Helping seniors connect, one iPad at a time

Social isolation is a concern for residents of senior living facilities. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, many seniors experienced trouble connecting with loved ones who live far away since using technology can pose some challenges. When the son of a Great River Energy employee heard about this challenge, he wanted to help.

Dominic Bitzan, son of Great River Energy Senior Operations Analyst Brad Bitzan, (left) worked with the cooperative’s information technology department to connect residents at BeeHive Homes of Elk River with family via donated iPads the co-op could no longer use. Heidi Fyten, activities director at the senior living home, (right) accepted the donation.

Dominic Bitzan, son of Great River Energy Senior Operations Analyst Brad Bitzan, came up with an idea while working on his senior capstone project at Spectrum High School in Elk River, Minnesota. Working with BeeHive Homes of Elk River, a senior living home, he researched a way for residents to maintain contact with their family through applications like Zoom and Google Meets.

He knew he could leverage the technology but needed the hardware to make it happen. This brought him to Great River Energy, where the information technology division was able to donate 10 iPads that had become obsolete, could no longer run certain applications securely and were no longer supported by Apple.

“Great River Energy’s donation is very much appreciated, and it will be remembered for years to come,” Dominic Bitzan said. “This legacy will change the lives of both current and future residents and their families. Simple games, music, photo and video applications will provide hours of fun for the residents.”

He created a folder of easy applications and website links on each iPad before giving them to BeeHive Homes.

“BeeHive said the residents use them on a daily basis and love them,” Brad Bitzan said. “They are using them not only for activities and connecting with family over Zoom, but they mirror the iPads to the big screen TV in the living area for group Zoom calls with BeeHive Homes of Maple Grove and exercise videos on YouTube.”

​​​​​​​“These iPads work for the limited needs of the residents,” said Desiree van Sytzama, service desk leader at Great River Energy. “We could no longer use them for business reasons as they were no longer supported with critical upgrades for cybersecurity and patching.”