History of the Virtual Senior Center (VSC)
It started with the NYC Department for the Aging asking Selfhelp if it knew of any innovative new services that could be developed with technology. Knowing the plight of homebound elders, Selfhelp suggested serving isolated seniors. Microsoft provided the initial funding that created what has become the Virtual Senior Center.
From a small pilot project to hundreds of people across the country, the VSC is transforming lives. Recent research demonstrated that the VSC reduces isolation, increases feelings of companionship, increases a person’s social network, bridges the digital divide, and improves a participant’s health status (an important indicator on the amount of health services one consumes).
The program provides each homebound participant with a special purpose “all-in-one” touch screen device, which includes a unique interface that Selfhelp created to simplify and streamline the way that participants easily use the service to attend interactive, video-based classes. These small classes are a critical component of the program providing the intimate, face-to-face connection with peers, creating a new social network and enabling a new relationship with family. The service also provides a simplified access to Skype, links that serve as a spring board to exploring the Internet, email, and games.
We couldn’t have gotten here without our supporters. We, and our participants, sincerely appreciate their kindness and generosity. They include: the UJA Federation of New York, the Consumer Technology Association, AARP Foundation, Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation and many others.
The VSC is available across the country, including Baltimore, Chicago, Long Island as well as New York. It’s coming to Pittsburgh soon too.