Selfhelp: Using Technology to Reduce Isolation Among Homebound Older Adults

| November 17, 2015

CAST Patron Selfhelp Community Services is working hard to reduce isolation among older New Yorkers who rarely or never leave their homes and who are likely to be depressed and have serious chronic conditions.

CAST Patron Selfhelp Community Services is working hard to reduce isolation among older New Yorkers who rarely or never leave their homes and who are likely to be depressed and have serious chronic conditions.

Home Health Care News describes Selfhelp’s Virtual Senior Center as its “most innovative approach to helping homebound seniors.” The program offers live, interactive classes, and exchanges for older adults in New York City, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Diego. Homebound participants interact with the outside world using 22-inch touchscreen all-in-one computers loaded with an easy-to-use interface and group video chat. 

“We bring the activities of senior centers … to seniors who are isolated and living at home,” says CAST Commissioner Stuart Kaplan, chief executive officer of Selfhelp. “One of the benefits that we have found is that once somebody starts using the center, they form their own chatrooms and start social interactions outside the classroom, which further combats isolation. The majority of seniors who are participating are now talking to each other and using other adaptations.”

Currently, over 250 participants use the Virtual Senior Center. Selfhelp has found that engaging with the program provides many benefits for participants:

  • 97% of participants said the Virtual Senior Center improved their quality of life. 
  • 51% of participants reported that engagement with the program improved their health status. 

The Virtual Senior Center is only one illustration of Selfhelp’s shift to providing services wherever an older adult lives. Kaplan describes Selfhelp’s approach as “blended care” that integrates housing and health care. 

“We espouse that we are living at the intersection of social housing, affordable housing, and health care,” says Kaplan. “Technology is one aspect that fits within the blended services and ultimately should fit into a payment system of bundled payments.”