Tablets for Isolated Seniors

Caroline Mahony ‘21, makes a big impact in her local community’s nursing homes.

This summer 25 students were accepted in the CSGC grants program. These grants are funded due to the generous support of the Cost, Earle/Mendillo and Workman families, who established endowment funds to support the community and public service endeavors of future generations of Deerfield students. For more information on these grants please visit: https://deerfield.edu/csgc/grants

I’ve been so fortunate to have had the opportunity to help isolated seniors connect with their families and communities from the safety of their nursing home room. Distanced Positivity started as merely an idea back on April 15 and now in August, I’m so grateful for everyone who has supported Emily and I in our mission to bring tablets to seniors in nursing homes local to us, including the CSGC.

Since my last blog post, Emily and I have donated tablets to three more nursing home locations. In early July, we dropped off two iPads and a Macbook to the Jewish Senior Services Center in Bridgeport, CT, which functions as both a nursing home and a senior center. The center caters to thousands of seniors every day! I met with Ms. Dayna Hayden, the Director of Development, and Mr. Andrew Banoff, the President and CEO of the center. They were excited to receive the devices, and informed us that they would be very useful to residents who were not allowed visitors at that time.

In mid July, Emily and I donated our latest batch of tablets to Saint John Paul ll Center in Danbury, CT. I met with Ms. Erica Gabor, the center’s recreation therapist, and Ms. Debbie Milczarski, the recreation director to drop off the tablets. They let us know that the center only had about 75 residents at the time we visited, so our donation of 9 Amazon Fire tablets would make a big impact on the nursing home community living there. Ms. Gabor and Ms. Milczarski expressed their concerns that it was difficult to find safe activities for their seniors to engage in, but were hopeful that they could create a way for the residents to connect not only with their loved ones but also with each other with the newly donated tablets.

From April until now in August, my friend Emily and I have been able to provide 29 tablets to four different nursing homes in our community. Although we founded Distanced Positivity to respond to the isolating effects of COVID-19 on nursing home residents, we plan to continue our work in future years. I believe that the effort to make technology more accessible to nursing home residents will be extremely enriching to the nursing home community even after the pandemic passes, as residents can have more opportunities to see their loved ones face to face during all times of the year over video chat. In all of the nursing homes I visited, the administrative staff also expressed interest in using the tablets for purely entertainment purposes, which would involve activities like games of chess, virtual bingo, and virtual concerts.

Along the way, I learned so much about how to coordinate with dedicated nursing staff and nursing home administrators to deliver and aid with the distribution of new technology to nursing homes. I became much more comfortable with talking on the phone to people I had never met before. I learned that phone calls were typically more effective than emails in reaching specific people at an organization where only one email is available. I also became much more proficient in creating and maintaining social media that promoted our mission to spread positivity while providing seniors with a means to communicate with those they loved and missed. I worked with Emily to create and maintain a website where we explain our mission and post updates on our progress, with links to our email, Instagram, Redbubble, and GoFundMe pages.

I am beyond grateful to the CSGC for helping my project reach further than I ever imagined when I was starting out. I anticipated donating only a couple of tablets this summer, but thanks to the CSGC, Emily and I were able to donate just under thirty tablets to local nursing homes.

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