Helping Seniors Connect During COVID-19

July 27, 2020

As if worrying about your vulnerability to COVID-19 isn’t enough, many seniors have also been cut off from family and friends in efforts to shield them from the virus. Trouble is, human connection is a critical part of mental health, especially as we age. Martin’s Point saw a way to address this conundrum, using the gift of technology to help homebound Maine seniors and Veterans’ Home residents safely stay in touch.


Veterans keep family ties strong

March 13 marked the end of visits from family, friends, and volunteers to residents at Maine Veterans’ Homes. Looking for a stopgap, staff began exploring devices that could enable virtual visits. In May, Martin’s Point donated 18 iPads – three to each of the six Veterans’ Home locations in Maine. Combined with support from other donors, there are now enough devices on hand for every interested resident.

“For some, this is completely new. For those that were already tech savvy, more iPads means easier access,” says Josh Scroggins, Director of Development and Communications for Maine Veterans’ Homes.“

Special moments run the gamut from meeting grandchildren to seeing the garden back home  to coming along for a virtual picnic at a favorite spot. Florence D., a Bangor resident, had a virtual 100th birthday with friends and family. Scarborough resident Donald S. received four long overdue service medals from World War II and the Korean War with three generations observing via Zoom – after a recovering from COVID-19 and then a broken hip at age 92.


A lifeline for homebound seniors

In July, we also donated two tablets and hotspots to SeniorsPlus, a Lewiston-based nonprofit that supports and enriches the lives of seniors and disabled adults who live independently at home. With these tools, homebound seniors can get critical information about Medicare, receive support from caregivers, and participate in virtual fitness and wellness programs.

“Social isolation is a serious problem for older adults and the coronavirus has compounded this by increasing the already limited opportunities they have to see others and interact personally,” says Holly Zielinski, SeniorsPlus Chief Operating Officer. With the Martin’s Point donation, staff created a loaner program for clients in need, trained them, and helped them connect.

The benefits have been far reaching. “A 76-year-old man sent a note thanking us for making it possible for him to continue his Tai Chi class,” notes Zielinski. “And an 84-year-old woman calls Zoom ‘a godsend’ that eases her loneliness by allowing to her visit with family once a week.”

As Scroggins of Maine Veterans’ Homes says, “Nothing can take the place of seeing or being able to hug someone you love. But sharing some of life’s smallest and largest events with them – even it’s it only virtual – is a great place to start.”


Send a veteran a virtual hug

We’re reaching out to Maine veterans during this challenging time – and you can, too. Share artwork, post an inspirational message, or simply say hello, we’re thinking of you. It’s easy for kids and adults to make a difference. Visit mainevets.org/martinspoint/ to learn more. Thank you.