Virtual Senior Center: An Inclusive Community for Homebound Seniors

For most of us, “home” means sanctuary, a place where we can retreat to rest, relax, and regain peace of mind. But for roughly 2 million seniors in the United States, and many more around the globe, there is nothing else. Their home is their world.

Homebound seniors, who for physical or other reasons cannot easily leave their homes, often feel isolated and alone, disconnected from their communities, and excluded from a life going on just outside their doors.  That loneliness and isolation can lead to a life of depression, dementia, and despair.

This morning in New York City, Microsoft and two of our partners—the City of New York and Selfhelp Community Services—unveiled the Virtual Senior Center. This is a demonstration project and public-private partnership that uses computer, video technology, and the Internet to eliminate many of the barriers between homebound seniors and their communities. The Virtual Senior Center is an inclusive community, which creates an interactive experience that helps homebound seniors take part in their local senior center, connect to the outside world, and communicate with family and friends.
 
Over the past few months, six homebound seniors—ranging in age from 67 to 103 and with little or no prior computer experience—have embraced the digital lifestyle. They are participating remotely in discussion groups and classes by using technology that allows them to see, hear and interact with their classmates and instructors at the local senior center. They’re exchanging email and hosting video chats with friends and family members; shopping and ordering groceries online; uploading health information; watching music videos and playing games, and taking part in religious services streamed live over the Internet. And they are posting video blogs about their experiences.

Microsoft has been a leader in information technology for 35 years, and at the forefront of accessible technology for more than 20. Nearly a decade ago, we realized that technology could benefit seniors who are struggling with age-related impairments such as low vision and dexterity issues. In addition, baby boomers were not only beginning to face their own aging issues but also looking for solutions that would empower their parents to get the care they needed while remaining independent and in their own homes for as long as possible.

Microsoft’s mission of enabling people extends to everyone, regardless of their age or ability. The Virtual Senior Center is a great example of our commitment to helping people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. The Center uses technology to reach underserved populations by creating inclusive communities.

Today, I am pleased to announce that Microsoft will provide funding to double the number of homebound seniors who can participate in the Virtual Senior Center. This expansion will enable us to improve and refine the Virtual Senior Center more quickly, and to develop best practices for using technology to enhance the lives of homebound seniors.

Posted by Bonnie Kearney
DIRECTOR OF MARKETING FOR TRUSTWORTHY COMPUTING, MICROSOFT