Ds Scholarship

Enabling Age-Friendly Connections in Mount Washington Valley, New Hampshire

With the onset of COVID-19 stay-at-home advisories in March 2020, the Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway, New Hampshire, canceled all of its in-person activities.

The closure left the center’s elderly clientele stranded at home without access to exercise classes, social activities, meal and transportation services, and medical and family connections.

The Need

When Gibson Center staff began checking in on the homebound older adults, the frustration and despair was palpable. “I’m so isolated,” “I can’t see my family,” were common complaints. The appeal heard most often? “I need a computer.”

The Work

Shortly after the COVID shutdowns, the center’s staff had watched a video about a program that paired high school seniors with older adults who wanted to learn computer skills. Feeling inspired, Marianne Jackson, MD, the Gibson Center’s executive director, reached out to a program representative to determine if it could work in North Conway. The answer was yes, but with several modifications because of the COVID-19 exposure risks. The center named its program “Equip, Train and Connect” because what’s needed was a device, knowing how to use it and having access to high-speed internet.

Although broadband, or high-speed internet access, isn’t available throughout the Mount Washington Valley region, Jackson said she and her team decided to focus on what they could do rather than what they couldn’t.

“I have no control over building out fiber — nor do we have the needed millions of dollars,” says Jackson, noting that another group has been at work for several years to build out high-speed fiber lines throughout Mount Washington Valley’s Carroll County.


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