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Seniors get connected during isolating pandemic thanks to local initiative

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 7:09 PM EDT
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LAKEWOOD, Ohio (WOIO) - Gregory Wiggins, along with many other older adults, never had much to do at the Barton Senior Center at the height of the pandemic’s lockdown last year.

“It was just like a ghost town,” he said.

But thanks to an Amazon tablet and a wireless hotspot, Wiggins was now able to reconnect with his family on Facebook. “It has actually lifted my world a whole lot.”

He is one of many seniors at the Barton Center who received the donated tech as part of an initiative by Simply Virtual Inc.

Tom Hlavin founded the non-profit last October to help older adults fight isolation as a result of months alone and separated from others due to Covid-19.

“It’s funny to take someone who’s got a Jitterbug flip phone and take them kicking and screaming into the 21st century,” Hlavin said. “It’s wonderful.”

Directors of the program also hope seniors reconnect with old interests and discover new ones. Valerie Carmen Martin was able to rekindle her joy of airplanes by joining various aviation groups on Facebook.

“I’ve also ordered things online,” she added, “airplane shirts, mostly.”

Cheryl Shaver, marketing manager for the Barton Center, says patience plays a key role in developing this program and training older persons who are more inexperienced with technology.

“Some people have never even turned on a device before,” she said.

Hlavin is looking to provide over 100 tablets by the end of May and expand beyond the Barton Center.

For now, Shaver is glad residents of the center can avoid the feeling of being left behind. She highlighted “the importance of having information [available] to people...the internet is the one way that everyone can get it.”

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