Volunteer students help people be ‘stronger at home’

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Tillsonburg Multi-Service Centre and Stonebridge Community Services have partnered together to start a new program called Stronger at Home: The Mobile Tech Initiative.

In February, after receiving funding, MSC and Stonebridge started recruiting students who are now teaching older adults how to access online exercise and wellness programs.

“With most older adult programming being placed on hold due to the pandemic, we were looking for ways to ensure that everyone could stay connected and active during the lockdown,” said Abby Malott, Health & Wellness co-ordinator, Stonebridge Community Services.

The funding allowed them to purchase several new iPads (with SIM cards to access online content).

“Even individuals without technology can participate. So it doesn’t matter if they have internet or a computer, we provide all of that.”

The iPads are loaned for 12 weeks. Some participants have their own iPad or computer, but need help learning how to use them.

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“The idea initially was that they would take the iPad to the client and they would work one-on-one with them and show them exactly which button to push, and ‘how to access this program,’ or ‘if you are looking for more information here is a good resource’ and ‘here’s how to connect to a Zoom class,’ ‘here’s how to get on YouTube.’”

They could not do that during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, so all of the tutoring so far has been done over the phone.

“The students called the participant and explained it all on the phone,” said Malott. “The iPads were dropped off at their doorsteps. It was 100 per cent success getting all of the clients connected that way.”

Five student volunteers had successfully connected with 10 individuals, so far, helping get them involved in Stonebridge’s online exercise classes. Three of the volunteer students attend Glendale High School in Tillsonburg, one WCI in Woodstock, and one is a university student.

More students are needed for the program, said Malott, who is continuing to recruit volunteers.

“It’s such a benefit for the students as well. It gives them experience, it gives them community service hours, it gives them a reference, a connection.

“I’ve heard some great feedback. One example, we had a couple, husband and wife. She had an iPad, he had a computer. They called afterwards to say just how lovely their tutors were – we set them up with two tutors. So it’s that intergenerational communication and social piece.

“I’ve also heard from some of the parents about how some of the students feel, how excited they are, and the confidence they build in being able to teach somebody else a new skill.”

For more information on the Stronger at Home: The Mobile Tech Initiative email Malott at amalott@stonebridgecs.com or call 519-842-3200 ext. 209.

cabbott@postmedia.com

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