Imagine Northeast Iowa

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Iowa Born and Raised
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Iowa Born and Raised

Imagine living in a small rural area like here in Northeast Iowa. Like many, you may have gone to school, met your significant other, married and had children while choosing Iowa as the place you felt most secure surrounded by friends and family. It's easy to picture raising children, working, caring for your family, socializing with friends, and growing older here. I am sure each of us knows or can easily imagine someone that indeed lived this kind of life, especially in Iowa. In fact, it may be someone in your family that has reached this life passage and is now living in retirement.

According to Iowa Quick Facts, 16% of the total number of Iowan's are 65 years or older, which means there are many older loved ones that live here. Some may be blessed to have their spouse still living, easily maintaining their independence, while others may have lost their spouse or are forced to be cared for in a nursing home. Many will agree, living in northeast Iowa has a lot of benefits whether you are 2 or 92, but along with those benefits are also some challenges, especially for the aged.

Living in northeast Iowa means you or your aging loved one most likely live in a rural community. Unfortunately, many older Iowan's are living home alone attempting to meet each day the best they can until they enter into a nursing home or sadly pass away. 

These precious folks face this task each and every day even though they are loved and cared for by their families. Social isolation and loneliness can bring on so many risks and health issues due to circumstances in which they have little choice. When older loved ones are living alone, their well-being is known to decline quicker, they age faster, and memory skills decrease. 

As their quality of life changes, they may find themselves with less daily activities, especially as their families begin to grow and move forward and friends move away or pass on. With today's technology, many of this particular generation is left with the only resources they have and are comfortable with. For instance, how many aging folks have only landlines in their homes? How many older loved ones can or want to use a computer, tablet, or cell phone to keep in touch? 

I know if my grandpa were here with us, he would feel intimidated or uncomfortable at the thought of texting us or using a cell phone. Besides just being his cantankerous, funny self, his poor eyesight wouldn't let him see the small numbers to dial and his shaky hand wouldn't allow him to type or text easily. Even though our grandpa Johnny was pretty independent, he was no longer able to take care of himself and was forced to leave his farmhouse and move in with us. 

During that time, he was not able to see the telephone numbers or dial on the rotary phone, so if it weren't for him moving in with us, his life would have changed drastically. As for my grandmother who lived in Chicago, we were not able to see her much due to the driving distance, and at that time, we still had party lines, so phone calls were rare and used only when necessary. Writing back and forth was the best way to keep in touch with each other.

How many people, especially our younger population, are able to continue to interact with their grandparents since technology has changed? If I were lucky enough to have my grandparents alive and well now, I imagine I would need to call them on their landline to talk with them. And let's face it, living in rural Iowa doesn't have as many options or services as bigger cities.

Recently, while obtaining my education in Psychology and Human Services, I learned a great deal about people, especially those facing loneliness, depression, health struggles, and isolation. I often wondered how many people sat in their home, older in age, independent yet facing loneliness as their health and well-being declined.

While being forced, due to my own aging, to make changes in my life and career, I recently learned about a device that can help our older generation that I never dreamed would be so simple and so beneficial!

After facing the loss of his father, a young man named Scott, who was born and raised in northeast Iowa, felt a great need to address a similar situation with his own mom. While Scott and his family lived on the West Coast, his mom continued to here in Northeast Iowa. Scott naturally became concerned about his mom and felt a phone call every few days was not always enough, so he put his concerns into action. 

Scott and his son Isaac developed a plan so that his family would be able to keep in touch and interact with his mom in more ways than just a phone call. He wanted to be able to see how his mom was doing while hearing her voice but also realized the challenges older loved ones face using today's technology.

Scott and his son Isaac turned that plan into a device that ended up to be the link so Scott and his family, along with extended family and friends, could all keep in better touch with his mom. Scott's siblings and their families, his mother's friends, and her extended family are all able to get in touch with her and each other, with a simple tap/touch of a button. This device allows its users, who are affectionately referred to as "grandma's", a very simple and user-friendly way to connect with all of their loved ones in a private network similar to social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. 

There is no need to worry about issues that come along with social networks because "grandma" is kept safe and secure while using this device. It protects personal information by blocking access from unknown third parties. Anyone can use it, however, it does focus on those with little or no technology experience. It is also designed for those who have trouble hearing, challenges with motor skills such as tremors, diminished eyesight or memory skills.

This simple device is just one way we can keep in touch and include our older folks in our daily lives and activities. Imagine your grandpa lives in a nursing home and relies on a wheelchair to get around. His memory isn't what it used to be, but if you say the word "Iowa" to him, he will reply "Hawkeyes" since his oldest grandchild attends that particular university. 

Another grandchild is getting married today, but due to his health needs, grandpa is not able to attend. Now imagine grandpa having a device that he can hold comfortably and securely in his hands while looking at many photos taken by all of his family members using his own private network and sent directly to him in real time. Now think about the reception on this memorable day. Grandpa hasn't seen a few of your cousins for many years and certainly hasn't seen all of you gathered together for many more. Now, one of his family members can call grandpa using a video chat, and talk to him in real time, while showing him all the actions at the reception. Grandpa was also able to see the newborn great-grandchild being held by his daughter at the wedding because someone in his network called and showed him live. 

It's cake cutting time, but grandpa isn't going to miss out because in his hands is a device that will allow him to watch the ceremony live. Shaky but firm, he watches with many emotions and is so very grateful to be able to be a part of this special occasion. Along with being able to partake today, this device also allows grandpa to check the weather where he is, as well as where the wedding was held today. Later on, grandpa can listen to his favorite big band songs, play a game of Hearts with his son, and check out daily activities and articles. The best part of this device is that it not only allows grandpa to feel he can reach out to his family and friends but without even realizing it, grandpa has been feeling much more positive and can hardly wait to wake up and check his emails from those in his network. He can also respond back to his emails as simply tapping a large icon and using his voice to record his message.

This is just one of the many options that this device can provide for those experiencing life like grandpa. The grandPad has made a huge difference in the lives of our older loved ones and has made an impact on those facing loneliness, sadness, as well as isolation. Grandpa lives in a nursing home with many others, and yet, at times like this, he may feel alone even though he knows he is well loved and cared for.

grandPad may have been thought up and developed on the west coast, but it is Iowa born and raised right here in northeast Iowa and has made a positive and loving impact on me and so many others all over the United States. If you would like more information check out and see how this device has changed the lives of many older loved ones.

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