By Stacey Fulton, OTR/ATP, EASTCONN

As the CT Tech Act Project embraces new grant initiatives, the Stay Connected program has also been in full swing. Stay Connected is a statewide program operated out of the Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services in collaboration with the State Unit on Aging and the CT Tech Act Project. The mission of this project is to match AT resources and devices to individuals who are isolated or at risk of being isolated from family, friends, activities or healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Persons are determined to be eligible for this program based on a social isolation scale completed by the Area Agencies on Aging or The Centers for Independent Living. Qualified individuals are referred to one of the project’s AT partners (EASTCONN, NEAT Center and UCP of Eastern CT), who reach out to discern each individual’s needs and match them to potential device solutions. Services that are provided include consultation, training and follow-up. As a result of this program, many individuals have received devices and training, and are once again able to connect to family, friends and healthcare providers.

An individual who benefited from this project was a woman in her late 70s, who received services from EASTCONN’s AT team. She lived alone and since the start of the pandemic, had been unable to see her family and friends, or participate in activities she used to enjoy at her local senior center. She also had no access to Wi-Fi at home. Funding was provided by both the Stay Connected program and the town where she lives to secure a device and a “hotspot” for Wi-Fi access. A laptop computer was determined to be the best option and training was provided to assist her in setting up her email and utilizing Zoom. She shared her appreciation by sending a follow-up e-mail to the EASTCONN provider: “Finally saw my nephew’s daughter in action … I’ve never seen her except in still pictures. At first, she was shy and kept turning her head … but then after a short while, she actually threw me a kiss and waved … Zoom is really great. So grateful to have this computer.”

This is just one of the many positive outcomes that have been shared by individuals who have participated in the Stay Connected program. Working together, this interagency collaboration has made a significant difference in the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities across Connecticut.