Older adults who are aging in place or living in independent housing communities will continue to be separated from society for the foreseeable future. Family members, once they go back to work, will have a hard time staying in touch with their loved ones. Older adults will have less of an opportunity to connect with their families and grandchildren. Isolation has been proven to be a major cause of depression and increase the impacts of dementia and other health issues such as heart disease.
Businesses have provided tablets, but often there are challenges with audio connections on tablets. It would be preferred to provide cellphones and WiFi hot spots so they can access videoconferencing tools. This will also assist with telemedicine, deliveries and education classes. We need to be allowed access to teach seniors to use the tools. Zoom is commonly known, but I would like to recommend BlueJeans (recently announced to be aquired by Verizon) as it has a one touch button to connect to a conference bridge.
One example is a senior is having chest pains and wants to talk to their doctor as well as their family member to decide if they need to go to the hospital. In one phone call (instead of 10 or more phone calls) everyone that needs to be on the call can dial in and make an assessment real-time. The family member could even arrange for the transportation company to confirm the driver so the older adult knows and sees the person who will be picking them up to get them to the hospital. That will offset the fear factor for seniors who live alone.
Cost for these services could be rolled under the USAC program, Lifeline, for those older adults who qualify. Costs for the video conferencing services are $0 to $10 a month right now - for the elderly; the rates are grandfathered in (no pun intended).