For many, the new wave of technology can be tough to master. Older adults, specifically, have a hard time tapping into this valuable resource. One company, however, is working to bridge that gap.

Magnolia Manor has partnered with grandPad, a tablet made specifically with elderly in mind, to test their device and give technical and clinical feedback.

Myra Braswell, activities director for Magnolia Manor, initially made contact with the company because of her interest in assistive technology. The technology company was looking for a way to test their product and wanted the opportunity to move into a long-term care environment. According to Braswell, 65 percent of residents at Magnolia Manor are cognitively impaired, so both sides could benefit from the other.

“This was a case of the shoe fitting perfectly,” she said.

Magnolia Manor and grandPad communicate every two weeks to talk about the progress and exchange any thoughts.

Featuring large text and colorful touch screen buttons, this 7 inch tablet boasts some of the services that have made the iPad a must-have such as video chat, music and games. The tablet includes several shortcuts to help the users — calling a family member requires only a click of a picture instead of dialing numbers.

The added simplicity helps users feel more independent and helps raise their confidence levels, which can be damaged from ineptitude with other technology.

“They’re a very new company and have some really amazing designs,” said Braswell.

Braswell said the tablet can serve many purposes other than just entertainment. Using memory matching and recall exercises, the device can help the elderly with their neurological skills, she said. The tablet features mind stimulating games such as solitaire, sudoku, memory and crosswords.

“It is a great resource for therapy,” Braswell said.

The users are provided with sensory stimulation that can help with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, said Braswell. The stimulation opens more neural pathways and helps the user speed up neurological processes.

Residents have gravitated to the grandPad and are learning quickly the capabilities of this device. Margaret Gayton, 83, recently got her first chance with the grandPad and is growing increasingly comfortable with the interface.

“We never had anything like this when I was growing up,” said Gayton, as she played hangman and ran through possible words with the letters on the board. “I’m learning stuff now, though!”

Even something as simple as watching a music video can be beneficial with how it affects the brain and the senses.

Braswell said listening to music is very stimulating and combining that with the visuals of the music video featuring the artists dancing makes the viewer want to get up and dance themselves. This sensory stimulation is very good for many patients of dementia or Alzheimer’s.

“They’re doing everything except tasting it,” she said.

Braswell said the grandPads have been used very effectively in small group situations by connecting the tablet to a television and playing games on the larger screen, while still retaining the interactiveness of the device.

While the tablets are sometimes taken to individual rooms, the devices are being primarily used in small group activities.

“The small group leader can look up a topic in the encyclopedia and talk about the information,” she said.

The tablet helps those who did not grow up in the technology age navigate their way through the device and its various capabilities. Many aspects of the device are different from a traditional tablet and are tailored specifically to the elderly.

The games use nostalgic items to which the users can relate. Matching exercises to improve memory may include old cars or antique soda fountains, Braswell said.

Magnolia Manor also received an endowment from the For Love and Art Foundation to receive a virtual digital art museum book. This ArtBook features over 1,000 masterpieces in its library.

“This is a means by which they can virtually travel to any art museum anywhere in the world,” Braswell said.

The device is not a book or a computer, but something in between that allows the user to learn all about the pieces of art they view, Braswell said. Being able to learn about these pieces of art stimulates the mind of the user and making a connection between the visual art and reading the description can be very beneficial.

Braswell is proud of what the grandPad has helped accomplish at Magnolia Manor. They hope to show that you’re never too old to learn something new.

Summer Intern Ryan Stewart writes about local topics. Contact him at rstewart@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 324.

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