June Johnson lives alone in her home. It’s the home she and her husband built 40 years ago, and it’s where she’s most comfortable.
June doesn’t drive anymore, and with all of her family in another state, she can no longer attend church services or community events. As she ages, June loses experiences that once were foundational in her life.
The loss of meaningful connections to people and social events can cause depression, which has more serious health consequences in older adults than any other age group.
But could technology connect June—and millions of people like her—once again to the things she loves the most? Could technology allow once-isolated seniors to attend a granddaughter’s recital, family reunions, church services, or book clubs?

Creating A Good Fit

Many technologies already exist to virtually connect people around the globe. But for people who are not tech savvy, these technologies can be cumbersome and confusing. The technology also isn’t designed to meet the specific needs of people who deal with vision and hearing loss.

Innovation teams at Verizon Wireless and the Good Samaritan Society are working to repackage videoconferencing technology to make it easier for seniors to use. That might mean bigger screens, one-click access, and better sound quality. The program, still in the testing stage, is called Window to the World. In one test, a woman was able to connect virtually with the quilting group she hadn’t attended for several years because she did not want to leave her husband home alone.

“The ability to connect with others is crucial, especially as we age,” says Kelly Soyland, director of research and innovation at The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society. “Today, 11.3 million Americans age 65 and older are living alone in their own homes.”

Challenges To Being At Home

While it’s generally considered a good thing that seniors are able to stay in their familiar home and community surroundings, there are new challenges to seniors’ preference to be at home.

“They may become less mobile and unable to easily leave their home,” says Bruce Thalacker, senior pastor at South Canyon Lutheran Church in Rapid City, S. D., a third partner in the research. “Their friends often find themselves in the same situation. Family may live at a distance. And over time, seniors with limited mobility often become isolated from the world.”
The three partners hope they’re creating a product that can help solve some of the challenges of senior isolation.
For more information: Visit www.good-sam.com/vivo to follow Window to the World’s progress.

Kelly Horazdovsky is a communications consultant, writer, and editor for The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society.