$15,000 from Interior Savings helps connect isolated seniors with loved ones via Internet

Interior Savings has donated $15,000 to the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange for a project that works with the community to end isolation for seniors by teaching them how to use the World Wide Web.

Now in its second year, the initiative brings together students, seniors, community organizations and businesses with the common goal of enhancing the quality of life for seniors who may feel detached from their loved ones, or even the world.

“Learning Exchange initiatives, such as the seniors’ isolation project, are truly dependant on community support,” says Phil Bond, manager of UBC Okanagan’s Learning Exchange. “The donation from Interior Savings will help to ensure our students can continue to work to enhance the lives of seniors in the Okanagan, which boasts one of Canada’s oldest populations.”

Not only is the project helping seniors connect with their family and friends through the Internet for the first time ever, it is having a positive impact on the students involved, fostering understanding and compassion between generations, adds Bond. Of the 13 students involved in the project, five are seniors themselves, making the project truly intergenerational from the start.

“I see some real transformation in our students,” he says. “They are getting a chance to personally make a difference in their community, and it has enhanced their own lives as well. The results are that stereotypes are being broken, friendships are being formed among different generations, seniors are connecting with loved ones and youth are emerging as community leaders.”

Barry Meckler, Interior Savings President and CEO, says the Learning Exchange seniors’ isolation project fits well with Interior Savings’ ongoing mission to give back in ways that improve the quality of life for the community.

“Interior Savings is committed to the betterment of our community and pleased to contribute to a project that enhances the lives of seniors in such a positive way,” says Meckler. “We also feel privileged to be able to support our youth in their efforts to better their community, and know their experiences will contribute to their development as global citizens.”

Last year, the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange, along with their community partner, the Seniors Outreach Services Society, focused on in-home computer training to a small group of homebound seniors in the region. This year, the project concentrates on seniors in community care centres in the cities of Vernon and Kelowna.

“A whole new world has been opened up for our residents,” says Liz Farrell, activity coordinator at Fernbrae Manor, a retirement community in Kelowna taking part in the project. “They find the Internet so fascinating. Our residents come from a generation that saves every penny they can, and now they can communicate with their family everyday if they choose to, at no cost. At first, it was a hard concept for them to grasp. They’re just so glad.”

Hoping to ensure the project is sustainable for the care facilities after they leave, the Learning Exchange is working on having computers donated to each of the facilities so seniors have continued access to the Internet.

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