CBC Radio One, CBO Ottawa 91.5 Mhz. Ontario Today

Transcript from the CBO web site: http://ottawa.cbc.ca/ontariotoday/showarchives.jhtml

12:32 Videoconference Seniors
July 27/01

tape talk with 3 clips
Charles Bicknell
senior, veteran, resident of Perley-Rideau

Dr. Marie-Madeleine Bernard
physician, president of PACE 2000


One of the biggest social problems in our society
is loneliness.

If you're a senior, the problem is
often exacerbated by isolated living
arrangements: you're either alone in a house,
apartment, or a unit in a nursing home.

But for some seniors living in a long-term care
facility in Ottawa, life just got a little

And it's thanks to the technology of

Andrea Hossack is in Ottawa with the story.
Hi, Andrea.

A: Hi Mary.

Mary: So where is this video conferencing

A: Perley-Rideau Veterans' Health Centre, and
really, across Ottawa.

Every day, disabled veterans or seniors who are
residents at the Veterans' Health Centre, can
walk or wheel their way into a room where a large
TV is set up -- and basically, virtually, play
with the kids.

It just started earlier this month. The
veterans' health centre has a very sophisticated,
high-resolution video link between their video
room and the River Heights Preschool Centre.

And it's not just kids: this Videoconferencing
equipment is set up at a few other spots around
town -- one of them being the Catholic
Immigration Centre -- so seniors are hooked up
with new immigrants to Canada as well.

Mary: So what are people using this technology

A: Well, they're making social connections. Kids
are exposed to seniors -- maybe people the same
age as grandparents...possibly grandparents who
are far away, that they never see. Seniors are
seeing children play. I'll get to the benefits
of seeing children play in a minute...

And in the case of the video link with the
Immigration Centre, seniors are talking with
people from all over the world, welcoming them to
Canada....and new immigrants get to practice
their English with people who have free time.

Let me take you into this video room.

Yesterday, I met eighty-eight year old veteran
Charles Bicknell.

He and a fellow resident, Krista Achombent, were
in part of yesterday afternoon's Videoconference
with the Immigration Centre.

They sat in their wheelchairs in front of the
large television screen -- the tiny eye of the video camera pointed right on
them. And on the screen, you could see a small inset square of them --
Krista and Charles -- but most of the screen was taken up by the image of
the people across town, at the Ottawa-Carleton Catholic Immigration Centre.
There were three people -- a woman from the Belgian Congo who'd just
arrived to Canada, and young couple from Iran, who had arrived here one
month ago. You'll hear the young man addressing Charles and Krista.
Here's what their Videoconference sounded like, when they were asked by the
facilitator to describe the ways people in Canada say hello:

IN: That's how we say hi and goodbye...
RUNS: 27 secs
OUT:...how's it going? (SMALL QUIET LAUGH)

MARY: Sounds like Charles was having a lot of fun
with that... What other questions were asked?

A: There was a whole discussion of handshakes and
hellos....what was appropriate in Canadian
culture and in Iranian culture, and then the
question of when do you hug or kiss, and then
Charles wanted to know if the young Iranian woman
would wear the traditional Muslim veil -- a hejab.

Everyone was just learing about daily life in
another country. And you could see the
enthusiasm and the thirst for knowledge that this
young immigrant couple had. They were very
pleased to be speaking with Charles and Krista.

MARY: How new is this Videoconferencing room?

A: They've had the basic concept around
since 1997. This whole program in Ottawa is
run by a charity organization called Pace 2000.
It's run by Dr. Marie-Madeleine Bernard.
She's designed Videoconferencing stations to
try to meet the needs of frail seniors -- and
her goal is to have this all available to people
in their homes.

PACE 2000 got some money from the
Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology to buy
this very sophisticated technology that I saw
yesterday, and to build what Dr. Bernard calls
a virtual intergenerational
village. It's a response to the problem -- which
is a serious health problem -- of
isolation, when people are admitted to
institutions, or alone in their homes with
restricted mobility.

MARY: How do the residents like it?

A: They love it. I spoke with a couple people,
who were initially a bit shy to speak, but then
as soon as the video came up on the screen, they
just lit up.

Dr. Bernard says that seniors and young people,
as well as other groups in society, have busy
lives, but parallel agendas...so they don't meet
as much as they used to.

And this technology gets right around that

OT572 seniors cry
IN: this was a concept that proved to be v.
rewarding for both

RUNS: 29 secs
OUT:...had a boost.

MARY: Is this video room available to any senior,
at any time of day?

A: there are scheduled times when the residents
can be sure that there will be someone on the
other end of the line.

And the groups that meet -- the sort of
matchmaking that's gone on -- is remarkable.

I was there for the session between seniors and
new immigrants. There's the times in the
mornings for seniors and the toddlers at the
preschool, but then there's also a session for
francophone seniors and francophone immigrants,
and the list goes on.

The one thing about this technology Mary is that
it is simple. It's not intimidating to run.
And that was key to getting people to use it

For eighty-eight year-old Charles Bicknell, who
you heard earlier, it's very, very easy:
he wheels himself down the hall from his room.
He clicks once to turn on the computer. One
button. He clicks just once to get the phone
book. Then he clicks just once to the destination.

Then he looks up and talks to the person in the
other room, across the city.

MARY: And as they've said, it sort of
brightens peoples' days. But what are
those health benefits of turning on a TV and
linking up with people?

Dr. Bernard says that there is ample
evidence out there that isolation leads to
increased mortality rates, as well as a higher
incidence of depression. That's in contrast to
people who spend time out in the community being

Videoconferencing helps them feel like they're "out".

Dr. Bernard mentioned one 85 year-old woman who
had a miraculous response to the video link.
She had had a stroke 2 years ago, and as a
result couldn't speak. Some health care
workers advised her not to participate in
the video sessions....but she really wanted
to, and Dr. Bernard supported her decision.
And today, she's talking.

Dr. Bernard says it's actually the video
technology -- the intimacy without being in the
same room -- that causes a breakthrough in some

IN: something happens with the kids...
RUNS: 1:19
OUT: ....face to face.

MARY: When will they meet face to face?

A: Hope to have a visit from the preschoolers by
the end of summer.

Mary: And maybe they'll recognize each other?
Or at least recognize voices?

A: That could happen. But it's
certainly a rare event that you'd see the quiet,
clean halls of the veterans' health centre
bouncing full of bubbly, rosy-cheeked kids.

MARY: Where does Dr. Bernard want to see this
video conferencing technology go next?

A: At the Perley-Rideau Veterans' Health Centre,
they have plans for a long-term care unit,
where seniors will access the Videoconferencing on
their TV. The centre plans on marketing these
units by the end of 2001.

(Note from the Webmaster:

The long-term care units referenced above are plans for an initiative sponsored by PACE 2000
and not plans for units at The Perley & Rideau Veterans' Health Centre)

And Dr. Bernard wants to see seniors linked
into high schools on a daily basis as
well....there's one Ottawa high
school that's lined up to be in on that hook-up.

MARY: Thanks for bringing us this, Andrea.

A: Thank you.


EXTRO: Andrea Hossack is our correspondent in
Ottawa this week.

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