEEN A GAME CHANGER FOR SENIOR JOHN GATIS.

HE'S BEEN VISITING THE SENIOR CENTER FOR COMPUTER CLASSES UNTIL HIS WIFE PASSED AWAY AND HE SUFFERED TWO STROKES, PAGING LEAVING THE HOUSE A REAL CHALLENGE.

BEING ABLE TO USE THIS COMPUTER AND HAVING COMPUTER CLASSES HERE AND NOT HAVING TO GO TO THE CENTER, IT'S OPENED UP A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF REALITY FOR ME.

SUBSEQUENTLY THROUGH PHYSICAL THERAPY, I WAS ABLE TO GET BACK TO WALKING.

NOW I DON'T WANT TO GIVE THIS UP ANYMORE.

HE HAS HIS FRIENDS AND HOBBIES.

BUT HE SAYS THE VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER PROVIDES SOMETHING NEW IN HIS LIFE.

AND THAT'S EXCITING.

SO IT'S LIKE HAVING SOMEBODY IN THE HOUSE WITH ME.

IT IS ACTUALLY GREAT FOR THAT.

THE SOCIALIZATION OF THE VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER AND THE BENEFITS FROM THE CLASSES IT PROVIDES CAN BE EXTRAORDINARY.

JANICE BAKER MOFFITT HAS MS.

SHE USED TO WALK TO THE GYM EVERY DAY, BUT SHE'S BECOME MORE HOME BOUND.

TODAY SHE JOINS DOZENS FROM HER HOME IN CHICAGO TO PARTICIPATE IN A MUSIC PERFORMANCE AND DISCUSSION.

IT'S AMAZING WHAT YOU CAN DO, NOT ONLY DANCING IN A CHAIR, BUT EXERCISING IN A CHAIR, AND LIFTING NOT ONLY MY LEGS BUT MY SPIRITS.

ALSO JOINING TODAY'S CLASS, DORIS COX.

SHE SAYS THE VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER CAME AT THE RIGHT TIME FOR HER.

I WAS PHYSICALLY JUST ABOUT BURNED OUT, BUT WITH THIS MENTAL STIMULATION FROM THIS PROGRAM, WHERE WE HAVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT CLASSES AND WE PARTICIPATE IN DISCUSSIONS AND WE LISTEN TO MUSIC, AND WE TAKE EXERCISES, NOW MANY DOCTOR IS SAYING ALL MY TESTS ARE COMING BECOME WITHIN THE NORMAL RANGE.

BEYOND THE BENEFITS OF MENTAL AND PHYSICAL STIMULATION, IT WILL ALLOW FOR BETTER OVERALL CARE MOVING FORWARD.

HE FOUND IN TESTING WITH SELF-HELP'S CASE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM THAT CONNECTING WITH PATIENTS FACE-TO-FACE VIRTUALLY LED TO MORE PRODUCTIVE CHECK-INS THAN THOSE DONE OVER THE PHONE.

WE HAD ONE PERSON THAT WAS PART OF OUR PROGRAM THAT WERE DOING THEIR MONTHLY PHONE CALL CHECK-IN AND EVERYTHING SOUNDED FINE.

THEN THEY PUT THE PERSON ON A VIRTUAL SENIOR CENTER, AND THE GUY WAS SWEATY WHEN THEY DID A CALL.

THEY SAID WHY ARE YOU SWEATY?

MY AIR CONDITIONER BROKE.

WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US?

WE HAVE ACCESS TO RESOURCES TO PIE YOU A NEW AIR CONDITIONER.

SO THE THINGS THAT HAPPEN PHYSICALLY, THE BODY LANGUAGE IS SO IMPORTANT IN UNDERSTANDING WHAT A PERSON'S ACTUAL SITUATION IS.

BUT FOR REGULARS, NOTHING BEATS THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE NEW FRIENDS AND LEARN NEW THINGS EVERY SINGLE DAY.

WITH THE COMPUTER, I'M TAKING DOG TRAINING LESSONS.

AND WE'RE GOING TO LEARN, RESPECT WE?

I'M GOING TO LEARN YOU.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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