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Support for seniors making virtual visits with loved ones

By Nadia Radovini  •  July 16, 2020

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Seniors who may be experiencing challenges with making “virtual visits”, or find it daunting, now have access to support at Sunnybrook.

“At facilities such as Sunnybrook, most virtual visits are set up by recreation therapists or social workers together with the patient or resident, but what we’ve found is their spouse or friends on the other end often struggle with the technology,” says Julie Pepin, recreation therapist with the Geriatric Day Hospital at Sunnybrook. “We began asking ourselves ‘How can we make virtual visits more successful?’”

Julie and her colleagues set out on a research project to develop digital literacy tools to help support seniors in making virtual visits with their family and friends who are in hospital or long-term care, but also for those outpatients isolated in the community who are now faced with having their own healthcare appointments online and could benefit from re-connecting with friends and family.

“We had already been using virtual communications at the hospital in recent years, and with the pandemic, the interest and need have only been amplified,” says Amber Hall, a recreation therapist at Sunnybrook’s Holland Centre. “The goal is for individuals to use digital tools in a way that is easy, supportive and doesn’t overwhelm hospital staff.”

That’s where technology company Techboomers comes in; they have written digital guides for the project, and they are providing technology support.

“We’re delighted we could collaborate on this project to develop content and easy-to-use technology learning guides specifically designed for seniors. To be able to help them stay better connected with their loved ones during such trying times has been important to our team,” says Steve Black, Founder of Techboomers.com. “This project amplifies the impact that healthcare workers have in their essential roles, and these guides have also helped to reduce the extra pressure on them to be tech experts.”

The project has initially begun with families of patients at the Holland Centre and the patients of the Geriatric Day Hospital at the Bayview campus.

Although visits to patients are slowly opening up again in the province, there is still a desire to be able to connect with friends and family from afar, and more often. For those seniors living in the community, day programs are still closed, but offering more and more programming using virtual platforms. The need to stay connected for isolated seniors has never been greater, and giving them the tools to be tech savvy is one way we can help.


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