Reconnecting through Technology

The impact of an iPad training program at Wentworth Heights

By Kristian Partington

The weeks and months after Anna Lavery moved into The Village of Wentworth Heights weren’t easy for her or her husband, Harold. His daily visits often ended in sadness or frustration because, like many people living with Alzheimer’s disease, Anna would repeatedly ask to simply go home. 

Marie sitting with an I-Pad on her lap
Marie Henderson is one of the residents at Wentworth Heights who 
discovered a new love for technology after a six-week, iPad program.

Earlier this year, things began to change for Harold and Anna, thanks in large part to a six-week iPad training program they participated in, courtesy of McMaster University.

The concept was simple: student volunteers would spend six weeks offering basic training to seniors living at Wentworth Heights, helping them access new communications opportunities through technology. Loved ones who live far away would seem a little closer through Skype or Facetime, for example, or, as was the case with Harold and Anna, the quality of the time with loved ones face to face might receive a welcome boost.

“It’s been a wonder for me because it takes a lot of pressure off me when I’m here,” Harold says. “I’ve been coming in every day since she came in here over a year ago, and sometimes it was difficult.”

Now, he and his wife often spend time together during their visits surfing the web looking at images and video of Amsterdam Central Station, the beautiful transportation hub where Anna was brought up as the daughter of a Station Master.

The iPad helps them visit a place of fond memory for Anna, and together their afternoon time together passes happily.

“It’s just done wonders,” Harold says. He laughs as he says maybe it’s helped him more than it has his wife, but to see the love he holds for her and to know their time together is a much more positive experience today compared to months ago suggests they’ve both benefitted a great deal.

He offers a nod to one of Anna’s neighbours, Marie Henderson, as he leaves the community centre to rejoin his wife in her room. “Marie knows all about it,” he says with a wink, pointing to the iPad in her hand. “She was part of the program and it’s done her a world of good.”

Marie looks from the game she’s playing and smiles. “It’s good to keep the mind busy,” she says.

She admits she never had any experience with computers and didn’t expect to enjoy using the iPad as much as she does. Now she’s in the community centre a couple times a day, hooked on playing the games, but she’s hoping to convince her brothers and sisters to get their own so they can spend time together face to face, even though they live so far apart.

For Marie, the iPad has the power to connect her to family in Italy and California, she says, and for Harold and Anna, it connects them to each other in a way that seemed impossible not that long ago.