My Margie: Seniors Connect With Technology




Marjorie P. Lee Administrator Stephanie Antoun visited Joann Sammis in her apartment to demonstrate the My Margie tablet.

Gary Kessler

 

When seniors in residential living apartments at Marjorie P. Lee (MPL) learned they would each be getting a Samsung Breezie electronic tablet specifically designed for seniors, the overwhelming response was excitement. “Many residents already had some familiarity with technology,” says Stephanie Antoun, Administrator of Health Services. At MPL, residential living is defined as seniors who live independently or receive enriched living assistance in their apartment.

The goal of adding this technology, dubbed My Margie, to MPL’s menu of services is simple, according to Episcopal Retirement Services President and CEO Laura Lamb. “It will allow us to improve communication with and among our residents with a simple, user-friendly solution, even for those who may not be savvy users of other technology applications,” she says.

A group of beta testers – several residents who didn’t use cell phones, computers, or other electronic devices – volunteered to try the tablets before all 65 were distributed. Ann Reed and Barb Christman were among those who received My Margie tablets a couple of weeks early. After less than a week, both were enthusiastic about the new addition to their lives.

The Breezie platform used in the My Margie tablets was developed in the U.K. to meet the needs of senior living communities. The tablets are customized for each community as well as individual residents. Technicians are available online or by phone to answer questions and help residents.

Unlike most commercially available tablets, labels on the case surrounding the screen indicate the basic functions: how to turn it on and off, charge it, increase or decrease the sound volume, and a button returns the screen to recent views or the Home page. On the screen there’s a large Help button in the upper right-hand corner, and a personal greeting for each resident in the upper left-hand corner, whenever the tablet is turned on. Residents also can immediately see the time, date, battery usage, and a red button notifies the user of unread emails. Of course, the real fun can be found by clicking on the large tiles that fill the screen.

Barb uses her stylus to give a tour of her touch-screen. On her Home page, a large My Margie tile links to a hospitality page where she can arrange transportation, request maintenance or housekeeping, or put in a call for room service. Barb, like every MPL user, has a customized address book listing family and friends. Clicking on a person’s name or photo brings up a range of options to communicate, including e-mail and video chats. The most popular social media links, such as Facebook, are also available. A list of upcoming Saturday night films in the event center, as well as a summary of documentaries available for viewing, can be found by clicking the Movies tile. The Activity tile has a monthly calendar of events and a weekly dining menu. There’s a Game link with preloaded online games as well as some crafts.

After four days of exploring, Ann is beginning to feel comfortable with clicking her way around, pointing out a link to the Cincinnati Enquirer.  “I know there are a million more things that I can do on it for fun,” she says. Ann keeps a notepad handy to write down questions for tech Buddy the next time they chat by phone. “My church, Hyde Park Community Methodist, live-streams the services, and I’m eager to set that up,” she adds.

From an administrative side, it will be an effective and efficient way to communicate, making sure everyone is getting the same information and notices at the same time. “It also will cut back on the amount of paper we use,” Stephanie adds.

“I told my family I have a new toy,” Ann says, laughing. “I don’t go out that much anymore, but I want to stay connected. It’s already opened doors for me to the outside world.”

Episcopal Retirement Services, Inc., is located at 3870 Virginia Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45227. For more information, call 513.271.9610 or visit www.episcopalretirement.com