BURR RIDGE — Betty Baker spent a lifetime teaching. Many years after retiring from Chicago Public Schools, the resident of Emeritus Assisted Living in Burr Ridge is about to become a teacher again.
“It’s wonderful,” said Baker, residential council president at Emeritus. She is one of several residents who are learning to use modern gadgets to communicate with family, friends and each other. Once she gets the hang of things, she will share her new knowledge with others who are ready to enter the world of digital communication.
Emeritus Burr Ridge is part of a pilot program designed to close what Ginna Baik, director of innovation and resident technology for Emeritus, calls the “digital divide.” While 99 percent of people 30 and younger communicate using the Internet, only 37 percent of seniors do so, Baik said.
Baik, who has spent five years teaching seniors to use computers and other technology, designed an application just for residents of Emeritus. My Emeritus allows them to speak with one another, as well as family and friends, without fear of strangers peeking in.
“The negative of Facebook is it’s not a closed network,” Baik said. My Emeritus functions much like Facebook, but within a closed network. The application lets them receive and send emails, pictures, and gives them access to the daily events calendar and menus at Emeritus. It also is loaded with movies and books for the residents to enjoy.
Along with the application itself, the pilot program has equipped the Burr Ridge facility with a new Internet café, two desktop computers with large monitors, and five iPads. A large touch-screen kiosk located in the Emeritus lobby tells residents who has new mail, who is visiting, and what is happening that day.
Residents aren’t restricted to just the My Emeritus app.
“They love Wheel of Fortune,” Baik said.
Baker, who is familiar with computers but is new to the iPad, likes to use the tablet to explore other parts of the world.
“I went to the Great Barrier Reef. You can go anywhere in the world,” she said.
Russell said residents have used the iPads to revisit places they thought they would never see again.
“It brings tears to their eyes,” said Kathy Russell, enrichment director at the facility.
Ed and Pat Johnson of Burr Ridge recently purchased an iPad for Pat’s mother, Hazel Smith. At 94, Smith said she is looking forward to video chats with her great grandchildren. She also hopes to reconnect with a friend in Texas.
“I’m learning something every day,” she said.
Catherine Steves is among those who hesitated to take on something so unfamiliar, but her 12-year-old grandson is serving as inspiration to keep on trying.
“It should be fun once I become familiar,” said Steves, who hopes to use the iPad to keep in touch with family, including her grandson.
“This is redefining the family get-together,” Baik said.