This story was corrected at 8:48 a.m. on Nov. 19, 2012. An explanation follows.
Elizabeth Connelly got to see her two grandsons in Massachusetts on Wednesday night without ever leaving the Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring.
Thanks to new technology offered at Renaissance Gardens at Riderwood, the 78-year-old has taken to visiting with her son and his family in Massachusetts via Skype, an online video chat program. The new service offered by Riderwood allows seniors unable to travel to visit with their families.
“My youngest grandson takes karate, so I see him do some of his karate moves. My other grandson takes guitar lessons, so I hear him play the guitar,” Connelly said. “I think it’s a great service that Riderwood presents.”
With its new Video Visit System, a family member can schedule their chat online and the front desk of Riderwood will receive the request through email. Seniors are then helped down to where the system is located in the building. Riderwood staff turns on the television — complete with a high definition camera — and the call is automatically answered once the family places it, said Joe Graham, assistant administrator for Riderwood.
While the program has been in a pilot phase for the last three months, Graham said Riderwood is hoping to see a large increase in the use of the Video Visit System.
“I hope it connects them more regularly to their family and improving their quality of life,” Graham, of Ellicott City, said of seniors using the system. “Voice-to-voice is one thing, but to be able to watch their facial expressions, it just fosters more of a relationship between the resident and the family because you can do things like ‘Hey, grandma, look at this.’”
Thomas Connelly of Mansfield, Mass., said he has chatted with his mother, Elizabeth, about 20 times over the last year. He said the new Skype system at Riderwood is of better video quality than the previous video system used at the center.
While he gets to visit her in person about three or four times each year, he said the video chats allow them to talk like they would in a living room.
“The biggest thing is she gets to see her grandkids, and I get to see her on a weekly basis,” Connelly said. “For someone who works, does a lot of weekends and has their own business ... it makes me feel less guilty about not being able to physically see her as much as I’d like to.”
Bertha Cantor, 98, said she used the Video Visit System for the first time about a week ago with her son in the Midwest who can only visit once — sometimes twice — each year.
She said it was a “real joy.”
“It’s the closest thing to a personal visit, which is wonderful,” Cantor said. “I definitely would use it again.”
An earlier version of the story stated that the Video Visit System is available to the entire Riderwood community.