"It's weird!" That is what Donna, a senior participating in the PACE program at the PACE Center, exclaimed when asked her thoughts about using the iPad.
Donna and other seniors have been using iPads provided by the Delta County Library District and checked out to participants as part of the "No Elder Left Behind Senior Outreach Program."
"The program was conceived in response to the increasing senior population, and their lack of access to technological resources," said regional manager Kit Stephenson. "Having access to this technology has a serious impact on their quality of life. Watching the seniors use the iPads to find a long- lost song, or connect to a memory or event from the past is amazing.
"It is truly a joy working with the seniors," Stephenson continued. "Our team has been working with the seniors now for a little over a year and the program has become an important part of their monthly activities." Library district staff conducts programs at the PACE Center on a bi-monthly basis, and this program is a senior and staff favorite.
Prior to the onset of the "No Elder Left Behind Program," Markee Travis, library assistant, went to the center to offer basic technology training. Instead of using computers, however, she chose to use iPads. "It was heartwarming to see their faces light up when I walked in with tech toys," Travis recalls.
Dorothy Pew, former Senior Community Care (SCC) manager, felt the transportation barrier presented the greatest challenge to seniors participating in library events, as SCC only provided transportation to PACE Centers. The hope was that the program would inspire the seniors to venture out to the library and become part of the community. In addition to the on-site care and activities at the centers, SCC's social workers and home health nurses provide care to seniors in their homes, but SCC did not have the capacity to offer recreational activities for seniors in their homes. Pew believed that seniors "isolated or trapped in their homes need cognitive stimulation to increase their social and mental well-being." She questioned, "What if they could take technology home with them?" Pew was right, and results were seen instantly. One gentleman who was wheelchair bound and did not speak or socialize with the othersw came to life. Suddenly, he was laughing and engaging others in conversation. A recent study conducted by the University of Worcester supports the results of the library program. Researchers studied the impact of touchscreen technology on people with dementia living in nursing homes. They found that, as a result of using iPads, residents were able to recall memories, increase their relationships and interactions with others, use the devices more easily compared to traditional computers, and most importantly improve their quality of life.
Based on the initial results of library visits to the PACE Center, a grant was written to fund the program and provide the technology needed to expand the program. The Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant was a match. LSTA helps provide solutions for libraries to meet critical needs of their communities ranging from workforce development to innovative technological programs. "We saw it as an opportunity to really make an impact with our seniors. The staff at PACE was looking at new ways to expand the program, and it seemed like a perfect fit," stated Annette Choszczyk, director of the Delta County Libraries. The reviewers of the grant agreed, and the "No Elder Left Behind Program" at the PACE Center was started.
After using grant funds to purchase iPads, the first step was to work with the caregivers and PACE staff. They were trained by Stephenson, Travis and library assistant Sarah Pope. Once the staff was trained, the seniors were invited to participate by checking out iPads to take home. Seniors use the devices at home and, on a bi-monthly basis, come to the center. Some participants also go to the Cedaredge Library between sessions.
"It has been a delight to work with the PACE staff to introduce the participants to the different joys of technology," said Stephenson. "Some are using the iPads to stay in touch with family using video and photographs, others are listening to music to help a bad day get better, and a few are even experimenting with making music and movies. In our more dramatic cases, seniors have used the devices to speak words that they type into the machines when they cannot speak, and have also used the machines as dictation devices to record poems and letters when they are unable to type. There are so many assistive apps available to make the devices really useful for people with all sorts of needs."
One of the seniors Stephenson is referring to actually has lost the ability to speak, but now, through her use of the iPad, she has found her voice again. "We never could have imagined the impact that this would have had on their lives."blog comments powered by Disqus