The “Facilitating Seniors’ Use of Technology to Decrease Social Isolation” project by the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) at the University of Wyoming, in collaboration with the Wyoming Center for Nursing, enlisted nursing students to help older adults gain technology skills to reduce social isolation and increase access to services that were limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This project aimed to fill a gap by helping seniors gain technology skills for ordering groceries, communicating with friends and family, telehealth, etc.
Summary of completed project
Building and strengthening partnerships with community organizations and local nursing schools garnered volunteers and training space for the project. Project staff reported that the greatest lesson learned was “to remain flexible and trust our partners.” The partners worked well together, fostering a positive relationship, and staying focused on the goal of meeting the needs of the seniors being served.
Forty-three nursing students and 47 senior citizens participated in the program; 97% of seniors reported meeting their goals; and 100% of seniors were satisfied with the program.
New partnerships were formed with AARP Wyoming, who provided matching funds and helped find affordable internet service for volunteers, as well as the Eppson Center for Seniors, who provided meeting space. Additionally, existing partnerships were strengthened with the Wyoming Community Foundation, Ivinson Memorial Hospital, and the Fay Whitney School of Nursing. As a result of this project, the Wyoming Center for Nursing is now a member of the rural health network and plans to participate through virtual meetings.
The project is being shared with other senior centers around the state to replicate the program using nurses in associate degree programs in the area. Additionally, the Wyoming Center for Nursing shared this program during a meeting with associate degree program leaders in November 2021.
The project developed a template that utilized nursing students and community partners to fill a need amongst seniors at risk of social isolation, or those lacking access to services such as telehealth, online food shopping and delivery. The demand for the program increased over the project period, and other organizations in the state are showing interest in replicating the project in their own communities.