Uniper-Care Technologies, Vital Vio, Porchlight, and others step up efforts to address isolation and loneliness.
There wasn’t a lot of warning when Americans were advised—and then instructed—to isolate at home. But what about older adults? That demographic has been hardest hit by COVID-19. The CDC reported “Older adults, 65 years and older, are at higher risk for severe illness.” Even for those with mobility who are financially stable, the specter of the coronavirus is anxious inducing. Fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions.”
In an effort to comfort seniors who must isolate from loved ones, various local and national efforts, or services have arisen. One method circulating on neighborhood pages on Facebook provides a template to slip into a mailbox or leave at a front desk, asking the isolated older adults if they need anyone to pick up medication or groceries during the pandemic.
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Families may be grateful to be able to FaceTime, or avail of group video chats with Zoom, which just integrated with Doodle, which provides different time options, so the digital meeting will be at the best time for all. However, older relatives may need help beyond the scope of an average family member.
Help with healthcare
The telehealth and social engagement company Uniper-Care Technologies, which offers older adults access to remote healthcare and connection to social groups, has begun a cross-platform service for isolated older adults and at-risk individuals to connect and engage with healthcare professionals, access live and interactive health and wellness programs, and further facilitate communicate with family and friends.
Uniper’s interface was designed to be accessible to those who are not tech savvy.
“We proved that we can dramatically decrease anxiety, loneliness and depression,” said Avi Price, co-founder and COO of Uniper. “Once we reach and connect this population, we know we can help them be safer, happier, healthier and more independent at home by keeping them connected, engaged, active.”
Health care professionals, researchers, government experts and nonprofit organizations need quick, easy access to real-time critical data. The Postman COVID-19 API Resource Center can assist to expose APIs.
Nonprofits like Meals on Wheels, AARP, and the Administration on Aging may be eligible for Postman licenses to help their IT and web administrators create API collections which provide access to vital data sets that aren’t presently served by any existing APIs. Additionally, starting March 30, the Postman COVID-19 API Resource Center will include information on where to find nearby testing sites.
Shedding light on health risks
“Older adults are more susceptible to harmful bacteria and more likely to contract disease and sickness – risking their health even while at home,” said Colleen Costello, CEO and founder of Vital Vio, a health-tech company that manufactures LED lighting that continuously kills bacteria on common household surfaces, fungi, mold, E. coli, and others.
“For elderly communities, staying healthy can be a hardship,” Costello said. “These LED lights take on the burden of keeping surfaces clean and free of harmful bacteria that can make them sick.”
And because they are isolating, that doesn’t mean they won’t have bills to pay or financial matters. “To help older adults become more confident using digital financial tools, AARP Foundation and Chase have created online video resources that include tips and a Virtual Class on how to download an app or complete a mobile check deposit when unable to visit a branch,” a representative from Chase said. “People can use this guide to learn about financial technology, how to personalize smartphones and tablets so they are easier to read and hear, and how to recognize a scam.”
Free during the crisis
The global crisis is the reason the private social network Being There will be free through 2020 (the regular rate is $9.99 per month). The Porchlight App was created specifically to address isolation and loneliness,
“Unlike traditional social media, Porchlight is quick and 100% private,” said founder Steve Peterschmidt. It offers “a quick five-second check-in and check-up, and the ability for one-on-one follow up on the things that matter with the people that matter.”
Peterschmidt continued, “Our mission at Porchlight is simple, help people stay connected. In this time of crisis, it is even more important to be connected to close friends and family. That is why we’ve decided to let everyone use the Porchlight private network for free throughout the crisis.”
The free resource Crisis Text Line uses Twilio SMS to connect people in need with trained crisis responders. More than half the messages received contain the word “virus,” and they’ve seen a 100% increase in traffic, and the demographic of users have shifted from under 17 to adults. Even before the pandemic, the University of Michigan developed an app with Twilio prior specifically to help isolated and lonely older adults socialize and now they also help people learning English get language practice during the crisis.
With the Arlo Pro 3, users can check in on family members remotely, and with two-way audio. Additionally, they can call 911 services to the location of the Arlo camera. The Arlo Video Doorbell people can instruct their deliveries to be placed in particular areas from a safe distance.
Why older adults should be protected during the pandemic
An early analysis (March 4) by the Italian national health institute in Italy cited that of those who died from COVID-19, the average age was 81. China CDC discovered the highest mortality rate was for those who were 70-years-of-age and older.
In the US, the CDC reported three million seniors live in nursing homes or residential care facilities. On March 24, the JAMA Health Network wrote a public health/geriatrics report and titled it: “Nursing homes are proud zero for COVID-19 pandemic.”
The CDC posted a very detailed, strict, preparedness checklist for nursing homes and other long-term care settings.
Right after the virus was officially named a pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS) announced measures to protect older Americans.
“As we learn more about the Coronavirus from experts on the ground, we’ve learned that seniors with multiple conditions are at highest risk for infection and complications, so CMS is using every tool at our disposal to keep nursing homes free from infection,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a press release. “Temporarily restricting visitors and nonessential workers will help reduce the risk of Coronavirus spread in nursing homes, keeping residents safe.”