The residents of Chosen Valley Care Center show off the new tablets purchased through a grant from the Chosen Valley Community Foundation and People's Cooperative Power. 
The residents of Chosen Valley Care Center show off the new tablets purchased through a grant from the Chosen Valley Community Foundation and People's Cooperative Power. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS

Marvin Rabe and his fellow residents of the Chosen Valley Care Center (CVCC) are evolving into being tech-savvy seniors, utilizing a whole new window into the world.

“This opens a whole new window of opportunity for our residents…they can see the world right in their hands. Even our oldest resident, Marv Rabe, is using these,” stated Kate Glore, the care center’s activities director.

The residents are utilizing new touchscreen tablets that CVCC purchased for its residents — including Rabe, who will be 104 this coming August — to use to see what’s happening across town and around the world.

She related that CVCC bought seven standard tablets and one big-screen tablet for those who have low vision. The purchase was made possible through the generosity of the Chosen Valley Community Foundation (CVCF) and the People’s Co-op Power Round Up program.

“This was a brainstorm of our Culture Change Committee…they came up with the idea to buy tablets to keep up with the times,” Glor said. “We initially started this with a grant of $1,000 from People’s Cooperative Power, and the Chosen Valley Community Foundation gave us the larger portion to finish this off – they gave us $1,704.09.”

The People’s grant was from the “round-up” program where people round up their utility bill to the next dollar to create a fund for charitable contributions.

“We also got desk holders for the people who aren’t able to hold them or for whom they’re too heavy to hold, so we’re able to accommodate that need, and we also got headphones as well,” Glor explained.  We’ve been using them for group programming — like for learning about Groundhog’s Day, and other people can see their farm…their home place, and they can use them to research things or ask them to find things that they want to learn about.”

Presently, the CVCC staff is using the tablets to interact with a staff member’s son living abroad.

“Colleen Haffner’s son is living in Uganda, and we’re learning about Uganda and have done some pen pal correspondence with him. We ask the residents what questions they would like to ask him. We hope that we can do more of a travelogue and visit different countries, because there are lots of places in the United States or countries our people haven’t been to but wonder about,” she said. “And we’re kind of learning with the residents, because our new staff, Tracey Brandt, had the idea to use them for ‘Name That Tune’ because in the past, we’ve had staff members who have been musical, but none of us currently play the keyboard or guitar. The tablets will allow us to do all those still-loved activities.”

The activities director added that the tablets are not only available for group activities, but also for individual use and that she, Brandt, Haffner, Amy Neis and Chrissy Weisz are kept busy keeping track of who wants to get some screen time in next.

“We keep them in the office and check them out to different people if they’re able to manage it on their own, or we take it to them one on one,” she explained. “In the future, I see there being a day when we get them charged and check them out to residents, and then they bring them back at the end of the day.”

Favorite activities include playing online games, playing music and simulating musical instruments — like the keyboard and xylophone.

“I’m hoping that there’s some point when I am more educated, and we can do Facetime or Skype with the residents so that they can see their families,” Glor added. “How cool would it be to have their families send pictures to them, to show off the new great-grandchildren that they’re not going to get to see because they live in Florida? It would be my hope to get more families involved with sending pictures, especially because it’s keeping the residents connected.”

Glor stated that it’s a marvel to most of the residents to be able to explore the world with a swipe of a finger or the push of a button, as they have not been digital natives, or people who have grown up with technology at hand. Therefore, the introduction of technology has caused them some fascination and trepidation.

“At first, people were kind of resistant…‘Oh, what if I break it?’ But they’re coming around,” Glor said. “We’ve got one resident who has only used a handheld game before, and we’re trying to show her what she can do with a tablet. We’re trying to broaden their horizons and help them not be afraid that the tablets are going to blow up.”

Glor believes one can never be too old to try something new.

“The technology we’ve got can blow you away with what you’ve got at your fingertips,” she said. “You can find out anything, everything you want to know — all the information on the Olympics to when Wilbur Wright flew the first airplane.”

That first flight, as a note, took place 11 years before Rabe was born. For him to hold in his hands technology that was only a dream 20 years ago is utterly fascinating to Glor.

“We appreciate the gifts and the generosity of the people who were willing to give the money, and we were able to put it to use for the residents,” she concluded. “We’re thankful to the Chosen Valley Community Foundation and People’s Co-Op for making this possible, for making these tablets available through those gifts…that things like this can happen.”