As a recreation director at The Village of Sandalwood Park in Brampton, Jennifer Gould and her team are always on the lookout for tools and ideas to help support and engage with residents. When lockdowns and closed doors forced a new sense of isolation upon the Long-Term Care sector with the onset of COVID-19, technological solutions to a waning sense of connectivity and engagement for some residents was required.
For this reason, Sandalwood Park was happy to be involved when the Long-term Care Working Group with Ontario Health’s Central Region reached out early in the pandemic to learn what role technology played in resident support. The group was preparing to launch a short study with the support of Claris Companion and Telus, and in early 2021, Sandalwood Park became one of five participating homes to be offered tablets, cases, the Claris Companion software, and cellular (LTE) internet.
With up to 10 residents per home participating, the goal was to understand the use of senior-friendly software and hardware and the internet consumption patterns of residents in LTC homes. By understanding what residents want, need and use, the working group hoped to offer suggestions as to what options homes might use to enhance digital connections for the people they serve in the future.
Almost immediately after pairing residents with their personalized tablets, which already had the easy-to-navigate Claris Companion software uploaded, Jennifer could sense the impact. Residents and their families from afar could easily login to the software and connect with each other, and each person could also customize their device based on their varied interests.
As a huge baseball fan, Douglas Robinson’s tablet quickly filled with Toronto Blue Jays connections but he also found it was easier to reach out to family and communities back in England, where he is from. This has always been important to Douglas and the tablets made it easy.
“I never thought I would ever learn how to use technology,” Douglas says, “and I am so happy I have. I can e-mail my daughter whenever I want, and connect with my family and friends back in England.” With one little click he was connected to the community newspaper in the town where he grew up; with another, baseball highlights sprung to. Douglas also says that he gained a new understanding of younger people today, who tend to be linked to their phones and apps.
“I understand kids these days,” he jokes. “I never want to put my games down either; this is so wonderful and easy.”
While Douglas had his Jays games and family connections, others accessed music, videos, puzzles and games that all fit their personal preferences. This certainly help combat some of the challenges pandemic isolation presented, but Jennifer says that as long as the tools are simple and can be personalized, there will be a role for similar technology well beyond COVID.