By Charlotte Berg
As the coronavirus sweeps through the world, economic shutdowns and social distancing policies have brought daily life to a grinding halt.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, where regular visits by friends and family have been discontinued.
Two sophomores at Horace Greeley High School, Alex and Liam Watts, are working to mitigate the isolation that the pandemic has brought to the senior citizens living in these facilities.
The brothers, who are twins, have both played trumpet in the Westchester Klezmer Band, bringing traditional Jewish music to hospitals, including VA facilities, and nursing homes. When the band’s performances were canceled because of coronavirus, Alex and Liam began brainstorming how they could continue to help the seniors while maintaining social distance.
“We knew how lonely and isolated they must feel, not being able to see anyone outside of their facility,” the brothers said in a joint e-mail. “We realized the only way they can communicate with their families would be through some form of video chat.”
The easiest way to bring communication to the seniors, they realized, would be by donating iPads and other devices that have video chat capability to these facilities.
On May 1, the Watts brothers established a GoFundMe page under the name iPads For Elders. Donors can give money directly to the page, so that the charity can purchase new iPads for donation. The goal is set at $5,000, but the brothers say that they would like to continue the charity for as long as possible. As of Sunday, more than $1,200 had been raised.
In addition to money, the charity also accepts tablets with video capability. Donors can contact the charity’s e-mail account, email@example.com, to set up a safe and socially distant pick-up time for the devices.
This month, the brothers have 12 donated iPads to facilities throughout Westchester, including Bayberry Care Center in New Rochelle, The Paramount at Somers Rehabilitation & Nursing Center and Cedar Manor and the Victoria Home in Ossining. They have another 12 in their possession that they will soon deliver.
While some older adults may not be adept at using the technology, Alex and Liam said that staff members who organize the recreational activities at the facilities have been working with the seniors to teach them how to use the tablets.
The brothers said they also hope to donate technology to seniors who live at home but are isolated during the pandemic. Once the coronavirus wanes, Alex and Liam plan on continuing to donate for as long as possible in order to help as many senior citizens as possible.
“We would love to extend the parameters of our donation region as our funds allow,” Alex said.
To contribute to iPads for Elders, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/ipads-for-elders.