A window to loved ones donated to assisted living residents through “tech centers”

    Bill Vicary, Founder of Just Call Bill, saw a need long before COVID hit to have residents in senior living communities better connected to their families and friends who were far away, or not able to visit as frequently as they would like. Vicary developed an idea for senior tech centers when this lack of communication became exacerbated by the pandemic. Visitors not allowed to nursing homes meant increased isolation, depression, loneliness, stress, and anxiety. Typically, senior living communities do not use technology to help engage and benefit the residents.

    About a year ago, Vicary was speaking with Stan Means, President of Elder Source Senior Ministries about various topics and issues facing seniors. They talked about the “digital divide,” that vast chasm between those who have access to computers and the internet, and those who do not. They came up with a solution to get seniors connected to their families and friends. Means obtained funding, and Vicary selected the equipment, a 52” Smart TV on a portable stand, the latest iPad in a durable case, and all the adaptors and cables required to operate on a community’s Wi-Fi system. Each tech center costs approximately $1,100.

    The first Tech Center donation and installation was done just before Thanksgiving of 2020 at Shepherd’s Care Assisted Living Center in Greenville. When asked about the Tech Center, Director at Shepherd’s Care, Eric Thompson said, “It’s been wonderful. It has become part of our family when we needed it the most.”

    Vicary installed the equipment and instructed the staff on how to use it. Now most of the staff can easily roll the setup where it is needed, plug the iPad into the TV, and connect residents to their loved ones. Staff members see the joy firsthand when a loved one’s face appears on the screen.

    The virtual visit unit has far exceeded what Thompson’s expectations. Residents have met a newborn great-grandchild, virtually toured a granddaughter’s new apartment, celebrated holidays together, and even attended a funeral of a lifelong friend.

    Sometimes the staff will roll out the unit for residents to watch “Frenchie Fails on YouTube,” which always brings laughs, especially since the mascot at Shepherd’s Care is a French Bulldog named Mabel.

    The Tech Center was a relief for families not being able to visit. The virtual visits gave them a better picture of how their loved ones were doing.

    Although visitors are now allowed, Shephard’s Care will continue to use the unit for families who do not live close enough to visit. “There is still a great need to connect seniors and their families, so Stan and I are seeking donations to provide more Tech Centers to deserving senior communities in the upstate,” says Vicary.

    If you would like more information about installing a tech center, please contact Bill Vicary at bill@vicarymanagementgroup.com. Bill’s company, Just Call Bill provides technology services to senior adults and their families so they can be better connected. Bill has worked with hundreds of seniors throughout the South Carolina teaching senior adults how to use their technology more effectively and safely, as well as other educational programs.

    For more information on Elder Source Senior Ministries, please contact Stan Means at 864.630.2952. Elder Source has the capability to accept grants from those who would be interested in dedicating a tech center to an assisted living center for a loved one.