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Face-to-face with new technology

Greenspring residents bring Skype to Renaissance Gardens

Created date

February 22nd, 2010

[caption id="attachment_8219" align="alignright" width="235" caption="(File photo)"][/caption] If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a live video presence might be worth. Thanks to new technology, an Internet hookup and webcam are all you need to find yourself face-to-face with beloved family and friends. Envisioning the possibilities, Greenspring resident Robert Bonner dreamed up a plan to bring e-mail and Skype (video conferencing software) to Renaissance Gardens, the extended-care neighborhood on campus. My motivation was based on visits my wife (Hazel) and I made to our parents in the Texas panhandle, says Bonner. We would see how much they enjoyed the e-mail they were able to receive through the staff at their respective retirement communities. My goal was to assist residents in being involved in their own e-mail accounts rather than just having staff print the e-mail and hand it to them.

Program takes hold

In 2008, he proposed introducing an e-mail program to Renaissance Gardens residents under the oversight ofGreenspring scomputer club. At first, Bonner and computer club member Bobbie Davidson helped people access e-mail with a laptop that was brought into each residence. Then, in 2009, three desktop computers were installed in various locations at Renaissance Gardens. They are available to all residents at any time. No longer were we tied to a portable computer that had to be kept secured, says Bonner. Specialized equipment has even been introduced to expand the program s outreach, including touch pads for individuals who have difficulty using a standard mouse as well as Dragon, a voice-activated software for residents who have difficulty using a standard keyboard. Now residents can access their e-mail at their leisure, says Davidson. It has also opened up other communication and training avenues such as Skype, games like Bridge Baron, and general computer learning.

Skype opens lines of communication

Of all the newly introduced technology, it is Skype that allows users to have face-to-face conversations over the Internet using one of the webcams available in Renaissance Gardens. Each desktop computer has the program installed, and every week, computer club volunteers make anywhere from five to ten visits to Renaissance Gardens to assist. While technological advancements like Skype allow for what years ago seemed impossible, they have also increased the need for security.Greenspring scomputer club and Renaissance Gardens diligently work to ensure that anyone using e-mail and Skype is protected. Volunteers participating in the project are required to go through a general volunteer orientation with an emphasis on confidentiality. Additionally, each time a volunteer helps a Renaissance Gardens resident generate an e-mail, an attachment is included alerting the recipient that a volunteer has seen the e-mail and may be allowed to see the response. The attention to detail and security has paid off in droves. Increasing numbers of Renaissance Gardens residents are visiting with their loved ones over the Internet on a regular basis. Most of our Skype calls have been between family members usually in other states or foreign countries, says Davidson. One resident s daughter, who lives in Tennessee, always has the resident s dog, Peaches, so she is able to see her dog during the Skype visits. Another Renaissance Gardens resident has arranged Skype visits with his grandson who is a Navy pilot in Switzerland. One member of theGreenspringcommunity recently participated in his son s wedding reception in Tucson, Ariz., when medical problems prevented his travel. As one would expect, the residents currently using Skype enjoy it very much, says Bonner. We hope others will become aware of its potential. Currently, we are developing initiatives to try to improve computer literacy. We hope to draw residents to computer use as an avenue of entertainment and communication. Skype is just one of the applications in that effort. Both Bonner and Davidson were recently recognized for their efforts, as recipients of the 2009 President s Volunteer Service Award on the gold level (500+ hours of service).