MISSOULA — One of the biggest challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic is staying connected.
That’s presented a challenge to older Montanans who might not understand how Zoom or Facebook works -- or they might not even have the technology to even attempt it.
Missoula Aging Services has a new program to teach the tech and help everyone stay connected even after this pandemic is over.
The agency believes the digital gap doesn't have to be a generational gap and just launched a new program to teach older folks the ins and outs of the Internet.
“We are just beginning; we’ve got five or six trainers trained to do the actual teaching of using the tablets and we’re starting to open it up to the community for older adults who don’t have the technology and want to learn,” Missoula Aging Services CEO Susan Kohler said.
Thanks to CARES Act funding and donors, Missoula Aging Services was able to buy 50 tablets and recruit a handful of people to train older adults how to navigate this new world.
It’s called the Lifelong Connections program and while it will help seniors take advantage of things like Telehealth, there’s a deeper connection.
"The rate of social isolation and loneliness has escalated during the pandemic for people who might normally have been out in the community, volunteering, going to church -- all of those things," Kohler told MTN News.
"And suddenly finding themselves completely isolated and it impacts their mental health and so we’re helping people learn different ways to bring the community into their home," Kohler added.
As the program is called -- it is a lifelong connection and willing seniors will soon discover just what’s out there behind the keystrokes.
"There are sites where you can tour some of our national museums for free through the Internet," Kohler explained. "And so it opens up their world to places where they may no longer travel or never could travel to and so it teaches them the tech so as new things come up, they can begin to bridge that gap."
The program is also helping to reconnect foster grandparents and senior companions. For more information on signing up for the program or to volunteer, contact Missoula Aging Services at (406) 728-7682.
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