Since the pandemic hit Maine, social isolation has been one of the biggest changes and challenges, especially among older adults.

While younger generations celebrate birthdays over Zoom and stay connected with friends and family members through Facetime, many older adults lack experience with technology.

Lisbon’s library is hoping to help seniors in the community ease loneliness by teaching them how to use computers, tablets and software to keep in touch with loved ones. The outreach program, Just Seniors, starts Sept. 8. Sessions will be held the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month.

Library Director Diane Nadeau said the idea took shape only after the town received a memorial gift of $10,000 from Diane MacLaren, whose mother was a Lisbon resident and wanted to do something for older adults in the town.

“When seniors started coming back to the library … we could see that they did not have access to a bunch of services when they were at home,” said Nadeau. “They did not know how to get books online. They complained that they felt isolated.”

“There are many older folks in the community who are living alone. We started providing lunch to 15 older adults during the pandemic, but what we found out was they were looking forward to our visits more than the meals,” said Trudy Duval, member of the library’s governing board and Lisbon Methodist Church.

“These people want to speak with someone and share their stories, but they are isolated,” Duval added. “We felt there was a real need for socialization with these folks, and through this outreach program, we want to support them.”

Roughly 193,000 Mainers are age 70 or older. Many have spent months separated from families and friends because of their age makes them more vulnerable to serious illness or death from COVID-19. An estimated 135,000 Mainers over 50 live alone, according to AARP Maine, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering seniors.

Anyone 55 or older is invited participate in the program. It’s free and doesn’t require a library card.

On the first day of the program, participants will learn to make a photo keepsake box, a fun interactive craft activity. A technology class will be held on Sept. 22, where they will be asked to get their electronic devices like phones, iPads, and laptops. The seniors learn about various applications and features in those devices to carry out their day-to-day activities without any trouble.

“There are many seniors who don’t know how to send emails. Though most of them have electronic devices, they don’t know how to use them. We want to help them with their technological needs,” said Nadeau.

Genny Barden, an 88-year-old Lisbon resident, said she is excited about the technology class. Barden said she had been anxiously waiting for over a year to see how her great-grandchildren look but has not been able to. The reason, she does not know how to use her phone.

“I have four great-grandchildren that I haven’t seen. Their mothers send pictures to my phone, and I don’t know how to check them or download those images. With the help of this program, I hope I will learn to use my device and see my great-grandchildren,” said Barden.

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