Photo: Sigismund von Dobschütz/Wikimedia

When the coronavirus pandemic hit early last year, the city pivoted to run as much online as possible. Shops were shuttered, events cancelled, appointments shifted to telehealth and people were asked to quarantine solely with those they lived with. 

Although a challenge for all groups, one was particularly affected: seniors.

With less access to technology and familiarity with operating in an online world, many seniors were left isolated from family, friends and the outside world when nonresidents were barred from visiting the centers they lived in.

“I don’t go anywhere. I’m basically in the house all the time and it can be mentally taxing at times,” Diane Schule, an elderly NYCHA resident, told BK Reader. “I do want to go out and I do want to see my friends. I am so used to going out, that home to me sometimes frightens me. Sometimes I just don’t want to be here.”

Schule said her grandson was teaching her how to use Zoom, and her doctor text her information. “I am not tech savvy, I don’t have an iPad or anything like that — even though an iPad would be really helpful.”

covid-19; wayside outreach; senior center
Wayside Outreach Development is working hard to combat COVID-19 isolation amongst the elderly. Photo: Supplied.

In order to help seniors like Schule connect with friends, family and the community, Brooklyn’s Wayside Outreach Development has begun a new fundraising initiative to purchase internet-enabled tablets for seniors enrolled in the organization’s programs.

Help Our Seniors Get Connected aims to tackle the elderly technology gap, allowing seniors to join virtual workshops, connect with one another in a meaningful way and re-engage with the community. The non-profit organization operates five senior centers and four social clubs throughout Brownsville, East New York and Bedford Stuyvesant.

Nyasha Salmon, executive director of Wayside Out-Reach, said during COVID-19 the organization noticed a lot of the seniors they worked with weren’t getting out at all.

“Given that there was a technology barrier, it was hard for so many of them to even engage and it really took a toll on them overall,” she said. “Because they weren’t getting out or talking to anyone they were not getting any of the basic things they needed like hygiene products and PPE.”

Beyond fundraising, Wayside Out-Reach continues to distribute PPE to seniors across Brooklyn and is planning to launch a new health promotion. The promotion focuses on diabetes, blood pressure screenings, eye and dental care.

“As a senior center provider, a large component of our job, especially amid COVID, is encouraging and promoting health and wellness and we really want to take a deep dive into that,” Salmon said.

Kimberlean Donis

Kimberlean Donis is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn. She is a student at both London City University and Williams College majoring in Political Science, Art History, and Africana Studies.

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