VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a tough time at many senior facilities across Hampton Roads because residents can’t see family — and in some cases– they have to stay isolated.
But there’s some technology that can help them keep going and stay connected.
It’s called Birdsong Tablet and this could be a game-changer. The idea was hatched right here in Hampton Roads and is a division of faith-based nonprofit Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay.
The free software is bringing smiles to the faces of seniors who cannot reach out and touch loved ones because of the coronavirus. All people need is access to a device with a web browser. Birdsong Tablet offers user-friendly video chat capabilities, as well as 8,000 different engaging experiences such as “curated music, videos, games, travel, and therapeutic content.”
Connecting with a loved one in Canada? No problem for Birdsong Tablet user Emily Filer.
“I talked to my grandson in Canada and that was absolutely thrilling,” she said. “He was shoveling snow, cold, and then he was going to go out and get me maple syrup, but he was touched by it as well,” Filer said.
Filer’s home is Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay. The facility closed its doors to all visitors a few weeks ago to minimize the threat to members of the greatest generation.
But to minimize the threat of loneliness, CEO Ben Unkle rolled out the free Birdsong Tablet software that is taking some of the sting out of the lockdown. People around the world are using senior-centric Birdsong to connect with loved ones.
And reaching out to other grandchildren in France — That’s also no problem for Filer.
“I just checked today. We purchased a lot of cloud space to handle the volume. We are now in 32 states and eight countries — New Zealand, Japan, Ireland, France,” Unkle said.
Plus Canada and Switzerland.
His faith-based organization is picking up the cost of that expanded internet cloud capacity to bring families together when they need each other the most.
For Filer, access to the world is in her hands.
“I absolutely love it. There is everything to do and everything to see and I’m learning how to do Skype,” Filer said.
According to a Pew Research Center study, 27 percent of adults 60 years and older live alone. The developers of Birdsong say this might be the best medicine for seniors during the crisis.
Anyone can visit the Birdsong Tablet website and create a free account using a name and email address. The site’s $19 monthly fee has been suspended for the web version of Birdsong Tablet so older adults and their families can talk while coronavirus is still an international concern.
For more information, visit the Birdsong Tablet website.
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