Lyon County receives grant funding for tablets to alleviate senior isolation
In Northern Nevada, local experts having been developing programs to combat social isolation and to continue meeting basic physical needs for seniors who are unable to easily leave their own homes.
Lyon County’s Senior Services Division Manager Rebecca Williams looks forward to the possibilities some new grant funding will provide in helping its older population to socialize through the use of tablets.
Gov. Steve Sisolak announced at the end of June the state would remain in phase two until at least the end of July. Seniors, among the state’s most vulnerable populations, are in critical need of companionship and care. To assist in Lyon, the county’s case managers held a recent drive-through campaign and asked local seniors to come by and check in about their condition and make sure they were doing well in an effort to address the challenges related to COVID-19.
Williams said the procedure was straightforward and an easy opportunity for the elderly to spend a few minutes with others from the comfort of their vehicles.
“We had really simple questions we would ask each one and encouraging them … because even if they couldn’t come out of the car, we just wanted to make it as normal as possible for them and have that human connection,” Williams said.
Williams said the county applied for a grant, and it provided about $36,000 for 100 tablets and licenses to software called BurnAlong. The software provides a senior wellness guide and mental health activities and a list to a health care team for easy access inside one’s home, Williams said.
“We’re trying to think out of the box,” she said. “Our seniors are just like children – they’re needing that socialization and human contact so much. We’re figuring out how we can help them mentally and physically and let them be in their home. The BurnAlong app and program are phenomenal and they can do it any time.”
While Lyon’s senior centers are closed, the county’s aging population is missing out on valuable opportunities to socialize, Williams said, and some are struggling with depression.
“We had a lot of people that did yoga and weightlifting and Tai chi and bingo and cards, and it’s been hard on them, I think,” she said. “They want to be with their friends. They want to hang out and spend time with each other. It’s hard to be socially isolated.”
Lyon County had two case managers but now it’s down to one serving about 85 individuals.
“It takes a village,” she said.
County Commissioner Ken Gray of Dayton, representing primarily Stagecoach in District 3, said among local seniors he’s directly heard from, most only are currently leaving their homes to go take care of personal shopping needs. COVID-19 has impacted their sense of independence or sense of recreation, he said.
“They are rightly afraid to go out,” he said. “Some, I don’t know if it’s just boredom. At the senior centers, I don’t know if boredom has been an issue. But for most seniors … they can’t do all the things out in public they’re accustomed to doing.”
Normal activities such as short trips to the pharmacy to pick up medications or go to a doctor’s appointment now are being curtailed due to fear or because they’re unable to secure other drivers, he said.
Gray in the past always professed to being bold about his opinions but with the onset of COVID-19, he said he has not been strict during this season about enforcing others to wear their personal protective equipment such as masks. He emphasized, however, he “absolutely encourages” everyone to do so.
“It comes as no surprise people need to be responsible for their own health,” he said.
Williams said she anticipated having the tablets by the end of July and being fully set up with the software by the end of August and ready to checking in with the seniors via the FaceTime app by then as well.
“It’s so much more meaningful when you can see their body language and get undivided attention,” Williams said. “We’re their community. It’s important to take care of each other.”