Creating Connections Across Generations

A local Boy Scout brings video-chat technology to senior living residents of AlmaVia of Camarillo.

Every Sunday morning, 16-year-old Ben Baker video chats with his grandparents in Connecticut. They talk about what Ben is doing at school and his Boy Scout activities. “It’s great because I can talk to them and see them even though they’re 2,500 miles away,” Baker says.

After one of those conversations, Baker thought it would be great if more seniors could connect with their families using video-chat technology. With his father’s encouragement, he decided to turn this light-bulb moment into an Eagle Scout project.

“A good Eagle Scout project is one that helps people and also benefits the community,” Baker says. Because of the close connection with his grandparents, he wanted to work with a senior living community, and he chose AlmaVia of Camarillo.

To raise money for this project, Baker organized a fundraising event at his home featuring dinner, a silent auction and live music. The event raised $9,000, which Baker used to purchase 16 tablets and a television for the residents of AlmaVia of Camarillo.

Helping Seniors Understand Technology

Baker and his troop followed up with visits to the community in May and September to help residents learn how to video-chat.

“Initially, the residents couldn’t believe they were talking to a real person in real time and not just looking at a photograph,” says Carolyn Myers, Life Enrichment Director at AlmaVia of Camarillo. The tablets are now available for residents to connect with family members, play games and search the Internet. Myers also plans to start a trivia event during residents’ weekly wine social. Life Enrichment Coordinator Linda Hovanec is also beginning to incorporate the tablets into AlmaVia’s memory care life enrichment programming.

Imogene Gregory, a 105-year-old resident, has been an early adopter of the technology. When a staff member suggested a brain-training exercise, however, Gregory said she wasn’t interested in playing games; she wanted to know how to use the Internet. Because it was Election Day, the staff member helped her use the internet to learn more about the candidates.

Camarillo Boy Scout Troop 225’s motto is: “Who dares, wins.” But Baker says it takes more than daring to succeed in bringing an Eagle project to fruition. “It takes clear communication, having a plan, and also a backup plan if something goes wrong.” He says working on this project taught him how to be a leader and get things done in the real world.

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