New computer app connects seniors to family

2013-10-28T00:00:00Z New computer app connects seniors to familyTimes Staff nwitimes.com
October 28, 2013 12:00 am  • 

HOBART | A group of local senior citizens is learning how to bridge the digital divide between they and their grandchildren thanks to a first-of-its-kind app.

The technology being piloted at Brentwood at Hobart is designed to make social networking and emailing easy for seniors. An event celebrating the new technology was held last month in the new My Emeritus Internet Cafe.

Called “My Emeritus,” the app has been designed by Emeritus Senior Living, the parent organization of Brentwood at Hobart, and technology company Sitelligence.

Brentwood at Hobart is one of just eight senior living communities out of the nearly 510 that Emeritus operates nationally chosen for the launch.

“Only 37 percent of 85-year-olds are using technology, but of course it’s the primary way that virtually all of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren communicate,” said Emeritus Director of Innovation and Resident Technology Ginna Baik.

Because simplicity is so important, My Emeritus was designed for the iPad, the first such senior living industry app to be built purposely for that device.

Key components include social networking whose secure by-invitation feature addresses seniors’ privacy concerns, email, video chat and photo sharing, all simple to manage.

“Everything is done by pictures,” said Baik. “For example, to send a message to someone, you simply touch a picture of that person.”

My Emeritus contains learning and entertainment features such as virtual travel, classic films and a “Virtual Bingo” tool.

Brentwood at Hobart has purchased a set of iPads residents can use free on a check-out system and installed wireless Internet throughout the community. An Internet lounge allows residents to access the app in the company of others, by iPad or two touchscreen desktop computers with large keyboards. Additionally,  a free-standing kiosk tells residents if they have received electronic messages and offers community-related information.

“There has been tremendous excitement about this among the residents of our community,” said Brentwood at Hobart Executive Director Debra Waziak. “Their reaction as they learn to use the My Emeritus app and then begin to receive and send family messages, see videos and photos of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and become further connected to the greater community is very moving.”

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