“Information makes you have a life. My health is better, I’m finding information. This project is really beyond wonderment,” said Richard Beard, an enthusiastic participant in the Senior Vitality Program at the Curry Senior Center.
Orazgul Tachmuradova agrees: “I was so depressed before I came here. If not for this program and the iPad, I wouldn’t be healthy. Now I do research, I’m finding information so my health is better.”
Senior Vitality Program Uses Technology to Support Better Health
Angela Di Martino directs The Senior Vitality Program, which uses various technologies to support better health for seniors and people living with disabilities.
Participants receive an iPad (on-loan from Curry Senior Center), one year of free internet access (subsidizied by the Curry Senior Center), a fitbit and a digital scale (the latter two synchronized to the iPad). Angela Di Martino, project director, offered a simple summary of the Program. “The Program teaches healthcare self-management skills. When to seek help and how to talk with healthcare providers.”
Health and Technology Coaching
In addition to equipment, meeting space and Angela’s salary, the Curry Senior Center also makes one of their health coaches available for monthly one-on-one meetings with each of the participants.
In the early weeks of the Program, Angela focused on introducing users to relevant healthcare websites, her more recent workshops explored using the internet to find news and entertainment. Earlier this winter, staff from the San Francisco Public Library demonstrated how the library’s website can be used to download books, movies and music — further enlarging the students’ worlds.
Orazgul uses the iPad to research her illness, for emails and Face Time, as well as to listen to music, watch movies and practice t’ai chi and yoga. “Sometimes the information is overwhelming, it just keeps coming,” she said, exchanging a knowing smile with Angela.
Richard is particularly excited about Angela’s most recent lessons: classes on movie making. “She’s leading us into our own wonderful Oz, she’s opening the world for us,” he said. “It’s like someone giving you a new best friend, an honest best friend. I’m mentally healthier having this new best friend.”
The year-long Senior Vitality Program developed from a more limited pilot project introduced to San Francisco from the Netherlands as part of that country’s Healthcare Innovation Transfer Program. Angela also directed the earlier pilot project.
Research on the effectiveness of the project won’t be known until late 2017, when the data has been analyzed. Angela, and her enthusiastic students are convinced it works. “I know the program is working. Most of the students have really improved their technology skills, and many seem to have developed friendships through participating in the program. Just having to meet with me puts it in front of their mind,” Angela said.
Richard and Orazgul couldn’t agree more.
Before I received the iPad and learned how to use it, I felt I was being left out. Now I feel like I’m part of the 21st century,” Richard said.
“Before I was walking, now I’m flying,” Orazgul said, summing up her experience.